Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, the Democratic Party ruled the state of Texas, but all was not well, for the Democrats, a fairly Liberal organization, were threatened by the forces of Conservatism. Thank God for Billie Carr.
Back when Texas politics was still fun, and being a Democrat still counted for something, Billie Carr fought the good fight.
Billie Carr, godmother of Texas liberals who used bombast, humor and grass-roots know-how as political tools against conservative dominance of the Texas Democratic Party, died Monday of complications from a stroke.
She was 74.
During more than 40 years of political activism, Carr sought to advance causes from rights for minorities in the early days of the civil rights struggle, to opposition to the Vietnam War, to more recently emerging issues like environmental protection and gay rights.
Admiringly called "The Boss," Carr was a noted organizer who turned grass-roots politicking into an art form she passed down to generations of Democrats.
Among her many many pupils was a young Bill Clinton, who traveled to Texas in 1972 as a worker for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. Clinton wanted to learn campaign field work at the knee of a master.
"Billie Carr was one of a kind, a great Democrat and a great citizen," Clinton said in a statement Monday. "It was a proud honor for Hillary and me to have known and loved her for over 30 years."
Carr gained a reputation as a loquacious, hard-charging "challenger of the status quo" who loved standing outside and raising hell, said former Houston Chronicle columnist Jane Ely.
That meant battling powerful politicians tied to the conservative Democratic establishment, such as former Govs. Allan Shivers and John Connally, and U.S. Sen. and later President Lyndon Johnson.
In the 1950s and 1960s, she perfected the rump convention, where liberal Democrats stormed out of state conventions in protest of efforts to keep them from national convention delegations. She once stood barefoot on a car in Austin and challenged then-Gov. Connally, telling him to "go to hell" for trying to keep liberals from being national delegates.
During those years, the GOP that now dominates state politics barely had a foothold.
As Republican influence began growing in the 1970s, the Democratic Party began shifting to the left and Carr became an insider.
She served as a national Democratic committeewoman from Texas in 1972 and later was a member of the party's national executive committee.
If there were more leaders like Billie Carr, perhaps Liberalism would less susceptible to being demonized. After, all how could you do that to a nice little old lady with a core of solid steel and a sense of humor?