Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has been busy handling the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey, is married to Cecilia Abbott. Born Cecilia Phalen, she is the first Latina First Lady of Texas since it became a U.S. state.
Abbott and the 55-year-old Cecilia have an adopted daughter, 20-year-old Audrey.
Here’s what you need to know about Cecilia Abbott.
1. Cecilia & Abbott Married in 1981
Cecilia and Abbott have been married since 1981. They met while Abbott was studying at the University of Texas, Austin. According to Texas Monthly, Cecilia was a year behind the 59-year-old Abbott when they met.
Cecilia, who was raised in San Antonio, wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who were both middle school teachers. She wanted to go to Texas State University in San Marcos, but ultimately decided to go to UT in Austin.
Abbott and Cecilia married at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio in 1981, the same year Abbott began his studies at Vanderbilt Law School in Tennessee. Cecilia put her studies on hold. According to her state bio, Cecilia earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. She also has Master’s degrees in Theology and Education.
Cecilia, a Roman Catholic, taught at several Catholic schools throughout Texas and also served as vice-principal and principal. From 1996 to 2001, she was the principal at the Cathedral School of Saint Mary. She’s also a former member of the State Board for Educator Certification. She also worked at Harden Healthcare until Abbott began his gubernatorial campaign.
2. 3 Years After Their Marriage, Abbott Was Paralyzed in a Freak Accident
In 1984, three years after their marriage, Abbott suffered a freak accident while jogging with a friend. An oak tree weakened by a storm fell on him, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. As the Dallas Morning News notes, he won an estimated $10 million after suing the property’s owner.
In an interview with Texas Monthly, Abbott said their lives are better since the accident since it kick-started his career and inspired him to be more determined to succeed.
“I’ll tell you this astonishing fact: Cecilia and I believe our lives are better after the accident than before,” Abbott said in 2013. “I think there’s a greater appreciation for life.”
Abbott told the Morning News that it was the encouragement from Cecilia and his mother that helped him through the anxiety he felt about his future while in rehab. “Certainly things get changed and rearranged when you have an injury like this,” Abbott said.
“She was instrumental in supporting him in every way imaginable after the accident,” Kent Sullivan, a lawyer who worked With Abbott, told the Texas Tribune in 2014. “She was a pillar of strength for him. It sounds like a cliché, but it really is true.”
3. Cecilia Is the First Latina First Lady Since Texas Became a State
In a 2014 interview on NBC News’ Meet The Press after he won his 2014 election, Abbott said Cecilia will become the first Latina First Lady of Texas. This is, as Politifact points out, true. Since Texas became a state, no Latina had been First Lady before Cecilia.
Cecilia is the granddaughter of Leonara and Augustine Segura, who both emigrated from Mexico and settled in San Antonio before 1935. Her mother, Maria de la Luz Segura, was born in San Antonio in 1935. Her father, William Joseph Phalen, was born in Michigan in 1935 to parents of Irish ancestry.
Texas was previously a Spanish colony and later became part of Mexico, and there were Hispanic first ladies during these periods of Texas history. Politifact notes that there were also Hispanic First Ladies during the period when Texas was its own Republic, before it joined the Union.
During the 2014 campaign, Abbott was accused of using Cecilia to help him get Hispanic voters. One Lubbock Democratic legislator was accused of calling Cecilia a “prop,” but he denied that claim.
4. They Adopted a Daughter, Audrey
Abbott and Cecilia have one daughter, 20-year-old Audrey, who is adopted.
According to her LinkedIn bio, Audrey is a public relations intern for Broadcast Music, Inc. in Los Angeles and is studying communications at the University of Southern California. She is expected to graduate in 2019.
Audrey also worked on her father’s 2014 campaign. She also interned at Music One Media and W20 Group in Austin.
Pat Mizell, an Abbott family friend, told the Texas Tribune that the couple became involved with an Austin adoption home after adopting Audrey.
5. Cecilia Is the Co-Founder of ‘Texanthropy,’ an Initiative to Promote Volunteerism in Texas
Cecilia’s focus as First Lady is the Texanthropy Initiative. The promgram promotes volunteerism in the Lone Star state and encourages Texas to help each other out.
“Texans are generous by nature. Philanthropy is in our DNA. As First Lady, I look forward to working with all Texans to bring together the two things that I am most passionate about – Texas and philanthropy,” Cecilia said in a statement.
Cecilia is also working with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on the “Network of Nurture” initiative to help children and families on child welfare.
Cecilia also loves classical music and has two dogs, Oreo and Pancake.