Anita Thigpen Perry

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Anita Thigpen Perry
First Lady of Texas
Assumed office
December 21, 2000
Preceded by Laura Bush
Second Lady of Texas
In office
January 19, 1999 – December 21, 2000
Preceded by Gloria Jan Felts Bullock
Succeeded by Sally Sandlin Ratliff
Personal details
Born Anita Thigpen
(1952-05-05) May 5, 1952 (age 62)
Haskell, Texas, USA
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Rick Perry (1982-present)
Children Griffin Perry
Sydney Perry
Residence Texas Governor's Mansion
Austin, Texas
Alma mater West Texas A&M University
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Religion Nondenominational Christian

Anita Thigpen Perry (born May 5, 1952)[1] is the current and longest-serving First Lady of Texas, and the wife of Governor Rick Perry. As First Lady of Texas, she has been an active advocate for nursing and other health care issues.[2] The Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio focuses on nutrition, cardiovascular disease, health education, and early childhood development.[3] In 2008, the Anita Thigpen Perry School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center was renamed in her honor.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Mrs. Perry was born in Haskell, Texas. She is the daughter of family physician Joseph Eltidge Thigpen (1920-2013), a native of Bay Springs, Mississippi, and homemaker Beunis Ratliff Thigpen, originally from Haskell. Her parents met in Tyler, where Beunis was visiting relatives. Dr. Thigpen had a distinguished flight record in World War II and earned several medals, including the Bronze Star. He also flew his own plane and was known for making house calls long after the practice ceased to be the norm. Her paternal grandfather was also a doctor and also named Joseph Thigpen. Anita Perry is named for a paternal aunt, Anita Thigpen Yelverton (1918-1999). She has three siblings: Joseph Thigpen (an attorney in Austin who is a former county attorney and former district attorney), Peggy Hairgrove and husband Dr. Tom Hairgrove of College Station, and Emily Solis and husband Vincent of San Antonio.[5] Like her husband, she is a graduate of Haskell High School. She spent her first year of college at Texas Tech University, but because Texas Tech did not have a nursing program at the time, she switched to West Texas State University in Canyon, where she received a Bachelor's degree in nursing in 1974. She then obtained a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.[6] She has worked in the nursing profession for more than seventeen years, including surgery, pediatrics, intensive care, administration, and teaching[4] and as a consultant.[1] Although the Perry tax returns indicate Anita Perry worked as a nurse and took in less than $8,000 a year between 1987 and 1990, upon her husband's election as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, she left nursing.[7]

First Lady of Texas[edit]

She became First Lady of Texas in 2000 when Rick Perry became governor after the resignation of President-elect George W. Bush. Perry previously served for two years as lieutenant governor.

In October 2000, she and her husband hosted the first Texas Conference for Women which became an annual event. The conference addresses such issues as professional development, health care, and personal growth. Texas Tech University renamed its nursing school in Mrs. Perry's honor in 2008, and two nursing endowments are also set up in her name: The Anita Thigpen Perry Nursing Excellence Scholarship at West Texas A&M University and The Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Anita Perry's priorites, as listed on the Office of the Governor of Texas website, include the Texas Conference for Women; travel, tourism, and economic development; immunizations (she is actively engaged with The March of Dimes); encouraging Texans to pursue careers in nursing to deal with a nursing shortage; historic preservation, and the reconstruction/remodeling of the Texas Governor's Mansion, which was devastated by arson in 2008.

2012 Presidential election[edit]

Her husband announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2012 presidential election on August 13, 2011, in Charleston, South Carolina.[8]

Anita Perry accompanied her husband on many of his campaign stops. In October, when Governor Perry's poll numbers began to sink, Anita delivered an emotional speech at North Greenville University in South Carolina, in which she suggested that some of the attacks being leveled at her husband were rooted in anger towards his evangelical Christianity. "It’s been a rough month. We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today. We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose." On Good Morning America the next morning, Governor Perry stood by his wife's comments.

On January 19, 2012, with Anita Perry and their son Griffin at his side, Governor Perry announced he would suspend his campaign and return to Texas.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Anita Perry met her husband from the nearby community of Paint Creek, when they were both children at an elementary school piano recital.[10][11] They married in 1982.[1] They have a son, Griffin (born 1983, married Meredith Lewis December 19, 2009), and a daughter, Sydney (born 1986).[12] They previously attended the Tarrytown United Methodist Church. In Austin, Perry and her husband belong to nondenominational Lake Hills Church since 2010.

In June 2013, Perry's son, Griffin and his wife, Meredith, became the parents of a daughter, Ella Gray-making Governor and Mrs. Perry grandparents.


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Amy (December 15, 2000). "Lady in Waiting: Prospective First Lady Anita Perry Prepares for Life in the Spotlight". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  2. ^ McUsic, Teresa (June 30, 2008). "Texas' First Lady Advocates For Nurses". Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Endowment named for First Lady Anita Perry". University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. June 15, 2001. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Hartz, Marlena (August 22, 2008). "Texas Tech names nursing school after Lone Star State's first lady". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Dr. Joseph Eltidge Thigpen". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved April 19,k 2013. 
  6. ^ McQueary, Carl R. (2003). Dining at the Governor's Mansion. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Rick Perry to run for president, spokesman says". CBS News. August 11, 2011. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Zeleny, Jeff; Shear, Michael D. (January 19, 2012). "Perry to End Bid for Presidency". The Caucus (The New York Times). Retrieved January 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ Hughes, Polly Ross (November 4, 2006). "Candidates enjoy strong support at home". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 22, 2010. 
  11. ^ Embry, Jason (February 9, 2010). "From farm to politics, Perry follows in family's footsteps". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved August 22, 2010. 
  12. ^ Hope, Christy (September 26, 2010). "Anita Perry, a no-nonsense nurse, overcomes shyness in signing on to win votes for her husband". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Laura Bush
First Lady of Texas
December 21, 2000–
Succeeded by