Elizabeth Ann Linebarger was born November 29, 1947, in Sinton, TX. Libby, a force of nature like no other, and left us on December 1, 2021, barely more than a day after her 74th birthday.
And while each of us who knew her is heartbroken at her passing, every single one of us has a story about Libby – or, more likely, several stories – that will keep us laughing through the tears for years to come.
She laughed heartily, loved mightily, befriended for life, and was always in charge. Even before she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015, she handed down instructions for her obituary, funeral service, memorial service, and burial. She kicked cancer’s ass, and tried like hell to beat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a devastating terminal illness. But while illness conquered her body, in the end, she was still in control, and she approved this message.
Libby catapulted out of Gregory-Portland High School as Valedictorian, already well on the road to a lifetime full of significant accomplishments and a pattern of deep, long-lasting friendships. She always felt the one “C” she made in college was grossly unfair, as the rest of her grades were straight A’s – from elementary school through the master’s degree she earned from Texas A&M, Corpus Christi.
Libby was particularly proud of the three terms she served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1989-1995, a time when the Texas Legislature was in constant constitutional crises and under looming court deadlines to fix its broken school finance system. House Speaker Pete Laney was determined to get the job done, so he appointed Libby to Chair of the House Public Education Committee and handed her the reins. Adept at herding cats, Libby brought legislators together in a marathon House session to pass the “Robin Hood” school finance bill in 1993. It met constitutional muster and serves as the basic framework for public school funding to this day.
The next day her picture, arms raised in victory, appeared above the fold in every major state newspaper. Many friends called to congratulate her on her achievement, but more than a few, knowing Libby’s penchant for sartorial excellence, exclaimed “Horizontal stripes? What were you thinking, wearing horizontal stripes?”
The Governor who signed the bill into law was Ann Richards, who was elected in 1990 during Libby’s first term. Ann turned to Libby during that race for policy input and to serve as a surrogate on the road. So Libby loaded up the Suburban with campaign literature, yard signs, other elected officials, helpers, and an occasional Richards family member, stumping all over the state on Ann’s behalf.
She and Ann shared a love of big hair and Aqua-Net, so Libby didn’t hesitate when she got the opportunity to replicate the Texas Monthly cover featuring Ann in all-white leather motorcycle garb astride a gleaming white motorcycle for a fundraising event. They ratted the tar out of Libby’s hair and patted baby powder all over it to make it snow white. The result was an uncanny resemblance, not quite twins, but close!
Ann never hesitated to help Libby out, either, appearing at endorsement events or to serve as the chief roaster at any campaign fundraiser. Libby knew she’d get a great turnout if Ann Richards was on the bill.
For Libby, though, the joy wasn’t just in these accomplishments; it was in the journey itself, especially when the road was marked by good stories, good friends, well-placed profanity, much laughter, and more than a few “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”-type moments.
She was a driving force of the Steel Bluebonnets (from her legislative days), the Bad Girls Emmaus Prayer Group (post-legislature), the Corpus Crew of high school girlfriends she held dear for decades, Dominoes with the Dames, and her legion of friends. And there were stories from all of them.
Like the time she charged the hotel bar tab to her room for the Steel Bluebonnets at the Texas Democratic State Convention in Fort Worth, the trouble being she was not staying at that hotel. And nobody could remember what hotel it was. So the next day Libby was lamenting about how some poor guest in room 618 got stuck with a $200 bar tab on their hotel bill when, all of a sudden, State Representative Ernestine Glossbrenner piped up and said “I wondered where that charge came from!” She had already paid it, reasoning that it was the work of a good Democrat celebrating at the convention. What are the odds? Everybody got a good laugh over it and, of course, Libby made good on the tab.
Libby left the Legislature to concentrate on her family. Make no mistake about it, family was always the most important thing to Libby, starting with her “person”, Dale, to whom she was married for 47 years. On their Vegas honeymoon they won enough money in a keno game to make a down payment on a house, and those became her magic keno numbers for years.
They raised a blended family with six kids, and together worked to build Dale’s law practice into the blockbuster success it was. Early on they ate 7-11 hot dogs at the office for dinner and Libby learned to keep the books while holding down a full-time job in education and still putting those kids to bed on time. And later, when she was running for office, she managed to balance campaigning and block-walking and still getting supper on the table and the kids off to school.
She took endless pride in the accomplishments of her children, and never tired of sharing news about what they were up to. And as time went by, the thing she loved most about her children was the grandchildren they provided her. All 11 of them.
“Grammer” became an enormous part of each of their lives, and she often repeated Ann Richards’ quip that “grandchildren are our reward for not strangling our kids when we had the urge”. She especially loved teaching Italian to grandson Sam, not excluding a bit of profanity because, perché diavolo no? And she loved teaching them to cook, to read, to accessorize, to travel, and to live life to its fullest. “Always accessorize” wasn’t a fashion concept for Libby as much as an unbreakable law. Her grandchildren needed to know that.
With this village of a family, Libby never got the concept of cooking for one or two – she cooked for an army, or she cooked for nobody. Along with endless food comes endless dishes, and Libby literally washed away her fingerprints cleaning up through the years. She didn’t know this until she tried to get a Global Access pass, and for a moment considered the possibility of a new career – untraceable criminal. But thought the better of it.
Libby was preceded in death by her father and mother, WC and Violet Andrews; her brother, Chris Andrews; and son, Wesley Linebarger.
She is survived by her husband, Dale Linebarger; five children: Roger Linebarger, (Heather), Rebekkah Linebarger (Chris Mock), Brent Bockholt (Susan), David Linebarger (Gina Valerio) and Annie Linebarger (Jason Jones); 11 grandchildren; her sister, Susie Andrews; nieces, nephews, cousins and friends too numerous to count.
Libby’s many friends and family will gather for a celebration of her life on Friday, December 10 at 2pm at the First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca, Austin TX, followed by a reception at the Linebarger home.
Like a force of nature, she roared through our lives, leaving behind good times, good memories, good works, and boundless laughter. And we are all the better for it.
Ciao, bella! Grazie per le risate.