Power Players

Texas legend celebrates his 83rd birthday with A-listers in River Oaks: More powerful than anyone since Sam Houston?

Texas legend celebrates his 83rd birthday with A-listers in River Oaks

Bill Hobby, from left, Joe Jamail, Herb Kelleher and Rodney Ellis at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Bill Hobby, from left, Joe Jamail, Herb Kelleher and Rodney Ellis. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Andrew Hobby, from left, Kate Gibson, Paul Hobby and Laura Beckworth at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Andrew Hobby, from left, Kate Gibson, Paul Hobby and Laura Beckworth. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Dr. Robert Robbins, from left, Renu Khator and Steve Pearce at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Dr. Robert Robbins, from left, Renu Khator and Steve Pearce. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Lynne Bentsen, left, and Beth Robertson at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Lynne Bentsen, left, and Beth Robertson. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Sofia Adrogue, from left, Tricia Dewhurst and Nancy Brazzil at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Sofia Adrogue, from left, Tricia Dewhurst and Nancy Brazzil. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Suresh Khator, from left, Welcome Wilson Sr. and Jeff Bricker at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Suresh Khator, from left, Welcome Wilson Sr. and Jeff Bricker. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Anne and Charles Duncan at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Anne and Charles Duncan. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Hugh and Carroll Ray, from left, with Welcome Wilson Jr. and Anita Wilson at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Hugh and Carroll Ray, from left, with Welcome Wilson Jr. and Anita Wilson. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Barbara and Corby Robertson, from left, with Joe Bill Watkins at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Barbara and Corby Robertson, from left, with Joe Bill Watkins. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Soraya and Scott McClelland at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Soraya and Scott McClelland. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Jeff Hart and Linda Gale White at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Jeff Hart and Linda Gale White. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Joan and John Scales at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Joan and John Scales. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Peggy Smith, left, and Bette Thomas at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Peggy Smith, left, and Bette Thomas. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Sam Todd and Ramona Davis at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Sam Todd and Ramona Davis. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Bill Hobby, from left, Joe Jamail, Herb Kelleher and Rodney Ellis at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Andrew Hobby, from left, Kate Gibson, Paul Hobby and Laura Beckworth at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Dr. Robert Robbins, from left, Renu Khator and Steve Pearce at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Lynne Bentsen, left, and Beth Robertson at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Sofia Adrogue, from left, Tricia Dewhurst and Nancy Brazzil at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Suresh Khator, from left, Welcome Wilson Sr. and Jeff Bricker at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Anne and Charles Duncan at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Hugh and Carroll Ray, from left, with Welcome Wilson Jr. and Anita Wilson at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Barbara and Corby Robertson, from left, with Joe Bill Watkins at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Soraya and Scott McClelland at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Jeff Hart and Linda Gale White at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Joan and John Scales at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Peggy Smith, left, and Bette Thomas at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015
Sam Todd and Ramona Davis at the Bill Hobby Roast January 2015

Despite a lifetime in politics, Bill Hobby doesn't like to be the center of attention. But the former longtime Texas lieutenant governor agreed to celebrate his 83rd birthday with about 400 close friends at River Oaks Country Club to raise funds for the Hobby Center for Public Policy at the University of Houston.

The evening included a lot of laughter as "Orn-ery" chairs State Sen. Rodney Ellis, Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher and mega-attorney Joe Jamail poked fun at Hobby's dubious sartorial choices, penny-pinching ways, taciturn manner and brevity of speech. After the light roast, each speaker toasted Hobby, who served a record 18 years as lieutenant governor (from 1973 to 1991), for his contributions to the state and to Houston.

 After the light roast, each speaker toasted Hobby, who served a record 18 years as lieutenant governor, for his contributions to the state and to Houston.

Ellis quoted a story in Texas Monthly that said, "Bill Hobby has had more effect on Texas government for a longer time with a better end result than anyone but Sam Houston."

"He made the position powerful when it was not powerful," Jamail told the crowd. "It was the right fit."

To top off the evening, the audience sang a hearty "Happy Birthday" to Hobby, who dressed in a black tux and a Texas flag bow tie for the occasion.

The main ballroom was bathed in the main UH color — red — along with coordinating red-and-white floral arrangements, donated by H-E-B, at each table. University of Houston chancellor Renu Khator also lauded Hobby's contributions, noting that he served on the UH board of regents in the 1960s and as UH chancellor from 1995-97 for "the exorbitant salary of $1 a year."

The event, chaired by Beth Robertson and Lynne Bentsen, netted more than $500,000 for the UH public policy program. Robertson also noted the total raised to endow the future Hobby School of Public Affairs is now more than $5 million.

Hobby's sons Paul Hobby (with wife Janet) and Andrew Hobby and daughters Laura Beckworth and Kate Gibson, joined in the fun, along with an A-list crowd that included Anne and Charles Duncan, Barbara and Corby Robertson, Andrea and Bill White, Linda Gayle and Mark White, Soraya and Scott McClelland, Gerald Hines, Macey and Harry Reasoner, Kathy and Jody McCord, Ramona Davis, Don Adams, Shirley and Jim Dannenbaum and Bette and Ralph Thomas. 

Mistress of ceremonies Beverly Kaufman, Hobby Center for Public Policy director Jim Granato, Delores Chambers, Carroll Ray, Diana and Chase Untermeyer, Beth Madison, Ben Barnes, Rep. Garnet Coleman, Gwen Emmett and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Elyse Lanier were among the well-wishers.