The late Honorable Robert Adam Mosbacher, Sr., accomplished Texas oilman and champion amateur sailor, served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the administration of George H. W. Bush.
On February 3, 1989, Mr. Mosbacher was sworn in as the 28th Secretary of Commerce following his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate. His close friend, Secretary James A. Baker, III executed the oath of office as his other close friend, President George Bush, observed along with family and friends.
Secretary Mosbacher’s central accomplishments while at the helm of the Commerce Department from 1989 to early 1992 included helping to lay the foundation for the North American Free Trade Agreement, significantly closing America’s trade deficit with key trading partners such as Japan and South Korea, and prevailing in a unanimous Supreme Court decision following the 1990 census. His role in helping negotiate NAFTA, in particular, prompted Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo to present Mosbacher with the “Aztec Eagle Award,” the highest decoration offered by the Mexican government to non-citizens.
Mosbacher has been hailed as one of the most effective political fundraisers in modern history, but it was his loyal friendship with, and devoted support of, George Bush that would lead him to the national political stage. His rise in politics stemmed in part from his success – or luck, as he routinely called it – in business. Following graduation from Washington & Lee University and acting on advice from his father, the 21 year-old moved to Houston from his native New York in 1948 to manage his father’s energy investments and build his own portfolio. Mr. Mosbacher quickly built a highly successful oil and gas company with interests throughout the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Michigan basin, and eventually numerous international markets such as Spain, the Philippines, Canada, Tunisia, India, Peru and more. Since 1950, Mosbacher Energy has participated in the discovery and/or development of hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and almost a trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In recognition of his leadership in the industry, Mosbacher was elected to head the All American Wildcatters Association, the National Petroleum Council, and the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, among others.
Robert A. Mosbacher, Sr. was born March 11, 1927 in Mount Vernon, NY, to Emil and Gertrude Mosbacher, and grew up in White Plains. Sailing victories came early and frequently to “Bobby” – as he was known then – on nearby Long Island Sound. Over a lifetime of skippering in New York and out of the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club he would amass numerous prestigious titles: the 1939 Long Island Sound Midget Sailing Championship; the 1941 and 1942 Long Island Sound Atlantic Class Championships; the 1957 and 1988 Scandinavian Gold Cup; the 1958 North American Clifford D. Mallory Trophy; the 1969 Dragon Class World Championship; and the 1971 Soling Class World Championship.
In recent years, Mr. Mosbacher served as chairman of the Americas Society and Council on the Americas, on the boards of the Naval Academy Endowment and American Hospital in Paris Foundation, and as founder and president of the board of the Odyssey Academy Charter School in Galveston.
In the Houston area and nationally, Mosbacher’s public service and philanthropy was wide-ranging and important to many public institutions and organizations. He twice served as chairman of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Board of Visitors where he led several highly successful capital campaigns. He also chaired other major initiatives for such organizations as the Woodrow Wilson Institute, The World War II Museum in New Orleans, and the Texas Heart Institute.
In September 2009, the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System approved the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy in the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Named for Mr. Bush’s long-time friend and colleague, the initiative recognizes Mosbacher’s years of service and commitment to improving the nation’s domestic economy and trade relationships.