"This ain't beanbag we're playing. These are big-time issues, this is life or death, this is the future of nations."
Robert Schwarz Strauss was born in Lockhart, Texas, south of Austin. When he was a year old, his family moved to the small town of Hamlin, north of Abilene, and later to the slightly larger nearby town of Stamford. Robert Strauss's father, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany as a young man, opened a small general store in Stamford. Although both of Strauss's parents were Jewish, in the small Texas towns where he was raised there were no synagogues, and he received no formal religious instruction. From an early age he was an outgoing, gregarious person, and his mother soon predicted that he would find a career in politics or diplomacy.
In his sophomore year at the University of Texas in Austin, Strauss campaigned for a state assembly candidate and was rewarded with a part-time job as a Committee Clerk in the state legislature. While still an undergraduate, he volunteered for Lyndon Johnson's first congressional campaign. In law school at the University of Texas, he met another student who would have a large impact on his career, John B. Connally. After completing his law degree, Strauss was hired as a special agent by the FBI, and served in the FBI throughout World War II. At the end of the war, he settled in Dallas, where he and a fellow FBI agent, Richard A. Gump, founded their own law firm. This firm, originally known as Gump and Strauss, would eventually grow into the international mega-firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.
Still interested in a political career, Strauss initially sought to ingratiate himself with the Dallas business establishment but found himself shut out as an outsider. He and his wife, Helen, found a more comfortable niche participating in numerous charities and community activities, and Strauss became a prodigious fundraiser for the Democratic Party. By the 1950s, Strauss's law school friend, John Connally, was serving on the staff of Lyndon Johnson, who soon became Senate Majority Leader. Connally had hitched his wagon to Lyndon Johnson's star, and Strauss hitched his to Connally's.
When John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were elected President and Vice President of the United States in 1960, Connally, a former naval officer, was appointed Secretary of the Navy. Within a year, at Strauss's urging, Connally returned to Texas to run for governor. At the time, the Republican Party had no significant presence in Texas, but Connally faced stiff opposition in the Democratic primary. Strauss's skill as a campaign adviser and fund-raiser was a crucial factor in Connally's narrow victory. Having secured the Democratic nomination, Connally easily won the general election. Connally's election finally brought Strauss the access to the Dallas business establishment he had long sought. Governor Connally appointed Strauss to the Texas Banking Commission, and Strauss's law firm grew and prospered.
More information on his incredible legacy can be found below:
The Academy of Achievement. (last revised on Dec 21, 2005 14:33 PDT). Robert S. Strauss Biography. Academy of Achievement. Retrieved September 22, 2011, from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/str0bio-1