Farewell to a Humble Texas Giant: Ray Farabee

//Farewell to a Humble Texas Giant: Ray Farabee

The Center for Public Policy Priorities family mourns the death yesterday of Ray Farabee, a brilliant, dedicated leader and a truly charming man.

Born in Wichita Falls, Ray was a state senator, general counsel for the University of Texas system and a prominent civic leader. More than anything, though, Ray was a warm, humble friend of Texas, and we will all miss him dearly.

Ray was a founding board member of CPPP, and the Farabee family is deeply tied to our organization’s history. Ray helped guide the growth and development of CPPP since 1993, when we were still part of the Benedictine Resource Center. As we noted in 2000, when we honored the Farabee family and Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas at our first annual Legacy Luncheon, “the Farabee family’s impact on the communities and people of Texas is multidimensional and multigenerational. There is a commitment to family and to public service that runs through them all like a virus.”

Ray’s late first wife, Helen, was CPPP’s first executive director and a well-known advocate around improving mental health services in Texas. And his late second wife, Mary Margaret, who co-founded the Texas Book Festival, was a civic force of nature.

CPPP Associate Director Anne Dunkelberg remembers Ray bringing a joie de vivre to everything he did, including routine board meetings. He was an expert in procedures and governance and a master of political history, making him a valuable board member and an exceptional leader. Texas Monthly honored him as one of the ten best legislators five times.

“Ray was known for his cool head and courtesy, but he could get mad,” former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby told me. “I remember one late afternoon when Senate chairs gathered for their weekly meeting, and Governor Bill Clements came to visit. The governor had a plan to build more prisons. Senator Farabee believed that we needed better rehabilitation programs and better probation policies, and he had the facts at his disposal. The other Senate chairs supported his position. Governor Clements never came to the Senate side of the Capitol again.”

For a man who was born six weeks premature and given a slim odds of even surviving, Ray Farabee went on to thrive and become what historian Don Carlton called, “one of our most outstanding public servants.”

Our condolences go to the extended Farabee family and to everyone that Ray touched through his public service and his glowing spirit.

ray mem book

At the Center for Public Policy Priorities, we believe in a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We envision a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure. We want the best Texas - a proud state that sets the bar nationally by expanding opportunity for all. CPPP is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.


  • Thank you for this remembrance. What an impressive life and career.

    Oliver 21.11.2014
  • A fine tribute to someone who always put Texas first. He was the consummate gentleman who understood that leadership requires knowledge, a willingness to listen, to give thoughtful consideration to what is best for Texas, to be humble and to make your point based on a deep understanding of the issue and compassion for others. He will be missed.

    Jim Hine 21.11.2014
  • I was lucky enough to become a member of the CPPP board during Senator Farabee’s last years on the board. I was intimidated to serve with such giants of Texas policy as Steve Murdock, Scott McCowan, Governor Hobby and Senator Ray Farabee. But from the first time I met Ray, he always treated me with kindness and welcomed me into the organization. And every time we met thereafter, I felt as if I were meeting an old friend who shared his wisdom and welcomed my input. I know it was not because I was special but because he treated me and everyone as a special purpose, a citizen of Texas.

    Flora Brewer 22.11.2014

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