Columnist & Humorist Molly Ivins 1944-2007




M

ary Tyler “Molly”
Ivins (August 30, 1944–January 31, 2007) was a U.S. newspaper
columnist, political commentator, and bestselling author from
Austin, Texas. Ivins was born in Monterey, California, raised in
Houston, Texas and attended St. John’s School in Houston. 


She went on to study at Smith College, earning a BA in 1966, and
at Columbia University’s journalism school, where she received
a master’s degree. She then studied at the Institute of Political
Science in Paris. 


Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the

Houston
Chronicle

, followed by the position of, as she put it, “sewer
editor,” responsible for reporting on the nuts-and-bolts of
local city life. She went on to the

Minneapolis Tribune

where
she was the first woman police reporter in that city and, later,
the reporter who covered a beat called Movements for Social Change
where she wrote about “militant blacks, angry Indians, radical
students, uppity women, and a motley assortment of other misfits
and troublemakers.” 


She left the

Tribune

to write for the

Texas Observer

from 1970 to 1976. The

New York Times

, concerned that its
prevailing writing style was too staid and lifeless, hired her away
from the

Observer

in 1976 and she wrote for the

Times

until 1982. During her run at the

Times

, Ivins became Rocky
Mountain bureau chief, covering nine western states, although the
writer was known to say she was named chief because there was no
one else in the bureau. 


Her more colorful style clashed with the editors’ expectations
and in 1982, after she wrote about a “community chicken-killing
festival” and called it a “gang-pluck,” she was dismissed.
She then wrote for the

Dallas Times Herald

from 1982 until
the paper’s demise in 1992, moving in that year to the

Fort
Worth Star-Telegram

, until 2001 when she became an independent
journalist. Her column, distributed by Creators Syndicate, appeared
in nearly 400 papers nationwide. She was also a member of the Texas
Democracy Foundation Board, which operates the

Texas Observer.

 


Ivins’s style consisted of downhome homilies, peppered with
colorful phrases to create the “feel” of Texas. When outraged
by instances of what she considered malfeasance or stupidity on
the part of public officials, she couched her argument in an air
of stunned amusement. She enjoyed telling stories about the Texas
legislature, which she called “the Lege.” She contended
that it is one of the most corrupt, incompetent, and funniest governing
bodies in the nation. 


In 2003 she coined the term “Great Liberal Backlash of 2003,”
and was a passionate critic of the 2003 Iraq War. She is also credited
with applying the nickname “Shrub” to George W. Bush. 


She received many awards over her lifetime, including the Ivan Allen
Jr. Prize for Progress and Service (2003), the Pringle Prize for
Washington Journalism from Columbia University (2003), the Eugene
V. Debs Award in the field of journalism (2003), the David Brower
Award for journalism from the Sierra Club (2004), the David Nyhan
Prize for Political Journalism from the Joan Shorenstein Center
on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University
(2006). In addition to these formal awards, Ivins was particularly
proud of having the Minneapolis police force’s mascot pig named
after her and of being banned from the Texas A&M campus. 


In 1999 Ivins was diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer.
The cancer recurred in 2003 and again in late 2005. Ivins died at
her Austin, Texas home in hospice care on January 31, 2007 at age
62.