Ray Farabee

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Kenneth Ray Farabee​

Texas State Senator for
District 30 (Wichita Falls and West Texas​)
In office
1975​ – 1988​
Preceded by Jack Hightower​
Succeeded by Steve Carriker​

Born November 22, 1932​
Wichita Falls, Texas​
Died November 20, 2014
(aged 81)
Austin, Texas​
Resting place Texas State Cemetery in Austin​
Nationality American​
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) (1) Helen Farabee (died 1988) ​

(2) Mary Margaret Albright Farabee (married 1991-2014, his death)​

Children Steven R. Farabee

David Farabee

Alma mater (1) Wichita Falls High School ​

(2) University of Texas at Austin
​ (3) UT Law School​

Occupation Attorney
  • 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 state Senate, including a revision of the mental health code, particularly important to his first wife, Helen Farabee.​ He supported most of the liberal measures in his party's agenda.
  • His younger son, David Farabee, is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives from Wichita Falls, with service from 1999 to 2011.​

Kenneth Ray Farabee, known as Ray Farabee (November 22, 1932 – November 20, 2014),[1] was an attorney in Austin, Texas, who served as a Democratic member of the state Senate from his native 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. His younger son is former state Representative David Farabee of Wichita Falls.[2]


Farabee was born six weeks prematurely. His attending physician did not expect him to live through the night, 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 YMCA 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 state Senate to succeed newly elected U.S. Representative Jack English Hightower of Vernon in 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] a goal achieved by his son David.​

Read Granberry, the 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, from which Farabee obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration and then Juris Doctorate from the UT 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, for whom he worked 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-Madison as part of his student political activities. There he met his future first wife, the former Helen Jane Rehbein,[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 Farabee's service in the United States Air Force.[6]

State senator

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 English Hightower (1926-2013), ran instead for the United States House of Representatives and unseated the Republican Robert Dale "Bob" Price (1927-2004), who had first been elected in the Panhandle-area district in 1966. The U.S. House district was altered after the 1970 census to include Wichita Falls and Amarillo and territory in between in the same sprawling district.​[8]

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 County, as well as Wilbarger, Archer, Baylor, Callahan, Childress, Clay, Cooke, Cottle, Dickens, Fisher, Floyd, Foard, Grayson, Hardeman, Haskell, Jack, Jones, Kent, King, Knox, Mitchell, Montague, Motley, Scurry, Shackleford, 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 supported the first limitation in Texas on medical malpractice. He worked to accelerate the time that a criminal case reaches the appeal stage.[4]

Farabee 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.[9]

Later years

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, bear her name.[10] 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 the state Senate 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.[11]

In 2000, Farabee retired from UT but remained for two years as executive assistant to the chancellor. He served on the state board of Blue Cross Blue Shield. In retirement, he was a volunteer for the Public Broadcasting Service and sits on the board of 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 coincidentally encountered Frank Kell Cahoon, a former classmate from Wichita Falls Senior High School and a former state representative from Midland.[4] In the 1965 legislative session, Cahoon was the only Republican in the 150-member Texas House.[12]

Farabee has been a longtime Democratic donor, having given to Bill Clinton and Barack H. Obama[13] in the presidential campaigns of 1992 and 2008 and, over the years, to congressional campaigns of the Democrats 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.[14]

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 and philanthropist.[15] 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]

Farabee is interred at the historic Texas State Cemetery in Austin. On her death, Mary Margaret Farabee will be interred beside him. Any Texas legislator and spouse qualify for burial there.[1] Farabee died at his home in Austin two days before his 82nd birthday.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kenneth Ray Farabee. Cemetery.tx.us. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  2. Dave McNeely (October 4, 2009). Representative David Farabee retiring a blow for Democrats. Wise County Messenger. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ray Farabee: Making It Through the Night and Beyond: A Memoir, 2009, ISBN 978-0-615-25762-4
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 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 on December 5, 2009.
  5. Michael Barnes (October 12, 2009). Through the Night and Beyond with Ray Farabee, Part 1. Austin360.com. Retrieved on December 5, 2009; no longer on-line.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Helen Jane Rehbein Farabee. Tshaonline.org. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Patricia Kilday Hart. Country Boys: When rural Democrats got together to fill a vacancy on the ballot, they weren’t about to choose a city girl 90–95. Texas Monthly. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  8. Ray Farabee. Texas Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved on August 21, 2019.
  9. Texas Monthly: Best and Worst Legislators. Texas Monthly. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  10. Helen Farabee Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Centers. helenfarabee.org. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  11. Mary Margaret Farabee. Austin Woman Magazine. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  12. Frank Cahoon. lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved on March 13, 2011.
  13. Farabee campaign contributions. fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  14. Ray Farabee, 78704 Political Contributions. Watchdog.net. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  15. Clara Driscoll Art Award. amoa.org. Retrieved on December 5, 2009.
  16. Wichita Falls Times Record News Former Wichita Falls Senator Ray Farabee dies.