Helen J. Farabee

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Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee
Born (1934-11-12)November 12, 1934
Outagamie County, Wisconsin, USA
Died July 28, 1988(1988-07-28) (aged 53)
Travis County, Texas
Residence Wichita Falls, Wichita County, Texas
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Wisconsin at Madison
Occupation Mental health activist
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Ray Farabee

Steven R. Farabee

David Lee Farabee
Parent(s) Wilmer C. and Myra Grace Rehbein

Farabee was the first woman student body president of a Big Ten university in the United States.

(2) Like her spouse, Ray Farabee, Helen Farabee was an active Democrat and made a brief effort shortly before her own death to succeed her husband as a Texas state senator.

3) Farabee and Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby, Jr., were instrumental in the establishment in 1985 of the Texas Mental Health Mental Retardation Department.

Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee, known as Helen J. Farabee (November 12, 1934 – July 28, 1988), was a 20th-century advocate of improved mental health and human services in Texas. She was the first wife of State Senator Ray Farabee, an attorney originally from Wichita Falls. Their younger son, David Lee Farabee, a Wichita Falls businessman, is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives. An older son, Steven R. Farabee (born 1961), resides in Austin.


Farabee was born in Appleton, the seat of Outagamie County in east central Wisconsin,[1] to Wilmer C. Rehbein (1902–1991) and Myra Grace Rehbein (1905–1991). Her parents succumbed within four months of each other some three years after her own death.[2] Helen graduated in 1957 from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She was the first female yet elected as a student body president at a Big Ten institution.[3] Through her travels in student government, she met Ray Farabee, the president of the student body at the University of Texas at Austin. The couple wed on December 6, 1958. While her husband served in the United States Air Force, Helen worked for the defunct Dallas Times-Herald (former competitor to the Dallas Morning News) and Better Homes and Gardens magazine. In Austin, she was an assistant dean of women at UT and worked with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, while her husband completed his J.D. law degree.[3]

In 1961, the Farabees moved to Wichita Falls, the seat of Wichita County in north Texas. She began voluntary work with the local mental health and mental retardation board and the Wichita Falls State Hospital. By 1965, she joined her fellow Democrat and future lieutenant governor, William P. Hobby, Jr., of Houston to encourage the Texas State Legislature to establish the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, known as MHMR.[3] From 1972-1974 and again in 1985, she was the president of the Texas Association of Mental Health. First Lady of the United States Rosalynn Carter appointed her to the Public Committee on Mental Health. She also served on numerous special commissions in Texas and headed the State Mental Health Code Task Force from 1981–1983, which culminated its work in the revision of the 1957 Texas mental health code. The new laws, pushed to passage in the state Senate by her husband, were signed into law in 1983 by Democratic Governor Mark Wells White.[3]

Mrs. Farabee served on the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, another area of interest to her husband as well. She worked for improved child care, assistance to the elderly, and health care for the indigent. She also served during the White administration on the Governor's Commission for Women. In 1985, she was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame because of her exemplary work in volunteerism.[3]

In 1988, shortly before her health deteriorated, Mrs. Farabee entered a pending special election to succeed her husband in Senate District 30 (Wichita Falls and a large geographic swath of West Texas). However, a committee of Democratic county leaders in the district did not endorse her candidacy, and she withdrew from the race. Had she been chosen by the party leadership and elected by voters, she would not have lived to take the seat. Her husband’s successor was instead fellow Democrat Steve Carriker, a member of the Texas House from tiny Roby in Fisher County.[4]

Like her husband, Farabee was an active donor to the Democratic Party, including a $500 contribution to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, when Texas swung strongly to the Republican Reagan-Bush ticket.[5]

Prior to her death, Farabee worked for the Benedictine Health Resource Center in Austin. In June 1988 she was hospitalized in Austin because of phlebitis and was found to have lung cancer. She died in late July. Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church in the United States of Wichita Falls. A memorial service was also conducted at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin.[3]

After her death, the Austin State Hospital established the Helen Farabee Patient Education Scholarship.[3] UT created the Helen Farabee Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship.[6] There is also the Helen J. Farabee Public Policy Fellowships for graduate students offered by the Texas Mental Health Association, and the Helen Farabee Award from United Way. In February 1989, the Texas Senate, with her husband no longer a member, sponsored a special tribute in her honor.[3] Her name adorns the Helen Farabee Regional MHMR Centers in Wichita Falls, Graham, and Quanah in Hardeman County.[7]

Ray Farabee remarried in 1991. His second wife, the former Mary Margaret Albright (born 1939), is also an active leader in civic affairs.


  1. ^ "Great Texas Women". utexas.edu. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Debbie Mauldin Cottrell. "Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee". The Handbook of Texas. tshaonline.org. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  4. ^ Country Boys: When rural Democrats got together to fill a vacancy on the ballot, they weren't about to choose a city girl. Google Books. Retrieved December 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Helen J. Farabee from zip code 76309". watchdog.net. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Helen Farabee Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship". 
  7. ^ "Helen Farabee Regional MHMR Centers". merchantcircle.com. Retrieved December 8, 2009.