The Overcomer

Greg Abbott has a funny relationship with fate. On the one hand, it left him paralyzed from the waist down after a bizarre accident in 1984. On the other, it appears certain to make him the next governor of Texas. But what are the lessons fate has taught him—about suffering, perseverance, hope, and luck—and how will he use them to lead?
Photograph by LeAnn Mueller

The attorney general gazed out across the Bosque River Valley, took a deep breath, and raised his Remington 12-gauge shotgun. “Okay,” he called out. “Can I see one?” An orange clay pigeon flashed across the sky before disappearing into a field some forty yards away. He turned and laughed: “Can I see one more?”

It was a bright-blue mid-May afternoon, and Greg Abbott was relaxing with some of his old classmates from Duncanville High School, Billy and Buzzy and Randy and Rickey and Kevin and Joe. If those names sound like they come from Ward Cleaver’s America, that’s because they do. Abbott had a classic small-town upbringing; these are the friends he stayed up late with playing cards and dominoes before drifting off to sleep on backyard trampolines. The men have remained close over the years, happily recalling the times when they first tried chewing tobacco on a football trip to Corsicana or pulled an all-nighter while puzzling over the periodic table. The property, a gorgeous piece of land between Glen Rose and Hico, belongs to Rickey. Each year they try to gather here to swap stories, catch up on their families, and do a little hunting and fishing. 

While one of the men adjusted the automatic trap, the 55-year-old sat in his wheelchair on a wide wooden deck and took in the view. He wore hunting boots, casual brown pants, and a gray short-sleeved shirt. “See that ridge over there?” he asked, pointing off into

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