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.