Helen Farabee

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Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee​

(Texas activist for mental health)​

Born November 12, 1934​
Appleton, Outagamie County, Wisconsin, USA
Political Party Democrat
Spouse Ray Farabee​ (married 1958-1988, her death)

Steven R. Farabee
David Farabee
Wilmer C. and Myra Grace Rehbein​
Alma mater:
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Helen Jane Rehbein 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 Farabee (born 1964), 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, Texas.


Farabee was born in Appleton in 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] In 1957, she graduated 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 of 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 James Stephen Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, while her husband completed his Juris Doctorate law degree.[3]

In 1961, the Farabees moved to her husband's native Wichita Falls, where 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 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 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 1981to 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 White.[3]

Mrs. Farabee served on the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. 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. She hence 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 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 the 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 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 on December 8, 2009.
  2. Social Security Death Index. ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on December 8, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Debbie Mauldin Cottrell. Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee. tshaonline.org. Retrieved on 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. Texas Monthly on Google Books. Retrieved on August 21, 2019. 
  5. Helen J. Farabee from zip code 76309. Watchdog.net. Retrieved on December 8, 2009.
  6. Helen Farabee Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship.
  7. Helen Farabee Regional MHMR Centers. merchantcircle.com. Retrieved on December 8, 2009.