Friends, family and fellow political leaders gathered at The University of Texas at Tyler to bestow awards and gratitude for the 14 years state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, served District 6.
After retiring from the military as a lieutenant colonel, he served as city council member for the city of Arlington, and was elected to represent District 6 in the Texas house in 1998, and was reelected six times.
He served on many committees in his time in the Legislature and in civic organizations in Tyler.
“We encourage all citizens in celebrating all the years of service he gave to our district,” Heines said.
Berman lost his most recent re-election bid to Matt Schaefer, a Navy Reserve lieutenant commander and attorney, during this year’s Republican primary. Schaefer faces Libertarian candidate Charles Parkes in the Nov. 6 election for Berman’s seat.
Berman’s brother Stan Berman told the crowd a few things they may not have known about the representative.
He said Berman was a great athlete, who was a star tailback on his high school football team.
“He also played for the American Legion in Ebbets Field, hit a double off the left field wall, was asked to sign a contract with the New York Yankees, turned it down and went to City College of New York,” Stan Berman said.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, presented Berman with a flag flown over the capitol.
He said some of his most cherished memories were with Berman in his home during the difficult time.
“I knew at the time he loved the Lord and was doing everything he could to be following God’s purposes,” Gohmert said.
“It was kind of cool to be on a double date with Leo and Lou Ann (Berman’s current wife) … to have seen the grieving and the sadness turned to joy.”
District 1 state Sen. Kevin Eltife said he has many memories of Berman. He said their relationship began when Berman ran against Eltife for mayor of Tyler. He said following the election (that Eltife won), the two sparked a friendship.
He said the two do not see eye to eye on every issue, but they have worked well together to represent East Texas in the Texas Legislature.
“The best words I can use to describe Leo is a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” Eltife said. “Even when you are disagreeing, (he is) nothing but a true gentleman.”
Rodney Mabry, president of UT Tyler, presented Berman with the President’s Award, a crystal eagle, representing the school’s mascot.
“In 1998, when Leo began his service to the citizens of Smith County as our state representative, I moved to Tyler to take the reins of UT Tyler,” Mabry said. “We have worked very closely throughout his 14 years in office.”
Mabry said Berman was instrumental in helping pass legislation allowing UT to offer doctorate programs and expand its nursing program.
“A person can come to Tyler and become a nurse aide, and then progress to an LVN, and progress to a B.S. nurse, and then M.S. nurse, and a Ph.D. nurse without ever leaving Tyler, Texas,” he said.”
Berman thanked the speakers for their kind words, noting his late wife Sue’s family was in the audience.
He said the district will be left in good legislative hands.
“I’m leaving the Legislature after 14 years, but we have a new senior member of the Texas Legislature and you’re going to find (he) does an outstanding job — Kevin Eltife,” he said.
“I’m leaving the Legislature, but I’m not sad at all, really,” Berman said. “We have capable people to replace me … and I just want to say that I’m going to spend my time (with my family).”