As a boy growing up in Galveston, A.R. “Babe” Schwartz fell in love with the island and its beaches, even working as a lifeguard during summers while in high school.
His commitment to protecting the beaches and the people who visit each year has not wavered a bit. During his tenure in the Texas House and Senate from 1955 to 1980, Schwartz helped create the Texas Open Beaches Act, which guarantees free public access to beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.
To celebrate his many accomplishments, Galveston city officials on May 25 named the 15-block stretch of beach west of 61st Street “Babe’s Beach” in Schwartz’s honor. Schwartz, 89, was surrounded by a host of family and friends on the new beach as he accepted the honor.
“I won the lottery being born in Galveston,” Schwartz told the crowd at the dedication ceremony, his wife, Marilyn, at his side.
Their son, John Schwartz, said the family is honored by the designation.
“He was a champion of open beaches and he fought to make sure that whether you had a million dollars or nothing, you could get sand between your toes,” said John Schwartz, science writer for The New York Times. “That is a core value.”
John posted a family statement on his Facebook page:
“This happened. Babe's Beach, named for my dad, A.R. "Babe" Schwartz, was dedicated on May 25, with a lot of family and local officials present to help celebrate. As a state senator, he championed open beaches and environmental stewardship. As a boy growing up in Galveston, he worked on the beaches as a lifeguard and in lots of other gigs. Galveston spent tens of millions of dollars to rebuild this beach with dredged sand and the help of the Corps of Engineers, and it's about as pretty as it gets. And yes, you can expect a bunch of tourists to come there looking for the babes. That's probably part of the idea. ‘I love this Island,’ he said. We all do.”
On a personal level, I had the honor of working for Sen. Schwartz as an administrative assistant while attending UT-Austin, and I’m still in awe of his unwavering commitment to stand up and fight for the little guy.
That commitment often put him in the cross hairs of his adversaries. John Schwartz joked about it after the ceremony. He told me, “The fact that Galveston was giving dad this award could only mean one thing: He outlived all the people who hated his guts.”
As a Texas legislator, Babe Schwartz crafted the bill that created the Park Board of Trustees in 1962. The park board oversees island beach parks and the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, and spending of most of the city’s hotel occupancy tax funds.
Congratulations, Babe! Thank you for going to bat for Galveston’s beaches.