In bidding formal farewell to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, exhibited traits that have endeared her to colleagues and constituents alike over the years: congeniality, class and a continuing, sincere appeal for bipartisanship in Congress.Although on occasion she yielded to political expediency and brandished the partisan flag, Hutchison earned a reputation throughout her long public service career as one willing to cross the aisle in search of common ground that would benefit the people of her state and the nation.Noting the criticism of Congress for its partisan acrimony, she said, "I will leave the Senate knowing I have worked with men and women of great patriotism, intellect and heart from both sides of the aisle."As a political pioneer in Texas, Hutchison, now 69, could easily have been a chapter in her own book, Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers, which profiles 63 women in various fields throughout history who have made significant contributions to the nation.In deciding to cover the news after graduating from law school in 1967, she made news by becoming one of the first -- if not the first -- female on-camera television reporters in Texas. From there she embarked on what would become a storied career in politics, first in the Texas Legislature, then as state treasurer and, in 1993, becoming the first woman from Texas elected to the U.S. Senate.While in Washington, Hutchison championed tax relief for working families, notably legislation to reduce the so-called marriage penalty, federal deductions for state and local sales taxes for residents of states without an income tax and for lowering capital gains taxes.As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and a strong voice for military readiness, this year she and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, helped block a decision by the Air Force to relocate a squadron of C-130 Hercules aircraft from Naval Air Station Fort Worth to Great Falls, Mont.Hutchison was a leading broker in ending a long regional war over the Wright Amendment, which restricts long-haul flights from Dallas Love Field, designing a repeal that ends those restrictions in 2014. She also has been one of Amtrak's best friends, fighting for extra funding and particularly for keeping and increasing passenger train service in Texas.Fort Worth leaders counted on her commitment to the Trinity Uptown project, a $909 million retail, residential and cultural development that will also address flood control, environmental and ecological restoration issues.Her foresight in supporting science, technology and education led to Texas becoming third in the nation in federal research and development expenditures for higher-education research institutions, according to the senator's website.Long before she ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, losing to Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, Hutchison was ready to come back home to Texas.She'll return with her head held high, a long record of accomplishments and a legacy of bipartisanship. If others in Washington follow her example, it would serve the nation well long after she has departed from the Capitol.