Bernard Rapoport

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Bernard Rapoport


Bernard Rapoport was the Founder and Former President, Chairman and CEO of American Income Life Insurance Company. He and his wife also established the Bernard & Audre Rapoport Foundation, to which they make annual contributions for education, health care, and the community of Waco, Texas.[1]

Bernard Rapoport, the founder of an insurance company who became a linchpin of the "beleaguered community of Texas liberals", died on April 5 2012, in Waco, Tex. He was 94.

A major donor to Democratic candidates, progressive causes, Israel and the University of Texas, Mr. Rapoport called himself a “capitalist with a conscience,” using the phrase in the title of a 2002 memoir.

“I have never known anyone who liked to make money as much as he did, and liked to give it away as much as he did,” said William Cunningham, a former University of Texas chancellor.

Besides his granddaughter Abby Rapoport, Mr. Rapoport was survived by his wife; his son, Ronald Rapoport; and another granddaughter, Emily Rapoport.[2]

Early life

Bernard Rapoport was born in San Antonio on July 17, 1917, the son of Russian immigrants; his father had been sent to Siberia in 1905 for taking part in a demonstration in St. Petersburg. He would say: “My father taught me Marxism and hard work. My mother taught me to love learning.”

At the University of Texas, he was inspired by left-leaning professors of economics, and his thinking would later evolve into New Deal capitalism.

After graduating, Mr. Rapoport met Audre Newman; they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in February 2012.[3]

Supporting liberal causes

As Texas swung from a Democratic stronghold to an increasingly Republican and conservative state, Bernard Rapoport continued to support liberal Democrats and their causes, both with his money and his extensive national political connections. He was an ally of Ann W. Richards, the state’s last Democratic governor, who appointed him to the University of Texas Board of Regents in 1991.

His contributions to George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign put Mr. Rapoport on one of President Richard M. Nixon’s enemies lists; contributions to the presidential campaigns of both Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton helped nourish a 40-year friendship. Mr. Clinton was scheduled to deliver a eulogy at a memorial service in May in Washington DC.

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, called Mr. Rapoport one of the most progressive corporate executives in the country, adding that Mr. Rapoport often expressed concern about the growth of companies so large that their failure could threaten the nation’s economy.

“I can’t tell you how many times he started a conversation with, ‘What are we going to do about bigness?’ ” Mr. Nader said.[4]

Socialist businessman

In 1951, Rapoport borrowed $25,000 and founded the American Income Life Insurance Company, which marketed itself to labor unions and their members.

He gave millions to the University of Texas for scholarships, and endowed chairs and professorships that focused on human rights and ethics. He gave to causes in Israel that sought accommodation with the Palestinians.

Mr. Rapoport also supported liberal publications like The Nation and The Texas Observer.

Ronnie Dugger, the founding editor of The Observer, recalled visiting Mr. Rapoport in Waco in 1955 to discuss his buying advertising for his insurance company. Mr. Dugger opened their conversation, he said, by stating that since life insurance is based largely on actuarial tables, there was no need for commercial competition, and “it ought to be nationalized.”

Mr. Rapoport startled him by saying, “I agree with you.” He went on to buy ads for decades.

Mr. Rapoport provided financial support to Democratic officeholders in trouble, including Webster L. Hubbell, a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who left under a cloud over billing irregularities at his law firm. Mr. Hubbell would later plead guilty to fraud charges and spend time in prison.

Mr. Rapoport was called to testify before a grand jury about $18,000 in payments his company had made to Mr. Hubbell. While critics of Mr. Clinton characterized such payments from Mr. Rapoport and others as hush money, Mr. Rapoport said it had been for legal and consulting services. The grand jury took no action against him.[5]

Marcus Raskin eulogy

Institute for Policy Studies founder Marcus Raskin penned a eulogy to to the late Bernard Rapoport, 'Remembering Bernard "B." Rapoport', April 23, 2012, for the IPS website;[6]

I first met B. a half century ago at the home of Sam Rubin on 64th Street in Manhattan. Immediately, we were deep in conversation about the need to support groups vital to a vibrant democracy, like the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Both of us put a priority on sustained practical action. Both of us admired many of the same people. Two, like B., had an astuteness for business and independent radical politics: Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate who served as vice president under FDR, and F. Palmer Weber.
For the next 50 years, B. and I talked often, meeting at the St. Regis Hotel every time he came to Washington. Part of what made the visits memorable were that B.’s remarkable wife, Audre, and often their accomplished son, Ronnie, and his family. B. would often phone me at 5 or 6 a.m., discussing those on the front lines of the struggle against poverty and inequality.
B. and I were intertwined as he was with many others, perhaps too many to count. We worked on common projects for the common good. He was a mensch whose task was to make the lives of people one degree better, so long as they were committed to human dignity.
B. identified deeply with those who suffered most. He remained passionate about labor unions even in times when some liberals shunned them. He never forgot his roots, some of which were communist and humanist.
Through his long life, B. retained his passion for independent projects, such as the Texas Observer, and the Institute for Policy Studies, which I co-founded and he supported for almost 50 years. He had great affection for my colleagues at IPS, including writer Barbara Ehrenreich and former director Robert Borosage, who went on to build the Campaign for America's Future.
B. was a man of ideas. He was nimble to adapt to the times, and understood that today’s movement for the 99 percent had its roots in many earlier social movements.
B.’s vision lives on in Audre, Ronnie, and Ronnie’s family, wonderful people about whom B. never tired of sharing stories. B.’s granddaughter Abby, an unusually perceptive journalist, interned at IPS the summer before Barack Obama’s election and helped IPS assemble a detailed “Mandate for Change” for the Obama presidency.
A few months ago, I played the piano at the home of Ann Janss in Los Angeles. One piece that I performed was the second movement of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. To B., our beloved friend, I dedicate my rendition of this Concerto.

Institute for Policy Studies

In 1993 Rapoport was listed[7] among former "Trustees" of the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC.

Economic Policy Institute

Bernard Rapoport serves[8]on the Board of Directors of the Economic Policy Institute.

DeLay case

Rapoport was mentioned in the acknowledgments of the PublicAffairs Books-published book The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress, by Louis DuBose and Jan Reid. He was mentioned with his wife, Audre Rapoport, for having supported the authors during the process of the book's creation and for having proposed the idea of the book.[9]

National Jobs For All Coalition

In 2010, Bernard Rapoport, Chairman and CEO of American Income Life Insurance Co., was listed as serving on the advisory board of the Democratic Socialists of America dominated National Jobs For All Coalition.[10]

External links

References

  1. http://www.epi.org/pages/board/
  2. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/us/politics/bernard-rapoport-liberal-donor-in-texas-dies-at-94.html, NY Times, Bernard Rapoport, Deep-Pocketed Texas Liberal, Dies at 94, By JOHN SCHWARTZ Published: April 22, 2012
  3. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/us/politics/bernard-rapoport-liberal-donor-in-texas-dies-at-94.html, NY Times, Bernard Rapoport, Deep-Pocketed Texas Liberal, Dies at 94, By JOHN SCHWARTZ Published: April 22, 2012
  4. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/us/politics/bernard-rapoport-liberal-donor-in-texas-dies-at-94.html, NY Times, Bernard Rapoport, Deep-Pocketed Texas Liberal, Dies at 94, By JOHN SCHWARTZ Published: April 22, 2012
  5. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/us/politics/bernard-rapoport-liberal-donor-in-texas-dies-at-94.html, NY Times, Bernard Rapoport, Deep-Pocketed Texas Liberal, Dies at 94, By JOHN SCHWARTZ Published: April 22, 2012
  6. http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/remembering_b_rapoport , ·'Remembering Bernard "B." Rapoport', IPS, April 23, 2012]
  7. Institute for Policy Studies 30th Anniversary brochure
  8. http://www.epi.org/pages/board/
  9. The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress, (Page ix)
  10. National Jobs For All Coalition: Who We Are (accessed on Nov. 16, 2010)