"He lifted us up in so many ways"
Houston oilman and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher Sr. died Sunday morning after a year-long fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
Mosbacher was instrumental in raising campaign funds for his close friend, former President George H.W. Bush, and served in the Bush administration from 1989-1992. As Commerce Secretary, he helped develop the North American Free Trade Agreement and aggressively promoted U.S. exports thoroughout the world.
“Barbara and I feel a profound sense of personal grief over the death of our dear friend Bob Mosbacher, a close friend of some 50 years who helped us, and guided us, and lifted us up in so many different ways,” Bush said in a prepared statement.
“As good as he was at political fundraising — and he was certainly the very best at that — Bob meant so much more to us. Together we shared a journey that led to the presidency, the mountaintop of American politics, and there we worked together to help America more fully embrace the world around us and compete in the newly emerging global markets that the waning Cold War made accessible.”
Mayor Annise Parker, who worked for Mosbacher's energy company for nearly two decades before concentrating on politics full-time, praised his contributions to Houston's civic and business life. She also noted what a good boss he was.
"RM, as he was known to all of us, had a habit of walking the floors of his office and visiting with all the employees, even those like me of less than executive rank. He felt it important to make a connection to people. It was good for business and it made the office run more smoothly. When I stepped into the City Controller’s office, with a staff of 75, the largest I’d had to manage, I very much channeled RM," Parker said in a prepared statement.
"He also taught me to never fall in love with a deal, a value I know I will use frequently in the mayor’s office.”
Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., the son of a Wall Street stockbroker who pulled his money out of the stock market before the crash of 1929, Mosbacher moved to Houston in 1947 after graduating from Washington and Lee University and built a personal fortune in the oil business, where he first met Bush. He raised money for Bush's losing Senate campaign in 1970 and was a top fundraiser for the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In 1988, he was the chief fundraiser for Bush's winning presidential campaign. He left his Commerce post in 1992 to helm Bush's bid for a second term, in which he was defeated by Bill Clinton. In 2008, he was chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign.
Mosbacher was an avid sailor who competed on the national and international level. He and his brother were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1959.
He had four children with his first wife, Jane, who died of leukemia in 1970. He and his third wife, Georgette, were prominent fixtures on the social scene in Washington and Houston before their divorce in 1998. He is survived by his fourth wife, Michelle "Mica" Mosbacher.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church with burial in Washington, D.C. George H. Lewis & Sons is handling funeral arrangements.