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Richards lies in state at Texas capitol

Sept. 17, 2006 at 3:28 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Laughter and tears marked the return of the body of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards to Austin to lie in state at the Texas Capitol.

Former President Bill Clinton led a private ceremony in the Rotunda, where the popular politician lay in state Sunday, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman said. After the private ceremony, the Rotunda was opened to the public.

A public funeral will be noon Monday. Richards, 73, Texas governor from 1991-1995, died Wednesday of esophageal cancer.

Clinton spoke to family members and friends. "She was big -- big hair, big bright eyes, big blinding smile," Clinton said. "She also had a big heart, big dreams, did big deeds and she had a big impact on other people."

The former president drew laughs, the newspaper said, when he recalled a lunch with Richards and comics Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, saying it was probably the only time the two comedians were the "second and third funniest people in the crowd."

Before the ceremony, Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita Perry, offered condolences to Richards' family then presented them the Texas flag that flew at the Capitol the day Richards died.

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