By Lenzi Causey
Former President George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III were among those who gathered near a bridge over Buffalo Bayou on Wednesday to dedicate the span in honor of Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., the late oilman who was a top GOP fundraiser and served as Bush’s commerce secretary.
The gathering took place at the former Preston Street Bridge near Sesquicentennial Park, where statues of Bush and Baker face one another from different sides of the bayou in downtown Houston.
Speakers talked of the decadeslong friendship and close working relationship among the men.
“Together this group of friends achieved so much on the national and international stages, but in addition to their historic accomplishments, their relationship always included competitiveness and lots of kidding and joking. That’s because their relationship was deeply rooted and genuine friendship,” said David B. Jones, a member of the coordinating committee for the bridge project.
Bush, who has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility, greeted guests with a warm grin, alongside his wife Barbara. He seemed to relish the moment, which brought together the families and close friends of Bush, Baker and Mosbacher, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at age 82.
“We are so grateful for all of you, and we loved Bob Mosbacher. … Even the wives loved Bob Mosbacher,” the former first lady said. “I am speaking for George, which is more fun these days … but we love you all and thank you.”
Baker praised Mosbacher as a man of integrity and listed his many accomplishments. As commerce secretary, Mosbacher laid the groundwork for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
“In politics, Bob knew how to turn a candidate into a winner, and he became one of the best fundraisers that ever pursued the art here in the United States of America,” Baker said, followed by a quip about Mosbacher’s golf game.
The three friends – Houston native Baker and transplanted Yankees Bush and Mosbacher – worked together on political campaigns, in the Bush administration and in other enterprises.
“There really could be no more appropriate way to honor Dad than a bridge between the George Bush Monument and the Jim Baker monument. There were no two people that he had admired or respected more than you all,” said his son, businessman Robert Mosbacher Jr. “And make no mistake about it, while he was extremely proud of his service as the secretary of commerce, he was even prouder of the fact that he was a part of a team that put a high premium on integrity, honor, dignity, humility, civility and service.”
A New York native, Mosbacher moved to Houston in the late 1940s to launch Mosbacher Energy. Baker said Mosbacher “admired and loved this city more than most of us home-grown Houstonians ever will.” In his younger years, Mosbacher was an avid sailor who won several world championships. He also supported a wide range of charities.
The Houston City Council approved the bridge dedication in December 2014 during the final term of Mayor Annise Parker, who worked for Mosbacher Energy for 18 years. The Mosbacher Bridge features two bas-reliefs of Mosbacher by sculptor and painter Willy Wang as well as plaques about his life and career. Private donations mostly funded the $450,000 project. The bridge will be illuminated as a continual commemoration of Mosbacher’s life and the friendship of three leaders.