WITH ITS LONG HISTORY OF settling disputes with fistfights and frontier justice, Texas isn’t exactly known for white-glove diplomacy. It does, however, have a tradition of producing diplomats, one that predates the Republic of Texas: In 1835 the provisional government of the Mexican province of Texas sent commissioners like Stephen F. Austin to procure aid from foreign countries like the United States. Two years later President Sam Houston tapped surveyor and soldier Jacob “Old Jake” Snively as the Republic of Texas’ ambassador to the Shawnee Indians. And in 1857 former president of the Republic of Texas Mirabeau B. Lamar was named the U.S. minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica by President James Buchanan. Since those early days, a long list of ambassadors from Texas has represented the nation’s interests abroad, exporting Texas culture all over the globe in the process. Bill Clinton has done his part to perpetuate the tradition: Not since native son Lyndon Johnson was in the White House have so many Texans been dispatched to foreign countries.
Six ambassadors appointed by President Clinton hail from Texas: Dallas lawyer and businesswoman Kathryn Hall, who last year took over as ambassador to Austria after the resignation of Dallas oil heiress Swanee Hunt, another Clinton appointee; former congressman and senator Robert Krueger of New Braunfels, who was named ambassador to Burundi and later to Botswana; San Antonio oil executive Stan McLelland, whose post is Jamaica; Waco insurance company CEO Lyndon Olson, who left for Sweden in January; and Houston lawyer Arthur Schechter, who was sworn in as ambassador to the Bahamas in September.
The list is notable because the majority of ambassadorships aren’t political appointments—and Clinton didn’t even carry Texas in 1996. According to Krueger, a three-time ambassador, about 70 percent of U.S. ambassadors are foreign service professionals, which means that appointed ambassadorships are highly prized positions that are doled out to a select few. Because ambassadors represent the president, he usually handpicks the nominees. Often, they’re from his home state or are party stalwarts from neighboring states. It’s not surprising, then, that Arkansas-bred Clinton would turn to Texas for foreign envoys who happen to be successful in business, well connected in Democratic circles, and major donors to and/or fundraisers for the Democratic party.
For instance, Hall was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s traveling campaign staff, was active in Al Gore’s 1988 bid for the presidency, was a state co-chair for Michael Dukakis in 1988, ran unsuccessfully for Dallas mayor in 1991 (as Kathryn Cain, before she remarried), and was the campaign treasurer for Dallas’ current mayor, Ron Kirk. She’s married to Dallas developer Craig Hall, and they own a vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. Hunt, who resigned her post in 1997 to teach at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the youngest daughter of Texas billionaire H. L. Hunt and a major Democratic fundraiser and contributor. Krueger taught English literature and was the vice provost and dean of arts and sciences at Duke University before entering politics. He is a prominent Texas Democrat who won two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in the seventies and was a U.S. senator for six months after Governor Ann Richards appointed him to fill the seat vacated by Lloyd Bentsen when he moved to the Treasury Department in January 1993 (Krueger later ran for the seat, but lost to Kay Bailey Hutchison). McLelland, a