A very accomplished American, an outstanding public
servant who was at various times in his long career an
FBI agent, an attorney, diplomat, trade representative,
and Democratic National Committee Chairman has
concluded his earthly duties. Robert Schwarz Strauss
passed away several weeks ago at the grand age of 95.
A native Texan, Strauss was born to Charles Strauss
and Edith Violet (Nee' Schwarz), Jewish immigrants
from Germany. Charles owned a general store in
Stamford, Texas for many years. Strauss attended
the University of Texas in Austin where he studied law,
was a candidate for a seat in the Texas State Assembly,
and was offered a position as Committeee Clerk in the
Texas Legislature. While in law school he met and
became friends with John B. Connally, who would
go on to become Governor of Texas and would have
a large impact on Strauss' career. Upon completion of
his law degree, Strauss joined the Federal Bureau of
Investigation where he met a fellow agent with whom
he would establish a law firm, Gump & Strauss, which
would grow into an international law firm with several
new senior partners.
Strauss would, in subsequent years, become involved in
charitable causes as well as political campaigns along
with his wife, Helen. He would also become a fundraiser
of great repute for the Democrat Party, later opening a
branch office of his law firm in Washington D.C.
From there, he was named Democrats' Party Treasurer
in 1971. Although his friend and political ally John Connally
leave the Democrats for the Republican Party and be
named Secretary of the Treasury by President Richard Nixon
in that same year, they still kept up their friendship and
many of their shared political activities.
In the meantime, Strauss found himself at odds with the
increasingly dominant liberal wing of the Democrat Party,
especially over the Vietman War and other foreign policy
matters. Strauss' ties via his friend Connally to President
Lyndon B. Johnson and his coolness toward Senator
George McGovern, who would become the party's
presidential candidate in 1972 were major factors in this
development. Although McGovern was unsuccessful in
winning the high office, his influence on the Democrat Party
was broad and deep, making him the face of the party.
Strauss' membership in both the Council for Foreign Relations
and the Trilateral Commission would not be enough to
establish, let alone maintain trust with the newer, more
left-leaning party leadership and activists.
After the 1972 elections, in which the Democrats suffered
a mortifying defeat in their presidential quest, and their
finances flagging with their morale, Strauss was promoted
to Chairman of the DNC. One of his duties was setting up the
party's 1976 national convention. While remaining neutral
as far as the presidential candidates were concerned, Strauss
planned a disciplined, tightly run convention while rebuilding
the party's finances. Jimmy Carter was nominated and elected
President that year, erasing the bitter memories of the 1968
and 1972 conventions and the accompanying electoral defeats.
Strauss was rewarded by President Carter with an appointment
to the post of U.S. Trade Representative, a position with
cabinet-level status. In this position, Strauss successfully
completed the round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in
Tokyo, following that up with securing the agreement's
ratification by Congress as part of the Trade Act of 1979.
His reward for this accomlishment was to be named Carters'
Personal Representative to the Middle East. Staruss would
once again chair Carter's campaign when Carter ran for
re-election in 1980 but that year Ronald Reagan routed Carter
at the polls to become the next President of the United States.
Strauss would not only be professionally unaffected by this
political setback, his political stock rose dramatically as
his services were sought by Presidnet Reagan and by his
successor, George H.W. Bush; Strauss would be named
Co-Chairman of the National Economic Commission by
the former and named Ambassador to the Soviet Union by
the latter. In the ambassadorial post, Strauss assured close
relations with the transitioning country as it abandoned
communism and adopted democracy, working with outgoing
leader Mikhail Gorbachev and incoming President Boris
A liberal on some matters, a conservative on some others,
a partisan without being overly partisan (a rarity nowadays),
not afraid to reach across the political divide in order to get
important tasks completed and completed well, Ambassador
Robert Strauss was always a patriot. He was one of the few
figuires in the Democrat Party that your faithful Peasant has
had any respect and regard for, and I shall miss him greatly.
And so, I feel, will the country and the world.
Rest in Peace, Ambassador Strauss. Thank you for your