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.