We lost a hero when A. R. “Babe” Schwartz moved on from this world recently. His flame burned both brighter and longer than most.
Former Senator Schwartz, through all the twists and turns of his incredible career, never lost sight of the importance our Texas beaches play for the people of Texas. He never lost an opportunity to promote his deep held belief that Texas beaches are for all Texans and others to enjoy. He used every trick in his vast array to ensure that legislation was put in place to ensure that. A few of his many, many accomplishments that affect us here locally include the Texas Open Beaches Act, setting up the Park Board of Trustees as a vehicle to make sure tourist generated resources remain on the beach and are used to attract tourists, and ensuring Beach Patrol and Beach Maintenance are provided what they need to keep the beaches clean and safe for both tourists and locals. I never go into the annual budgeting process for Beach Patrol without feeling appreciation for what he did to make sure we have the tools we need to prevent accidents and make rescues on the beaches and in the adjacent waters of Galveston. Our budget currently is about 70% hotel occupancy tax. Thanks Babe.
Once, on a beautiful spring day, I had the good fortune to spend some time alone with him. He told me about what it was like to work Stewart Beach as a lifeguard in the ’40’s, and about surfing during those days when the sport was still young to the western world. Even after all this time, his love and enthusiasm for the beach and the ocean shone through as he talked. A true waterman never loses that, and it was evident in the timber of his voice and the way his eyes shone when he reminisced about that time. Funny how the beach never really lets you go once it gets its hooks in you.
Later that day I was standing at the shoreline at Stewart Beach while looking at the guards and the people playing in the water. I took a moment just to enjoy the feel of it. I realized that Babe Schwartz likely did the same thing in the same place 70 years before. If we respect the measures he put in place, another lifeguard will do the same thing on a beautiful, maintained, and well protected Galveston beach 70 years from now.
Babe Schwartz was a shining star. A person who believed deeply, that we, as a society, have a sacred obligation to work towards the common good. His belief that Texas beaches are to be used for all of us to spend time with nature, family, and friends was manifested in much of his life’s work. He felt that all of the beach should be a place for all people to take a break, enjoy one another, and celebrate this life.
Babe Schwartz lives on. His footprints are all over the beach.