I am a little late to recognize this, but it was a very important event that deserves recognition nonetheless. Robert Strauss, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Convention and a truly larger than life figure for Texas Democrats, died on Tuesday at the age of 95. A product of rural Texas, Strauss attended UT and quickly befriended a fellow student named John Connolly. He, of course, would go on to serve as Governor in the 1960s, when Strauss served as a key adviser to both him and President Lyndon Johnson.
Beginning in 1972, Strauss served as the Chairman of the Democratic National Convention. He continued to serve in that capacity until Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President in 1977. In fact, for two of those years, fellow Texan George H.W. Bush served as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, prompting Texas Monthly to run this cover in 1974.
After Carter became President, served as the Trade Representative for the first half of his term, as well as a Special Envoy to the Middle East for a few months in 1979. Under the Reagan administration, Strauss was both instrumental in replacing the Chief of Staff, as well as serving as a chairman of the National Economic Commission.
During the first Bush administration, Strauss’ foreign service continued. He served as the last ambassador to the Soviet Union, starting out just before the attempted August coup against Gorbachev. Thereafter, he served as the first ambassador the Russian Federation. Strauss was simply known as a Texan at heart who was able to transcend the limits of partisanship quite capably.
Strauss was the first Texan to ever take the helm of the DNC, or any major party for that matter. Not necessarily liberal or conservative, he was able to bridge the gaps between those on the left of his party like Ralph Yarborough and those on the right like John Connolly. He even garnered the respect and admiration of Republicans like Reagan and Bush
In a touching show of humanity in an otherwise inhumane political climate, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) even had kind things to say of Strauss on his passing. It gives me nostalgia for an era of bipartisanship, commodore and civility that has long passed.