Dorothy Ann Willis (1933-2006) was born September 1, 1933, in Lakeview, Texas. Richards received a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a teaching certificate from the University of Texas. She taught social studies and history at Fulmore Junior High School in Austin before raising her family. She also spent much of her time volunteering for political campaigns and causes, especially those focusing on civil rights and economic justice.
Richards entered politics in 1976, winning election as a Travis county commissioner. Six years later in 1982 she was elected state treasurer, the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas in fifty years. She was credited with greatly modernizing the operations of the treasury. Reelected in 1986, she gained national prominence when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
After she was defeated for re-election by George W. Bush in the 1994 election, Richards continued to be a prominent figure in Texas politics. She was a constant presence on the fundraising circuit for liberal groups and causes, championed women's health issues, and joined the prominent Austin-based firm Public Strategies, splitting her time between their Austin and New York offices. Richards died in Austin on September 13, 2006.