A Guide to the Bernard Rapoport Oral History Collection, 1993
Texas philanthropist and entrepreneur Bernard Rapoport (1917-2012) founded the multi-million dollar American Income Life Insurance Company. With his wife, he established the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation to support organizations in Israel and Waco as well as the University of Texas and numerous other educational, welfare, and political projects. The couple heavily supported and contributed to the Texas Democratic Party and candidates and political groups in the United States, including Bill and Hilary Rodham Clinton, Ralph Yarborough, Ann Richards, Ted Kennedy, Lloyd Bentsen, and George McGovern.
Born in San Antonio on July 17, 1917, Rapoport learned from an early age the importance of family, community, and generosity. His parents David and Riva Rapoport had fled Russia following their participation in the revolution of 1905. They instilled in their son and daughter Idel the importance of education, political freedom, Judaism, and generosity. During the Great Depression, Rapoport worked his way through the University of Texas (UT), graduating with a degree in economics in 1939 and marrying Audre Newman three years later.
In 1951, Rapoport and his wife’s uncle Harold Goodman founded the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL) with $25,000 in Indianapolis, moving the headquarters to Waco in 1958. Under Rapoport’s leadership, the company spread into labor union and credit union markets and became one of the first Union Label insurance companies. In 1994, the insurance and financial services holding company Torchmark Corporation purchased AIL for $563 million.
Rapoport spent most of his life actively supporting the Democratic Party, starting with his membership in the Progressive Democrats while at UT and Homer Rainey’s gubernatorial campaign in 1944. He later supported Ralph Yarborough, Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, Ann Richards, Ted Kennedy, Alan Cranston, and George McGovern, during whose campaign in 1972 Bernard met Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. From 1974 onward, Rapoport donated to every one of Clinton’s campaigns and served as fundraiser for both of his presidential bids.
The Rapoports founded the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation in 1987. Annual contributions supported the state of Israel, the University of Texas at Austin, the Waco community, and other worthwhile projects, including the Jerusalem Foundation, Planned Parenthood, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Paul Quinn College. The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Academy in the Waco Independent School District is named in honor of their support. Furthermore, he believed in the protection of free speech and freedom of the press, contributing to the Texas Observer for fifty years, first as an advertiser and later as a member of the board of the newspaper’s publisher Texas Democracy Foundation.
Rapoport’s time at the University of Texas (UT) greatly influenced his success in life, and his pride in his alma mater resulted in both financial and service contributions to the University. In 1991, Ann Richards appointed Rapoport to the UT System Board of Regents, on which he served as chairman from 1993 until his retirement from the board in 1997. During his tenure, the board approved the South Texas-Border Initiative to increase access to higher education in South Texas, the purchasing power of the Permanent University Fund increased, and the University created the UT Investment Management Company. Rapoport also established or contributed to numerous endowments for scholarships and chairs in economics and the liberal arts and funding the Blanton Museum of Art and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. Named in recognition of the couple, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Building on the UT-Austin campus houses the College of Liberal Arts.
In 2002, the University of Texas Press in the Briscoe Center’s Focus on American History Series published Rapoport’s memoir, Being Rapoport: Capitalist with a Conscience, as told to Briscoe Center director Dr. Don Carleton. Currently, the Briscoe Center in collaboration with the Rapoport Foundation and UT Libraries is working on a project to digitize the memoir as well as numerous historical documents and photographs to accompany the text for a revised and enhanced digital edition of Being Rapoport.
Comprising 28 audiocassette tapes and associated transcripts, the Bernard Rapoport Oral History Collection, 1993, documents the experiences and opinions of Bernard Rapoport as well as his family, friends, and colleagues. The audiotapes, July-October 1993, consist of eleven interviews conducted by Barbara Griffith and Don E. Carleton of the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for American History with Idel B. McLanathan, Hank Brown, Ray Marshall, and Fred Schmidt, among others. The interviews discuss Rapoport’s involvement in labor unions, the Democratic Party, his philanthropic endeavors and foundation, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, and his company, American Income Life Insurance Company.
This collection is open for research use.
For preservation purposes, the audiocassette masters are restricted. Copies are provided for patron use.
The interview tapes and transcripts for Charles Terrell and Bernard Rapoport are restricted for confidentiality issues. Please contact repository for more information.
Bernard Rapoport Oral History Collection, 1993, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Laurel Rozema, August 2011.
Revisions made by Rebekah Curry, July 2014.
Detailed Description of the Papers