Anita Thigpen Perry

Anita Thigpen Perry
First Lady of Texas
In office
December 21, 2000  January 20, 2015
Governor Rick Perry
Preceded by Laura Bush
Succeeded by Cecilia Abbott
Second Lady of Texas
In office
January 19, 1999  December 21, 2000
Governor George W. Bush
Preceded by Gloria Bullock
Succeeded by Sally Ratliff
Personal details
Born Mary Anita Thigpen
(1952-05-05) May 5, 1952
Haskell, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Rick Perry (1982–present)
Children Sydney
Alma mater Texas Tech University, Lubbock
West Texas A&M University
University of Texas, San Antonio
Religion Nondenominational Christianity

Mary Anita Thigpen Perry (born May 5, 1952)[1] is the longest-serving First Lady of Texas, and the wife of Governor Rick Perry, who was in office from 2000 to 2015. As First Lady of Texas, she had been an active advocate for nursing and other health care issues.[2] The Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the University of Texas 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

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. She 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 Emily Solis. Like Rick, she is a graduate of Haskell High School. She spent her first year of college at Texas Tech University, but because they 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.[5] She 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 she worked as a nurse and took in less than $8,000 a year between 1987 and 1990, upon Rick's election as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, she left nursing.[6]

First Lady of Texas

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

In October 2000, she and Rick hosted the first Texas Conference for Women[1] which became an annual event.[7] The conference addresses such issues as professional development, health care, and personal growth.[8]

Texas Tech University renamed its nursing school in Perry's honor in 2008,[4] and two nursing endowments are also set up in her name: the Anita Thigpen Perry Nursing Excellence Scholarship at West Texas A&M University[9] and the Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the University of Texas at San Antonio.[3][10]

2012 Presidential election

Rick 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.[11]

On January 19, 2012, Rick announced he would suspend his campaign and return to Texas.[12]

Personal life

Perry met Rick from the nearby community of Paint Creek, when they were both children at an elementary school piano recital.[13][14] They married in 1982.[1] They have a son, Griffin (born 1983, married Meredith Lewis December 19, 2009), and a daughter, Sydney (born 1986).[15] They previously attended the Tarrytown United Methodist Church. In Austin, they belong to nondenominational Lake Hills Church since 2010.


  1. 1 2 3 4 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. 1 2 "Endowment named for First Lady Anita Perry". University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. June 15, 2001. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 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. McQueary, Carl R. (2003). Dining at the Governor's Mansion. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  7. Julian Pecquet, "Anita Perry: The nurse Gov. Perry wants to take with him to the White House", The Hill, September 17, 2011.
  8. Liz Halloran, "As Anita Perry Hits Campaign Trail, Five Things You Should Know", NPR, September 28, 2011.
  9. "Texas first lady builds her own legacy", Amarillo Globe-News, October 17, 2011.
  10. "Anita Perry, Dr. Robert Probe elected to hospital's board", Lampasas Dispatch Record, March 27, 2009.
  11. "Rick Perry to run for president, spokesman says". CBS News. August 11, 2011. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
  12. Zeleny, Jeff; Shear, Michael D. (January 19, 2012). "Perry to End Bid for Presidency". The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  13. Hughes, Polly Ross (November 4, 2006). "Candidates enjoy strong support at home". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  14. Embry, Jason (February 9, 2010). "From farm to politics, Perry follows in family's footsteps". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  15. 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

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Laura Bush
First Lady of Texas
Succeeded by
Cecilia Abbott
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