Strauss, Robert Schwarz

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STRAUSS, ROBERT SCHWARZ (1919– ), U.S. lawyer, businessman, Democratic political leader, member of the Cabinet, ambassador, statesman. Strauss was born in Lockhart, Texas, and raised in Stamford, a small town in West Texas where his immigrant father owned a small general store. His maternal great grandfather, Heinrich Schwarz, was the first ordained rabbi in the state of Texas (1873). The Strausses were the only Jewish family in Stamford, a town without a synagogue or rabbi, and although the Strauss home was deeply culturally Jewish, Bob Strauss received no formal Jewish education.

Robert Strauss received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas in Austin. During law school, Strauss began a life-long friendship with John Connally, who later was elected governor of Texas. After law school, he served as a special agent in the fbi until the end of World War ii. He then moved to Dallas where he established his own law firm. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld has become one of the great law firms in the United States, and has branches in 15 cities around the world. It is considered one of the premier law-lobbying firms in the nation's capital.

Strauss has become an icon of American politics. After serving as Democratic National Committeeman from Texas and Treasurer of the dnc, Bob Strauss was elected Chairman of the Democratic Party in 1972 following the electoral debacle of the McGovern presidential campaign, the first Jew to serve as chairman of a national political party. In that role Strauss worked tirelessly and brilliantly to reunite a badly splintered party, patiently coaxing disparate and hostile factions to work together around common programmatic goals. His almost mystical powers of persuasion and leadership were manifest at the hugely successful Democratic National Convention in New York City in 1976 which nominated a moderate southern governor, Jimmy Carter, who went on to win the presidency of the United States in a campaign that Strauss managed.

President Carter appointed Strauss to the cabinet level post of us Special Trade Representative, where he masterfully completed the Tokyo Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. Impressed by Strauss' negotiating skills, Carter then appointed him as his Personal Representative to the Mideast Peace Negotiations.

Although an unparalleled Democratic Party political leader, Bob Strauss was no stranger to Republican presidents. Indeed he served as a friend and advisor not only to Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, but also to Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and George W. Bush. President George H.W. Bush appointed Strauss to serve as the United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, and after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990, Strauss was appointed by President Bush to serve as the first United States ambassador to Russia. For Strauss' quietly effective work on the Wallenberg Holocaust case while serving as ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, he was awarded the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award

Strauss occupied the Lloyd Bentsen Chair at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and served on the Boards of major U.S. corporations, including Xerox and Archer Daniels Midland. He was the chairman of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Strauss is and will always be considered one of the true giants of American politics. Strauss – national party chairman, member of the Cabinet, ambassador, and statesman – who served as mentor to a new generation of American politics and advised six American presidents, has written that, at the end of the day he owes whatever he has accomplished in life to the experience of growing up in the only Jewish family in a small town in West Texas.

[Mark Siegel (2nd ed.)]

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