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Rita Clements, Former First Lady Of Texas, Dies At 86

Former Texas First Lady Rita Crocker Clements.

Former Texas First Lady Rita Crocker Clements died Saturday morning, according to a family statement. She was 86. 

The widow of Texas Gov. Bill Clements was an avid Republican long before the party took control of the state. She was a volunteer for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first presidential campaign and was a state co-chair for Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. She served on the Republican National Committee in 1973 . 

She married Clements in 1975 and led a renovation of the Governor's Mansion while her husband was in office. 

In her later years, she served her alma mater — the University of Texas at Austin — as a member of the board of regents, as both an appointee of Gov. George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry

In a Saturday statement, Gov. Greg Abbott called Clements "a great steward of the Governor's Mansion" and a "true stateswoman."

"Texas has suffered a tremendous loss, but Rita leaves behind an incredible legacy," he added.

Bush concurred: "When we think of Rita, we think of a strong Texas woman and a pioneer in the Republican party."

Rita Clements was born in 1931 in Kansas, but her family moved to Brady, Texas, during her childhood. She attended the Hockaday School in Dallas.

She is survived by four children, a brother and 13 grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled at St. Michaels and All Angels Church in Dallas on Saturday. 

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Abby Livingston joined the Tribune in 2014 as the publication's first Washington Bureau Chief. Previously, she covered political campaigns, House leadership and Congress for Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. A seventh-generation Texan, Abby graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. She grew up in Fort Worth and has appeared in an episode of "The Bold and The Beautiful." Abby pitched and produced political segments for CNN and worked as an editor for The Hotline, National Journal’s campaign tipsheet. Abby began her journalism career as a desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, working her way up to the political unit, where she researched stories for Nightly News, the Today Show and Meet the Press. In keeping with the Trib’s great history of hiring softball stars, Abby is a three-time MVP (the most in game history —Ed.) for The Bad News Babes, the women’s press softball team that takes on female members of Congress in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball breast cancer charity game.