DALLAS — Rita Crocker Clements, a former Texas first lady who took an active role in Republican politics and higher education, has died more than a quarter century after her husband Bill Clements left the governor’s office.
A son-in-law, Jim Moroney, said Clements died Saturday at her Dallas home. She was 86.
Moroney, publisher of The Dallas Morning News and CEO of A.H. Belo Corp., said Sunday that his mother-in-law had been ill and died of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He’s married to one of her four children, Barbara.
Bill and Rita Clements wed in 1975, a second marriage for both. She became a key adviser to her husband, an oilman and the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. He served two terms — from 1979 to 1983 and from 1987 to 1991 — and died in 2011.
Services for Rita Clements were scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas.
Rita Clements earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1953, with a major in Spanish and minors in history and government. She later served 11 years as a University of Texas System regent. She also was known for her efforts to preserve the state’s heritage and renovate the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.
“Rita was a true stateswoman who served Texas both on the UT System Board of Regents and as a great steward of the Governor’s Mansion during her time as first lady,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement offering condolences. “Texas has suffered a tremendous loss, but Rita leaves behind an incredible legacy.”
Rita Clements was a committed Republican long before the party took control of government in Texas, serving as state co-chair for former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign and a member of the Republican National Committee in 1973.
“We are saddened to learn that our friend, Rita Clements, has died,” said George W. Bush, who served as Texas governor before becoming the nation’s 43rd president. “When we think of Rita, we think of a strong Texas woman and a pioneer in the Republican Party. She was a wonderful first lady for the Lone Star State.”