Bob Lanier (politician)

Robert Clayton Lanier (March 10, 1925 – December 20, 2014) was an American businessman and politician. He served as mayor of the city of Houston, Texas from 1992 to 1998. At the time of his death, he was Houston's oldest living mayor.

Bob Lanier
58th Mayor of Houston
In office
January 2, 1992 – January 2, 1998
Preceded byKathryn Whitmire
Succeeded byLee Brown
Personal details
Robert Clayton Lanier

(1925-03-10)March 10, 1925
Baytown, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 20, 2014(2014-12-20) (aged 89)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeMemorial Oaks Cemetery, Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Lanier, Elyse Lanier
RelationsChristopher Sarofim (son-in-law)
Alma materUniversity of Texas
ProfessionBanker, lawyer, real estate developer
Military service
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II


Born to working class parents in the refinery town of Baytown, Texas in 1925,[1] Lanier was a child of the Great Depression who was greatly influenced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policies. Lanier worked while attending college and started his career as a summa cum laude graduate from the University of Texas Law School in 1949. Initially employed by Baker & Botts law firm, Lanier practiced for a decade before switching gears to pursue a business career.

During that business career he worked in banking and eventually established himself as a major Houston real estate developer, focusing mostly on subdivisions and apartments.

Political careerEdit

In 1983, Governor Mark White appointed Lanier to the Texas Highway Commission, where he served as chairman until 1987. Lanier oversaw a $2.5 billion budget and directed the construction, maintenance and operation of the state's highway system.[2] During this period, Lanier became an outspoken critic of a plan by Houston's Mayor Kathy Whitmire and METRO, Houston’s public transit authority, to build a monorail system.[3]

In April 1988, as part of a compromise with rail advocates, Whitmire appointed Lanier as chairman of Metro.[3] As chairman, Lanier accused Metro staff of hiding studies that showed ridership of a rail system would be less than originally predicted and not as economically viable. Lanier resigned in December 1989 after learning Whitmire would not reappoint him because of his lack of commitment to building a rail system.[4]

Lanier spent months searching for a politician who could knock the 5-term Mayor Whitmire out of office but ultimately, he decided to do it himself. In the 1991 Houston Mayoral election, Lanier challenged Whitmire and won on the promise of putting more police on the streets, abandoning the METRO rail plan, and diverting transit funds into paving roads and sidewalks.[3] Lanier was reelected in 1993 and 1995. Term limits prevented his candidacy in 1997, enacted in 1991 and reinforced in 1994 by a grass-roots citizen initiative spearheaded by the conservative political activist Clymer Wright. As mayor, he was affectionately referred to as "Mayor Bob."[5]

As mayor, Lanier’s actions were guided by three core values[citation needed]:

  • That Houston should capitalize on its diversity
  • That his administration had to improve the city’s infrastructure, particularly the inner city, and bring it to the level of the more affluent suburbs.
  • That public safety should be improved.


Lanier's core values were translated into specific programs once he had taken office. By the time he had left office in 1997, he had achieved the following:

  • 1,244 Police officers or their equivalents added.[citation needed]
  • Crime reduced by 246,323 major felonies compared to 1991 rate.[citation needed]
  • 5,226 units of single-family housing assistance with down payment and closing costs . rehabilitated or repaired.[citation needed]
  • 5,986 units of multi-family housing completed or approved by city council.[citation needed]
  • 5,287 units of public housing completed or approved by city council.[citation needed]
  • 1,600 homeless beds completed or approved by city council (not including units provided by Harris County in FY 1993 and FY 1994.[citation needed]
  • 20,536 homeless persons and individuals with AIDS assisted.[citation needed]
  • 950 miles (1,530 km) of sidewalks constructed or initiated.[citation needed]
  • 367.2 miles (591.0 km) of hike and bike trails under design and planned.[citation needed]
  • 110 miles (180 km) of water and sewer lines to serve families without city water and sewer service.[citation needed]
  • 3,359 miles (5,406 km) of street overlay accomplished or initiated.[citation needed]
  • 41,322 streetlights installed, 2,512 streetlights authorized for installation.[citation needed]
  • 25,290 streetlights upgraded to higher quality lighting.[citation needed]
  • 312,648 traffic control signs installed and maintained.[citation needed]
  • 935 traffic signals and controllers upgraded.[citation needed]
  • 2,673,348 potholes filled with 48-hour maximum response time.[citation needed]
  • 104,692 miles (168,485 km) of right-of-way mowed.[citation needed]
  • 11,810 abandoned dangerous building units demolished by the city and an additional 3,714 buildings voluntarily demolished by property owners.[citation needed]
  • 2,532 abandoned dangerous building units were secured by the city.[citation needed]
  • 2,399 miles (3,861 km) of roadside ditches cleaned and regraded.[citation needed]
  • 50,918 lots mowed.[citation needed]
  • 464,578 cubic yards of trash removed by the city.[citation needed]
  • 78.3 miles (126.0 km) of rehabilitated sewer lines completed or initiated.[citation needed]
  • 188.21 miles (302.89 km) of new sewer lines completed or initiated.[citation needed]
  • 390.8 miles (628.9 km) of water mains replaced or initiated.[citation needed]

The Bob Lanier Public Works Building in Houston is named after him.

The Texas NAACP presented him its Texas Hero award and he also received the Hubert Humphrey Civil Rights Award. His work in transportation earned him the National Auto Dealers' Award. His work in finance brought a Bond Market Association Award.

In 2000, he received the Leadership Houston Distinguished Service Award and the Urban Beautification Award from the American Horticultural Society. In 2002 he was inducted into the Texas Transportation Institute's Hall of Honor at Texas A&M University. In August 2007 he was also inducted into the Houston Hall of Fame.

Lanier was a founding member of Houston Community College, which he continued to support until the end of his life.

Mayor Lanier also headed the corporation that oversaw construction of the city's new Hilton Americas – Houston, the city’s first convention center hotel – a project that started during his administration.

Until his death in 2014, Lanier continued to manage his real estate properties, lectured several times a year, oversaw the Lanier Public Policy Conferences at the University of Houston and participated in various civic, academic and political activities.

Personal lifeEdit

Lanier and his wife Elyse lived in Houston, as do their seven children and 11 grandchildren.

On December 20, 2014, Lanier died at the age of 89 in Houston, Texas from natural causes.[6]


  1. ^ Fraser, Jayme; Turner, Allan (December 21, 2014). "Former Houston mayor Bob Lanier has died". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  2. ^ "Lanier earns place in Texas Transportation Hall of Honor". Texas A&M Transportation Institute. March 15, 2002. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Miller, Doug (December 20, 2014). "Popular, powerful Houston Mayor Bob Lanier dies at 89". KHOU-11 News. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  4. ^ Staff (March 29, 1991). "Chronology of Metro's attempts to develop a rail system". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  5. ^ "Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier collapses at memorial service for Enron founder Lay". Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  6. ^ "Former Houston mayor Bob Lanier dies at 89". Jacksonville December 20, 2014. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 21, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Kathryn Whitmire
Mayor of Houston, Texas
Succeeded by
Lee Brown