Ray Farabee

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Kenneth Ray Farabee
Texas State Senator from District 30 (Wichita Falls and West Texas)
In office
Preceded byJack Hightower
Succeeded bySteve Carriker
Personal details
Born(1932-11-22)November 22, 1932
Wichita Falls, Texas, USA
DiedNovember 20, 2014(2014-11-20) (aged 81)
Austin, Texas
Resting placeTexas State Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)(1) Helen J. Farabee (died 1988)
(2) Mary Margaret Albright Farabee (married 1991-2014, his death)
ChildrenSteven R. Farabee
David Lee Farabee
Residence(1) Wichita Falls, Texas (2) Austin, Texas
Alma mater(1) Wichita Falls High School

(2) University of Texas at Austin

(3) University of Texas Law School
(1) Considered a moderate member of the Democratic Party, Farabee worked to secure passage of more than two hundred bills during his thirteen years in the Texas State Senate, including a revision of the mental health code, particularly important to his first wife, Helen J. Farabee. (2) His younger son, David Farabee, was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from Wichita Falls from 1999 to January 2011.

Kenneth Ray Farabee (November 22, 1932 – November 20, 2014) was an attorney in Austin, Texas, who served as a Democratic member of the Texas State Senate from Wichita Falls from 1975 to 1988. He is credited with the authorship of 245 Senate bills that became law during his 13-year tenure.[1] In 1985, he was the Senate President Pro Tempore. He is the father of former State Representative David Farabee of Wichita Falls.[2]

Early years, education, and family[edit]

Farabee was born on November 22, 1932,[1] six weeks prematurely in Wichita Falls, the seat of Wichita County in north Texas. His attending physician did not expect him to live through the night of his birth, but he survived.[3] Well into the Great Depression years, he attended Alamo Elementary School and Zundelowitz Junior High School. He graduated in 1952 from Wichita Falls High School. During his junior and senior years of high school, he attended a Young Men's Christian Association youth program called Hi-Y at the Texas state capitol in Austin. The organization trained young people in various aspects of government service. Farabee hence developed an understanding of public affairs more than three decades before he entered the Texas Senate to succeed newly elected U.S. Representative Jack English Hightower of Vernon, the seat of Wilbarger County west of Wichita Falls.[4] Farabee has been a high achiever throughout his life but confesses that he failed to make the coveted promotion to Eagle Scout in his youth.[5]

Read Granberry, parliamentarian of the Texas House of Representatives, heard Farabee at a youth speech event and urged him to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he procured Bachelor of Business Administration and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas Law School. He managed to procure a small scholarship and lived in a $10-per-month barracks dormitory. He became acquainted with the then Texas Secretary of State John Ben Shepperd and worked thereafter for him when Shepperd served as the state attorney general from 1953 to 1957.[4] Farabee was the UT freshmen class president and later the student body president. He visited the University of Wisconsin at Madison as part of his student political activities. There he met his future first wife, the former Helen Jane Rehbein (1934–1988),[6] who became the mother of his two sons. Helen was the student body president at UW, a rare accomplishment for a young woman at that time. The couple married in 1958 after their graduations and following Farabee's service in the United States Air Force.[6]

State Senate service[edit]

After thirteen years in private law practice in Wichita Falls, Farabee entered the 1974 Democratic primary for the state Senate. He defeated veteran State Representative Charles Finnell of Holliday in Archer County.[7]

The incumbent state senator, Jack Hightower, ran instead for the United States House of Representatives and unseated the Republican Bob Price, who had been first elected to the Panhandle-area district in 1966. The U.S. House district was altered after the 1970 census to include Wichita Falls and Amarillo in the same sprawling district.

Meanwhile, after the 1980 census, Farabee's District 30 encompassed a huge swath of North and West Texas, including part of Denton County and all of his own Wichita, Wilbarger, Archer, Baylor, Callahan, Childress, Clay, Cooke, Cottle, Dickens, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Grayson, Hardeman, Haskell, Jack, Jones, Kent, King, Knox, Mitchell, Montague, Motley, Scurry, Shackelford, Stonewall, Throckmorton, and Young counties.

Senator Farabee worked for passage of the Texas Natural Death Act, a law which "provides patients the opportunity to make their own end of life decisions... I got interested in medical ethics. There was a lot of technology that would keep people alive, and Texas didn't have a legal definition of death... There needed to be a statutory definition. I carried that legislation."[4] He also supported bills to encourage organ donations.[4]

Farabee sponsored a constitutional amendment to allow garnishment of wages for child support.[4] He secured passage of a bill allowing state agencies to maintain daycare facilities on the premises for the employees.[4] He worked for modernization of juvenile justice policies to guarantee due process and the prevention of young persons from being housed in adult facilities. He attempted to prevent outside groups from dominating state textbook selection through the 15-member elected Texas State Board of Education. He opposed the state's blue laws and advocated industrial development and urban renewal. He sponsored legislation referring to HIV and AIDS cases. He supported the first limitation in Texas on medical malpractice. He worked to accelerate the time that a criminal case reaches the appeal stage.[4]

He failed in his effort to change the partisan election method of choosing Texas appellate court judges, having favored some kind of merit-based system. Farabee said that Texas attorneys often raise money for judicial candidates and can later appear in court before those judges, who may feel beholden to their previous benefactors and thus fail to show impartiality on the bench.[4]

Texas Monthly magazine for five consecutive sessions dubbed Farabee one of the state's best legislators.[8]

Later years[edit]

In the spring of 1988, Farabee, already the Democratic nominee for another Senate term in the upcoming November general election, unexpectedly resigned his seat after thirteen years to accept a position as general counsel for his alma mater, the University of Texas System. The new position required relocation from Wichita Falls to Austin. He represented nine academic institutions, four medical schools, two hospitals, and the regents and administration.[4]

Helen Farabee, a prominent civic leader in her own right, was particularly involved with mental health issues, and facilities, which first opened in 1969 in Wichita Falls and Graham, Texas, bear her name.[9] Senator Farabee worked to update the mental health code in line with much of his wife's efforts in the field. Mrs. Farabee died of lung cancer in Austin in July 1988, shortly after her husband had become the UT counsel. Before the decline in her health, she had briefly attempted to run in a special election to succeed her husband in 1988, but Democratic Party leaders anointed another candidate for the slot, state Representative Steve Carriker of Roby in Fisher County, who went on to win the fall campaign against the Republican businessman, Bobby Albert of Wichita Falls.[7] Mrs. Farabee died not long after her attempt to run for the state Senate.

In 1991, Ray Farabee remarried after more than two years as a widower. His second wife is the former Mary Margaret Albright (born 1939), a divorcee with two children, David (1964–1996) and Patricia (born 1968). She worked with Texas First Lady Laura Bush to found the Texas Book Festival. The first event opened a month after her son David overdosed.[10] In 2000, Farabee retired from UT but remained for two years as executive assistant to the chancellor. He also served on the state board of Blue Cross Blue Shield. In retirement, he is a volunteer for public television and sits on the board of the interest group, the Equal Justice Foundation, which funds up to $20 million annually in legal services for low-income Texans. Farabee and his wife also travel extensively. In 2006, while in New Zealand they came across a former classmate from Wichita Falls Senior High School and a state representative from Midland, Frank Kell Cahoon.[4] In the 1965 legislative session, Cahoon was the only Republican in the 150-member Texas House.[11]

Farabee has been a longtime Democratic donor, having given to the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama[12] presidential campaigns in 1992 and 2008 and, over the years, to congressional campaigns of Jake Pickle, Martin Frost, Lloyd Doggett, and Pete Geren. He also contributed in 1991 to State Senator Hugh Parmer, a former mayor of Fort Worth, the Democrat who failed in the 1990 campaign against Republican U.S. Senator Phil Gramm.[13]

In 2009, Ray and Mary Margaret Farabee were presented by former CBS anchorman Dan Rather the annual Clara Driscoll Arts Award, named for the Austin artist Clara Driscoll[14] Farabee published his autobiography in 2009, basing the title on his premature birth: Ray Farabee: Making It Through the Night and Beyond: A Memoir.[3]

On their deaths, Ray and Mary Margaret Farabee will be interred at the historic Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Any Texas legislator and spouse qualify for burial there.[15] On November 20, 2014, Farabee died at his home in Austin, two days before his 82nd birthday.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Kenneth Ray Farabee". cemetery.tx.us. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  2. ^ "Dave McNeely, "Representative David Farabee retiring a blow for Democrats", October 4, 2009". Wise County Messenger. Retrieved December 5, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b Ray Farabee: Making It Through the Night and Beyond: A Memoir, 2009, ISBN 978-0-615-25762-4
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Jessica Langdon, "A Man Called 'Fairabee': Former Wichita Falls lawyer, legislator known as man of respect"". Wichita Falls Times Record News, November 3, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  5. ^ "Michael Barnes, "Through the Night and Beyond with Ray Farabee, Part 1", October 12, 2009". austin360.com. Retrieved December 5, 2009.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee". tshaonline.org. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Patricia Kilday Heart. "Country Boys: When rural Democrats got together to fill a vacancy on the ballot, they weren't about to choose a city girl". Texas Monthly. 16 (7): 90–95. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  8. ^ "Texas Monthly: Best and Worst Legislators". texasmonthlyl.com. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  9. ^ "Helen Farabee Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Centers". helenfarabee.org. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  10. ^ "Mary Margaret Farabee". aaustinwomanmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 2014-12-02. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  11. ^ "Frank Cahoon". lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  12. ^ "Farabee campaign contributions". fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  13. ^ "Ray Farabee, 78704 Political Contributions". watchdog.net. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  14. ^ "Clara Driscoll Art Award". amoa.org. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  15. ^ "Kenneth Ray Farabee". cemetery.state.tx.us. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  16. ^ Former Wichita Falls Senator Ray Farabee dies
Texas Senate
Preceded by
Jack Hightower
Texas State Senator from District 30 Wichita Falls and part of West Texas

Kenneth Ray Farabee

Succeeded by
Steve Carriker