Ambassador Robert S. Strauss passed away peacefully and surrounded by his loving family on Wednesday, March 19, in Washington DC. He was a true statesman who relished public service to his country. He was the consummate Washington insider who developed strong personal ties to leading Democrats and Republicans and a unique standing that enabled him to survive the twists and turns of political fate. His legendary knowledge, contacts, instincts and ability to work across the aisle on matters of national and international importance garnered him influence and respect. He brought people together, was a builder, strategist, diplomat and a...
Ambassador Robert S. Strauss passed away peacefully and surrounded by his loving family on Wednesday, March 19, in Washington DC.
He was a true statesman who relished public service to his country. He was the consummate Washington insider who developed strong personal ties to leading Democrats and Republicans and a unique standing that enabled him to survive the twists and turns of political fate. His legendary knowledge, contacts, instincts and ability to work across the aisle on matters of national and international importance garnered him influence and respect. He brought people together, was a builder, strategist, diplomat and a leader in things beyond party politics. He had a rough-hewn persuasiveness that recalled his West Texas, small town roots. He was colorful, brash and irreverent and he had a Texas-sized ego. He was uncommonly funny with a quick wit but most of all he was warmhearted and generous.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, admirers and colleagues, but his memory will live on if we use his life as a roadmap to make the world a better, more humane place.
Robert Schwarz Strauss was born on October 19, 1918, in Lockhart, Texas. His father, Charles, immigrated to the US from Germany in 1915 hoping to become a concert pianist. He met Edith V. Schwarz on a trip and they married, moving first to Hamlin and then to nearby Stamford, where they owned a general store, Strauss Dry Goods.
While attending the University of Texas, Bob worked for the successful campaign of Travis B. Dean for State Legislature, Lyndon B. Johnson in a congressional campaign and John B. Connally in his campaign for student-body president.
After graduating from the UT School of Law in 1941, he was recruited by the FBI to be a special agent in lieu of military service during World War II.
With his friend Richard Gump, he founded a law firm in Dallas in 1945. They opened a Washington office in 1971 and today the firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has 20 offices located around the world.
In 1962, Bob helped elect Mr. Connally governor of Texas and the new governor named him to the state bank board. In 1966, Mr. Connally named Bob to Texas' slot on the Democratic National Committee and within a year he was a member of its executive committee.
In 1968, Bob managed Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey's presidential campaign in Texas, and he persuaded Mr. Connally and his archrival, the more liberal Senator Ralph Yarborough, to set aside their feud and join forces to help Mr. Humphrey. The vice president carried Texas by one percentage point.
In 1970, Bob was elected Democratic Party treasurer, and he restored the Democratic Party to solvency by using new methods to raise money such as direct mail.
After serving as chairman of the National Committee to Re-elect a Democratic Congress in 1972, Bob was elected Democratic national chairman after Mr. McGovern's defeat, and he was widely credited for uniting the party's bitterly divided factions. During his four-year tenure, Democrats achieved a net gain of 48 House members, seven senators, six governors and one president.
In 1974, Bob named Mr. Carter, then governor of Georgia, to be chairman of the Democrats' Congressional campaign effort. Mr. Carter used the job to travel the nation and lay the groundwork for his own 1976 presidential campaign.
Bob then smoothed Mr. Carter's path to the White House by running the Democrats' 1976 convention at Madison Square Garden in New York as a well-received television extravaganza - a sharp contrast with the ideological blood battles of the 1968 and '72 conventions. Such disparate figures as Coretta Scott King and former Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama addressed the delegates and helped unite the party.
After Mr. Carter's election, Bob resigned as the unpaid party chairman to practice law, but he joined the administration in March 1977 as special representative for trade negotiations with the rank of ambassador. He pushed to complete the Tokyo round of trade talks, culminating in the Trade Act of 1979. Soon he was appointed Mr. Carter's chief anti-inflation adviser.
In April 1979, after the signing of the Camp David Accords, Bob became Mr. Carter's personal representative to the Middle East peace talks.
Five months later he resigned to become chairman of Mr. Carter's 1980 re-election campaign. After Mr. Carter lost to Reagan, Bob slipped into the role of unofficial adviser to the new president and a lunchtime companion of President and Mrs. Reagan's.
Mr. Carter awarded Bob the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush named him ambassador to the Soviet Union and he arrived in Moscow in the midst of a three-day coup. He forged friendships with Russian leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and he continued his role as ambassador to the successor republic Russia. After the 1992 election, he returned home and rejoined his law firm.
Bob's beloved wife of 65 years, the former Helen Jacobs, died in 2006. He is survived by his children, Robert A. Strauss and wife Olga of Tucson AZ, Richard Strauss and wife Diana of Dallas, and Susan Strauss Breen and husband George of Dallas; his brother, Theodore H. Strauss and wife Susan of Dallas; his grandchildren, Lisa Strauss Mastin of Concordia KS, Lauri Strauss of Atlanta, Robert A. Strauss II and wife Whitney of Dallas, Staci Strauss McCord and husband Craig of Woodstock NY, Tania Agran of Delray FL, Jenifer Strauss of Dallas, and Natalie Breen of Dallas; and his great grandchildren, John Mastin of Hutchinson KS, Jordan Mastin of Manhattan KS, Ricky Agran of Delray FL, Alex Agran of Delray FL, Bobby Strauss of Dallas and Timmy Strauss of Dallas.
The family wishes to express its love, affection and deep appreciation to his loyal and dedicated caregivers, Rory Anthony Robinson, Sally Masaganda, John Gbla, Daniel Obeng, Yusufu Mansaray, , Rosabel deGuzman, Mamud Kamara and George H. King.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the Olan Sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas following a private service for his family. A reception will be held at Temple Emanu-El following the memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his memory to Visiting Nurse Association, Meals on Wheels, 1600 Viceroy Drive, #400, Dallas, TX 75235; Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security & Law, The University of Texas at Austin, P. O. Box T, Austin, TX 78713-8920; See Forever Foundation/Maya Angelou Schools, 1436 U Street, NW, Suite 203, Washington, DC 20009; or to the charity of your choice.