Albert Bel Fay, Sr.
), was a wealthy Texas
and Louisiana businessman
, United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago
, and a Republican Party
activist whose political involvement began with the presidential campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Education and military service
Fay was born in New Orleans
to Charles Spencer Fay and the former Marie Dorothy Bel, hence his middle name with an unusual spelling. His father was an officer of the Southern Pacific Railroad
. The family relocated to Houston
, where Fay graduated from San Jacinto High School. In 1935, he married the former Homoiselle Randall Haden (August 26
-- February 6
). They were the parents of three children, including Albert Bel Fay, Jr. (born 1945), of Houston, an active Republican Party donor.
In 1936, Fay obtained a bachelor's degree in geology from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At Yale, he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. During World War II, he commanded a submarine chaser in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Later in the war, he was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant on the in Okinawa, Japan.
Extensive business interests
In 1938, Fay and his brother, Ernest Fay (1914-1986), founded Seabrook Shipyard, which built submarine chasers and rescue boats during World War II. After the war, Fay operated various businesses in Texas and Louisiana, including shipbuilding
and his Bel Oil Corporation.
By 1972, his petroleum interests included holdings in several states as well as Canada, and New Zealand. He also had real estate interests in Nicaragua and the Little Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea. At the time of his death, his business interests had diversified to include ranching, timber, marinas, and banking.
GOP national committeeman, 1960-1969
In 1952, Fay began precinct
level work for the Republican Party of Texas. He supported Eisenhower, who was technically a native Texan, having been born in Denison
, and who was only the second GOP
nominee since Reconstruction
to have won the electoral votes
By 1960, Fay had become Republican national committeeman from Texas and an automatic member of the Republican National Committee. In 1969, Fay lost the national committeeman's position about the time that the attorney William Steger was elected state party chairman. Steger had been the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1960 and was later a long-serving U.S. District Court judge based in Tyler, the seat of Smith County.
Running for Texas land commissioner
In 1962 and 1966, Fay was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for Texas land commissioner. In the latter race he won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO
executive board. He lost both races to popular Democrat Jerry Sadler
(1907-1982), who once had gubernatorial
ambitions of his own. In the 1962 campaign, Fay hailed U.S. President John F. Kennedy
for signing into law the establishment of the Padre Island National Seashore
north of Brownsville
. In 1966, he supported President Lyndon B. Johnson
in the establishment of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park
in west Texas. Both acquisitions had long been strongly promoted by Democratic U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough
of Texas. Previously, Texas had only one national park: Big Bend
along the Rio Grande River
in the southwestern part of the state. Fay found himself allying with liberal
Democrat Yarborough, whereas his opponent, Sadler, and the new Texas Republican U.S. Senator John G. Tower
were opposed to the additional park lands. Sadler took the view that the acquisition of lands from private individuals would mean less property tax
revenues needed to provide the local share of financing of public schools as well as a dimunition of monies to the state Permanent School Fund.
No Republican was elected land commissioner until 1998, when current Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst won the position in a general election against the Democrat Richard Pena Raymond of Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas on the Mexican border. Dewhurst succeeded veteran Land Commission Garry Mauro, who was first elected in 1982.
Running for governor, 1972 GOP primary
In 1972, Fay ran against five other candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He made it into the second primary but lost the nomination to then state Senator Henry Cushing Grover
(1927-2005), also of Houston, a staunch conservative
. Grover was thereafter defeated in the general election
by Democrat Dolph Briscoe
. In the low-turnout runoff election, Grover received 37,842 votes (66.4 percent) to Fay's 19,166 (33.6 percent), according to Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections
In the primary campaign, Fay argued for another national park, this time in the Big Thicket of east Texas, a state park on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico, and a recreational area along Armand Bayou. He also urged the development of a comprehensive water plan and advocated reducing property taxes on the homes of the elderly. The state does not collect property taxes in Texas, but cities, counties, and school districts depend heavily on such revenues.
GOP financier and U.S. ambassador
Fay served as chairman of his state's Republican finance committee, as a member of the national Republican finance committee (1968-1976), a member of the Texas Republican Executive Committee, and a member of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee. He was a delegate to three consecutive national conventions: 1960 in Chicago
, 1964 in San Francisco
, and 1968 in Miami Beach
; he served as cochairman of the state delegation in 1960 and vice chairman of the state delegation in 1964.
In October 1969 President Richard M. Nixon appointed him to the 13-member board of governors overseeing the Panama Canal Company. He retained that position until 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., named him ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. He served in that capacity only until 1977, when the Democrat Jimmy Carter became president.
Civic leadership and sportsmanship
The Handbook of Texas
lists Fay as a director and president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science
, a director of the American Brahman Breeders Association, a vice president of the Houston Branch of the English Speaking Union, and a member of the Yale University alumni board.
According to the Handbook, he was also a licensed pilot and a yachtsman. He won the 5.5-meter world championship in Norway, in 1983, when he defeated twenty-five other helmsmen from around the world. He was also a three-time winner of the Scandinavian Gold Cup and the United States Nationals. Fay served on the United States Olympic Yachting Committee, the United States Naval Academy Sailing Advisory Council, and the board of trustees of the Yale University Sailing Association.
Fay is honored by the Albert Bel Fay Commodore's Trophy through the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club of Kemah near Houston.
Death and statement from first President Bush
Fay died in Cuernavaca
, the capital of the state of Morelos
. He and Mrs. Fay are buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. He was Presbyterian
Then President and Mrs. George Herbert Walker Bush issued the following statement (from the presidential library) in College Station) on Fay's death: "He was a Texan through and through. He was a leader in building the Republican Party in Houston, starting in the early 1960s. Albert was a mentor who helped guide me in my early years in Texas politics, when getting Republicans elected was next to impossible. His service to the Republican Party has been invaluable."
- John R. Knaggs, Two-Party Texas: The John Tower Era, 1961-1984 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1986).
- Roger M. Olien, From Token to Triumph: The Texas Republicans since 1920 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1982).
- Who's Who in America, 1980-81.