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Former Texas Lawmaker & KUT Board Member Ray Farabee Dies

Paul Woodruff
Mrs. Mary Margaret and former State Senator Ray Farabee at the KUT Public Media Studios Grand Opening in November

Kenneth “Ray” Farabee died at his home in Austin on Thursday, November 20, 2014.  He was 81.

Farabee was born in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932. He graduated from Wichita Falls High School before attending the University of Texas at Austin. Ray was elected Student Body President at UT and served with the National Student Association where he traveled the nation working with other university student government organizations.

It was during those trips across the country that he met Helen Rehbein. She was the Student Body President of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  The two were married in 1958. Ray and Helen lived in Austin while he completed law school and then moved back to his hometown to begin his law practice and their family. 

Then in 1974, he gave public service a try and was elected to the Texas State Senate. He had a distinguished career in Austin, being named one of Texas Monthly’s Ten Best Legislators five times. The magazine described him as “the complete senator" who "operates on a different level from anyone else, even the good ones; acts not as representative of a single district but as a trustee of an entire state” and “the most respected member of the Legislature; carries the best bills, runs the most important committee and has the longest vision.”

Listen to former LBJ School Dean Max Sherman talking about Farabee's legislative legacy:

Some of his many accomplishments included being chosen, along with Helen, as Texans of the Year by Texas Business magazine; being named as an Outstanding West Texan; and receiving the Hall of Honor award from Texas Corrections Association.  His legislative legacy includes many bills still affecting life in Texas today. Farabee passed legislation that repealed the Texas Blue Laws, focused on organ transplants, child care, and tort reform along with extensive changes to the mental health care system in Texas.

In 1988 Farabee retired from the State Senate and began his service as Vice Chancellor, General Counsel of the University of Texas System, serving until 2000. During this time he served on, and later chaired, the board of directors for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Illinois.

Having lost Helen to illness in 1988, he married Mary Margaret Albright in 1991. The two of them traveled extensively all around the world and worked tirelessly to support many philanthropic causes related to the arts and human services.

Farabee spent much of his retirement focusing on family and on causes near to his heart, including serving as founding chair of the KUT advisory board.

KUT director and general manager Stewart Vanderwilt said Farabee held a deep belief in the power of public radio to contribute to a well-informed and engaged community.

“The founding chair of the KUT Advisory Board, he was a quiet, yet powerful, leader of KUT’s progress in recent history. He set high expectations for the station and backed them with his guidance and support. Ray also led KUT through a successful capital campaign to construct the KUT Public Media Studios.”

The Newsmaker Control Room at KUT is named in honor of Ray and his late wife Mary Margaret in recognition of their role in making the KUT Public Media Studios a reality.

“His good humor, kindness, generosity and leadership will be missed by all of us,” said Vanderwilt.

Farabee's other retirement work included serving as secretary of the Access to Justice Foundation and as a board member of the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Farabee was preceded in death by his mother and father, Jack and Annie Lee, his first wife, Helen and his second wife, Mary Margaret.  He is survived by two sons and their wives, Steve and Karen Farabee of Austin and David and Terri Farabee of Wichita Falls.  He is also survived by his step daughter Patricia Albright of Austin.  Ray was very proud of his four grandchildren: Worth, Nancy Helen, Russell, and Sara Helen.

A memorial service will be held in the Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol at 2 pm on Friday December 5.  A private burial at the State Cemetery will follow on December 6. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Farabee Fund, providing ongoing support to charitable causes that were passions of Helen, Mary Margaret and Ray, via the Austin Community Foundationor a donation to the charity of your choice.

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