B. Rapoport was a Texas giant. Universally respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, he served his state as chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents. For half a century, he supported the Texas Observer in its mission of bringing great public service journalism to Texans. His granddaughter, Abby, my former intern at Texas Monthly, continues to uphold that tradition.
In the decades of the fifties, sixties, and seventies, when Texas daily newspapers had little ambition, the Observer was the true journal of record of Texas politics. It produced great journalists, from Ronnie Dugger to Larry L. King to Molly Ivins and many more names I can’t do justice to. I can’t even imagine the number of careers that were made possible by Rapoport’s support of the Observer.
I did not get to know Mr. Rapoport until I worked with Abby. I am grateful that I was able to spend time with him, however briefly. It was a privilege to know him and his family. It is not often that one gets to meet such a person.
Rapoport was a pivotal figure in a pivotal moment in Texas politics–the 1970 Senate race between George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen. In those years the Democratic party was split between its liberal and conservative wings. Rapoport was a liberal, Bentsen a conservative. When Bentsen defeated the champion of the liberals, Ralph W. Yarborough, in the Democratic primary that year, it appeared that the liberals might boycott the general election in protest of Bentsen’s campaign tactics against their hero. As the story was told to me, Bentsen was being driven back to Austin when he came to Waco. He told the driver to look up Rapoport’s address. When he got to the house, he rang the doorbell and Rapoport answered. “Do you know where a man can get some scotch in this town?” Bentsen asked. Rapoport invited Bentsen in, and they patched up the feud between the liberals and the conservatives. The
Democrats went into the fall election unified and Bentsen defeated Bush.
As the saying goes, they don’t make them like that any more. Rest in peace.