EAT DOWNTOWN! BREAKFAST AND LUNCH OPEN 7:30 AM ’til 4 PM Across t,om the Alamo National Bank 135 East Commerce 225-0231 .\\,1-1 and Associates E 502 W., 15th Street Austin, Texas 78701 REALTOR Representing all types of properties In Austin and Central Texas Interesting & unusual property a specialty. 477-3651 Good books in every field JENKINS PUBLISHING CO. The Pemberton Press John H. Jenkins, Publisher Box 2085 ;Austin 78768 A Tribute to Barney Rapoport Houston Journalists, like politicians, are vested with the duty to serve the public interest and have conflicts of interest they.should divulge. There is no way the Observer could cover the tribute to Bernard Rapoport in Houston Feb. 26 without a conflict of interest. For 25 years Rapoport’s American Income Life Insurance Co. has been the Observer’s prinCipal advertiser. I’m the owner and publisher of the Observer, and I also have a deeper conflict than that: I regard Barney as one of my closest friends. I first met him in 1955 when someone I’ve fogotten who suggested I go up to Waco and ask him for an ad in the Observer. We met for lunch in a cafeteria. He was in the life insurance business, and I did not want to fly under any false colors with him. “Mr. Rapoport,” I said, give or take ea few phrases, “I am here to talk to you about advertising in the Observer, but first I had better tell you something. “The way I look at life insurance, it’s essentially a social service. There’s nothing much to it but applying statistical actuarial tables on life expectancy on the foundation of the state of a person’s health. Everyone should have life insurance, and the cost of it should be the same in the same circumstances there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a part of Social Security.” Barney had heard me out in silence, but with full attention. Quickly he said to me, “I agree with you.” We signed an advertising contract then and there, and he has been with us through all our ups and downs ever since. He has never once asked that the Observer do anything or not do something editorially; he has never sought to affect our endorsements or our crusades. He of course did not know I would be writing about the tribute to him would have been offended had I, told him so in advance as I would have been had he asked me to do it. He is a model of the kind of high-minded major advertiser every newspaper needs. BARNEY, as I call him \(others call to let his name be used let a tribute be paid to him at $250 a ticket in order to help retire Jim Hightower’s campaign debt from his 1980 race for railroad commissioner. Surely Barney knew this would miff many of his friends who would want to come to the tribute, but not to give to Hightower. “You ought to see some of the mean letters that came in,” Hightower said. One can see why those who are anti-Hightower were put out, but one can also see what kind of a man Rapoport is from his willingness. to let them be put out, if that was the price of his helping advance progressive politics in his home state. Hightower estimates that his $47,000 debt was completely paid off by the proceeds from the dinner at the Hyatt-Regency. There were warm standing ovations when former Sen. Ralph Yarborough and recently-defeated Houston Congressman Bob Eckhardt were introduced. The gathering included other local and state politicians, a contingency from Texas labor headed by Texas AFL-CIO President Harry Hubbard, and warhorses of liberal politics in the state. Leading off the program, State Senator Oscar Mauzy of Dallas said: “I first met Bernard Rapoport when we put together the group that organized the Texas Observer back in the early fifties. I was on the committee that put that great institution together. “We said, you know, ‘We want-a free voice. We want a voice that’ll speak the truth, that will tell the people of Texas what is happening to them in their state government, in their local government, and as it is. “And we ran it for about two and a half months, and then we found out that it took some money to do it. We went to see B, among some other folks, and he said, ‘If you’ll promise me that you’ll not shade it for or against anybody, but if you’ll tell the truth on all of ’em, I’ll help you.’ “He did, and they did. The Observer waxed me worse than any other newspaper in Texas, including the Dallas News.” HANK BROWN, former president of the Texas AFL-CIO and a longtime business associate of Rapoport’s, said: “I met that character when he was a broken-down peddler in 1946. He went bankrupt because he was more interested in electing Homer Rainey [the liberal candidate for governor of Texas that year who lost to Beauford Jester in a runoff] than he was in peddling jewelry in Waco . . . . “I’d like to recall one occasion . . . . In the late sixties, when Baby Ben Barnes [the lieutenant governor of Texas then] on his way to the Presidency stumbled over Sharpstown, aided and abetted by old Preston Smith, who had accidentally become Governor of Texas, tried to impose a food tax upon the people of our state. “We called upon Bernard one night and said . . . , ‘Show up in the morning with $25,000, because we gotta buy they’re fixin’ to be engaged with the corporations of Texas in a sexual inter THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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