AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A.R. “Babe” Schwartz, a longtime liberal state senator with a reputation of being one of the most formidable orators in the Texas Legislature, has died at age 92.
His son, New York Times climate reporter John Schwartz, said his father died Friday in Houston after years of health problems.
A.R. Schwartz served in the Texas House from 1955 until 1960, when he won a seat in the Texas Senate. He remained in the Senate until losing his bid for re-election in 1980.
The Galveston-born child of Polish immigrants championed civil rights, public education and care for the disabled. Schwartz also helped craft legislation that guaranteed public access to Texas beaches.
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Born Aaron Schwartz, he was known in his family as “Baby” until age 14, when he demanded a change. He adopted the middle name “Robert” while serving in the Navy before World War II.
After his military service, Schwartz earned a University of Texas law degree, then plunged quickly into politics. After a failed race for the Texas House in 1950, he won Galveston’s seat in 1954.
Then, as now, the Legislature was dominated by conservatives — then, by conservative Democrats. Outnumbered, liberals such as Schwartz used Senate rules to stop bills they considered unwise. Schwartz was especially vigilant for legislation he considered to be anti-consumer. One such bill he denounced on the floor as “a bill written by liars, cheats and thieves for the benefit of liars, cheats and thieves.”
In 1979, his last session, he was a member of the “Killer Bees” who fled the state and deprived the Senate of a quorum to stymie legislation aimed at altering the state’s presidential primary to benefit former Texas governor and Democrat-turned-Republican John Connelly.
After his 1980 defeat, Schwartz worked as a lobbyist in Austin into his 80s.