Tributes poured in Saturday from Texas conservatives and Democrats alike for former Tyler state lawmaker Leo Berman, an Arlington City Council member in the early 1980s, whose death was announced on the floor of the state House of Representatives.
Mr. Berman, 79, died Saturday in Tyler after a long battle with lymphoma, according to a news release from a former staffer. Berman, a decorated member of the military before entering politics, was an unabashed and outspoken conservative who promoted Christian values at every opportunity.
Texas has lost a “brave patriot and a true friend of liberty,” said Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who replaced Berman in the Texas House.
“We are especially thankful for his service in the Army and to the state of Texas. He served well,” Schaefer said in a statement. “… No doubt Rep. Berman has received his reward in heaven, because there was no doubt he was a follower of Christ. The Texas House of Representatives came to a full stop and observed a moment of silence upon news of his passing.”
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Mr. Berman was born in 1935 to Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Poland. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at Southern Methodist University and then began a 22-year military career. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel after serving in Germany, two tours of duty in Vietnam and three years as an Army liaison to Congress, according to former staffer Dianne Caron. He was awarded three Bronze Stars and nine Air Medals.
He settled in Texas after retiring from the military and became a public affairs executive for Sun Exploration and Production Co. Mr. Berman was a member of the Arlington City Council from 1979 to 1985 and served as mayor pro tem for two of those years.
But during his service in the House from Tyler from 1999 to 2012, Mr. Berman became known statewide for some notable conservative crusades. He was a staunch believer in state sovereignty from the federal government. He was involved in unsuccessful efforts to oust Republican Rep. Joe Straus from the House speaker’s job. He made Texas Monthly’s 10 worst legislators list.
He made headlines in 2009 when he threatened to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Republican businessman and politician Skip Ogle, who lost a bid to represent Mr. Berman’s former House seat, said: “Leo’s passion for our nation, state and community was unmatched. His heart was always to serve. Never wielding to a negative attitude, Leo was always looking forward to the next step in life while encouraging those around him.”
John Gravois, 817-390-7734