Rita Crocker Clements
Rita Crocker Clements
  • October 30, 1931 - January 6, 2018
  • Dallas, Texas

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Rita Crocker Clements was born October 30, 1931 in Newton, Kansas to Mason and Florabel Crocker, and she died on January 6, 2018 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. From riding horseback while herding sheep and cattle on the Kansas plains to advising at the highest levels of government and education in Texas, Rita experienced a multi-faceted life. She treasured her 36-year marriage to Bill Clements. To her loving family and friends, she will be remembered for her dignity, elegance and exquisite style, which combined with her tremendous intellect allowed her to assume leadership roles in political, community and philanthropic causes.
Attending high school at The Hockaday School in Dallas as a boarder from Brady, Texas, Rita developed the intellectual and leadership skills that served her well the rest of her life. Coming from a long line of Republicans in Kansas, Rita was in a small minority of Republican voters when she rang doorbells for Eisenhower in 1952 while at The University of Texas in Austin. Raising four children during the 1950's and 1960's with her first husband, Richard Bass, Rita developed her grass-roots political organizing skills with her children often piled into the station wagon to canvass voters. She also served as Chairman of the Crystal Charity Ball and President of the Junior League of Dallas. Her multitude of volunteer activities extended to the Salvation Army, the United Way of Dallas, Southwestern Medical Foundation and trusteeships at St. Michael and All Angels School and the Hockaday School, where she was honored as a Life Trustee. One of her proudest contributions was serving as a director of the O'Donnell Foundation from its inception in 1957 until assuming her director emeritus role in 2016.
Upon marrying Bill Clements in 1975, her behind the scenes political organizing skills helped elect Bill as Governor of Texas. In her fashion suits, she ventured onto the campaign trail traveling in East and West Texas, while impressing the local folk and rural cowboys with her grasp of issues important to Texas. Bill and Rita were a team throughout Bill's years in office with Rita advising on appointments and raising private donations for the restoration of the Governor's Mansion. Her many projects as First Lady included promoting volunteerism, tourism, public education, and job training programs for women on welfare, the latter inspired by her earlier volunteer work with the Salvation Army.
After their Austin years, Bill and Rita enjoyed the fruits of their labor together. Traveling with friends and family and spending their summers in Taos, New Mexico, Rita and Bill continued to give back, in particular supporting numerous educational and facility improvements at the SMU-in-Taos campus. Rita did not fade into the twilight as she continued important work for the State of Texas as a member of The University of Texas Board of Regents from 1996-2007, ultimately serving as Vice Chair of the Board. For her extensive contributions to her city and her state, Rita received numerous recognitions, including: The University of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award, induction to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, United Way of Dallas J. Erik Jonsson Award, and together with Bill, the Volunteer Center of North Texas Lifetime Achievement Award, Southwestern Medical Foundation Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award and The University of Texas Santa Rita Award. Philanthropically, Rita and Bill continued to give back significantly to the institutions and the state they held so dear. Rita's loving guidance of her children and grandchildren and her contributions civically and politically live on.
Rita will be greatly missed by her brother, Byron Crocker and his wife Terry of Beaumont, Texas; her four children and spouses, Dan Bass, Bonnie and Peter Smith, Barbara and Jim Moroney, and Jim and Hong Bass; her thirteen grandchildren, Julie Smith, Caroline Smith, Kate Smith, Pete Smith, Mason Smith, Sean Moroney, Meagan Moroney, Kyle Moroney, Jenny Moroney, Callie Moroney, Aline Bass, Laura Bass and Kevin Bass; her step daughter, Nancy Seay; and her step daughter-in-law, Pat Clements. For the many years of devoted care-giving service to Rita, the family is greatly indebted to Sam Freeman, Adam Coleman, Judy Grimes, Lee Williams, Pam Hare, Debra Newman, Veronica Chetuya, Evy Peeples, Melissa Mama and Juanita Washington. The professional medical assistance in recent years from Faith Presbyterian Hospice and from Dr. Namirah Jamshed of UT Southwestern has been a great solace for the family.
A memorial service will be held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 11 a.m. Memorial donations may be directed to the Clements Center for National Security at The University of Texas at Austin, 2304 Whitis Ave., Stop G9900, Austin, TX 78712; the Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390; and the Hockaday School, 11600 Welch Rd., Dallas, TX 75229.