Bernard Rapoport, a longtime patron of Democratic politics and millionaire philanthropist who helped found the influential progressive news magazine the Texas Observer, died April 5 at a hospital in Waco, Tex. He was 94.
Bill Nesbitt, a family friend and a director of the Bernard & Audre Rapoport Foundation in Waco, confirmed the death but did not provide the cause.
Mr. Rapoport built his fortune after founding the American Income Life Insurance Co. in 1951 in Waco. He served as the company’s chairman and chief executive until the early 1990s. He also served on the University of Texas System board of regents from 1991 to 1997 and established the school’s Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice.
Mr. Rapoport was a major contributor to Democratic campaigns. He was a supporter of the liberal and populist wings of the party, financing and fundraising for candidates on local, state and national levels. He was a strong supporter of president Bill Clinton, the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the late Texas governor Ann Richards.
In 1954, Mr. Rapoport helped establish the Texas Observer. “For 50 years, Rapoport has supported the mission of the Observer to expose government corruption, ferret out wrongdoing and report stories overlooked by the mainstream media,” the magazine said in a statement.
The son of Jewish Russian immigrants, Bernard Rapoport was born in San Antonio on July 17, 1917. His father had been sent to Siberia for distributing propaganda against the czar and sentenced to die but escaped.
Rapoport graduated from the University of Texas in 1939. Committed to workers’ rights, his insurance company focused on providing low-cost insurance policies to union members.
Survivors include his wife, the former Audre Newman; a son; and two grandchildren.