The order that discharged me from the United States Air Force was dated April 19, 1967; less than a month later, I passed my 21st birthday in Rio Grande City, trying to help out with the farm worker organizing effort and the strike against La Casita’s melon harvest. The organizers decided I’d be more useful setting up a boycott of La Casita’s melons, in Dallas. The first folks who helped me with the boycott were Ann and Dave Richards. Dave was practicing labor and civil rights law with the Mullinax Wells firm and Ann was an activist in the liberal wing of the Democratic party. We did what we could with the boycott (not much, given Texas labor law), but Ann earned my admiration by suggesting another tactic: the two of us would go into supermarkets selling La Casita’s melons and pierce them repeatedly with long hatpins, trying to make them rot prematurely. We did this, in about half a dozen supermarkets.
In the middle of the 1980’s, when Ann was known to be considering a race for governor, Texas Rural Legal Aid got her to speak at a fundraiser for the Hidalgo County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Project. When her turn came Ann got up on the stage and did her typically funny schtick but she also did something daring. She described her experience, sticking those pins in the melons, and why she did it. Unquestionably, she understood that there were the usual lawyer power-brokers in the audience that night, but she threw down: this is who I am, when it comes to farm worker issues.
People loved her. It’s hard for me to imagine people loving George Bush, Rick Perry, Bill Clinton in the same way.