A colorful figure in U.S. politics has died at the age of 73. Ann Richards died at her home Wednesday night after a six-month battle against cancer of the esophagus.

Richards served one four-year term as the Democratic governor of the southern state of Texas, but lost her bid for a second term to George W. Bush, six years before he won the presidency.

President Bush issued a statement Thursday, saying he and Mrs. Bush are deeply saddened by Richards' death. He said she brought a "refreshing vitality" to public life.

Richards had an extensive background in Democratic Party politics, and became well-known nationally as a political commentator.

A Texas newspaper described her as "the quintessential Texas woman, with a sassy homespun charm, sharp wit and tough pioneer spirit."

During her term as governor, Richards championed what she called a "New Texas." She brought more women and members of ethnic minorities into state government than any of her predecessors, and she enjoyed widespread support until a Republican Party landslide swept her out of office in 1994.

The silver-haired Richards was known for her witty partisanship. In 1988, she rose to speak at the Democrats' national convention with a critique of the president's father George H.W. Bush, who was then vice president. She said, "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."


Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters