Molly Ivins

- Panelist Blurb

Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins was an American newspaper columnist, liberal political commentator, humorist and author.

While at Smith, Ivins spent three summers as an intern at the Houston Chronicle working in the complaint department as well as "sewer editor," as she put it, responsible for reporting on the nuts and bolts of local city life.

After graduating from Columbia, she took a job in the Twin Cities at the Minneapolis Tribune, where she covered "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

In 1970 Ivins left the Tribune for Austin, Texas to be the co-editor and political reporter for the Texas Observer. She covered the Texas Legislature and befriended folklorist John Henry Faulk, Secretary of State Bob Bullock and future Governor Ann Richards, among others. She also gained increasing national attention through op-ed and feature stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post along with a busy speaking schedule inside and outside Texas. The 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 there, 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. Ivins also wrote the obituary for Elvis Presley in The New York Times for the August 17, 1977 edition. Generally, her more colorful writing style clashed with the editors' expectations, and in 1980, after she wrote about a "community chicken-killing festival" in New Mexico and called it a "gang-pluck," she was recalled to New York as punishment. When Abe Rosenthal, editor of the Times, accused her of trying to inspire readers to think "dirty thoughts" with these words, her response was, "Damn if I could fool you, Mr. Rosenthal." One friend saw her rebellion against the Times authority structure as a continuation of her rebellion against her father's authority. In late 1981, after receiving an offer from the Dallas Times Herald to write a column about anything she liked, Ivins left New York for Dallas.

Ivins wrote for the Dallas Times Herald for 10 years, although by 1985 the editors had moved her to the paper's Austin bureau to reduce friction with Dallas city leaders. Her freelance work and speaking engagements continued to grow, and she hired Elizabeth Faulk, John Henry Faulk's widow, as a personal assistant. In 1991, her book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? was published, and spent 29 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Also in 1991, rival newspaper Dallas Morning News bought the Times Herald and closed it down. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram immediately made Ivins an offer and said she could stay in Austin. Ivins accepted, and wrote a column for the Fort Worth paper from 1982 until 2001, when she became an independent journalist. Her column, syndicated by Creators Syndicate, eventually appeared in nearly 400 newspapers nationwide.

Ivins also remained a board member and contributor to the Texas Democracy Foundation, which publishes the Texas Observer in Austin.

NOTE: Bio updated on June 14, 2011.