Former state Senator and Representative Robert "Bob" Vale always will be remembered as one of the infamous "Dirty Thirty" and "Killer Bees," but day in and day out, he was a family man who channeled his energy and political skill toward improving education, health care, and the environment for the working class of Texas.
The third of nine children, Bob Vale was born in 1931 in Roma-Los Saenz, Texas, where he developed his appreciation of and commitment to education. He was the salutatorian of the Manuel Guerra High School Class of 1950 and was valedictorian at St. Mary's University Law School, where he graduated in 1954.
Vale served in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1954 to 1956 and received an honorable discharge as a first lieutenant. He started his own law practice in San Antonio in 1956 and married his wife, Theresa, a native of England, in 1958 after a whirlwind romance.
Vale's involvement in community initiatives and political campaigns led to his own successful run for office in 1965. He served seven terms in the Texas House of Representatives, becoming the first Bexar County legislator to serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. By the time he was elected to the Senate in 1978, he was ranked eighth in seniority among 150 house members and had served on every major House committee.
During his 20 years in state office ( including two terms in the Senate ) Vale changed the educational landscape of San Antonio by playing an instrumental role in securing funding for the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and the San Antonio State School. He also was a key supporter of the Tuition Equalization Grants bill that has given thousands of students in Texas access to a college education.
Known for his organization and analytical mind, Vale also authored and pushed for bills that protected the environment and improved access to health care.
The fervent advocate of legislative reform gained notoriety in 1971 when he joined the "Dirty Thirty." The group of 30 legislators opposed House leadership and successfully implemented some reforms in the legislative process.
Then, in 1979, Vale was one of a dozen senators who hid for 4 days at the end of the 66th legislative session to block a bill that would have mandated an early presidential primary in Texas. The flight of the "Killer Bees" effectively killed the bill.
All this was done while juggling birthdays, swim meets, and class projects for his four children, Kathleen, Michael, Shelagh, and Maureen. The Vales settled in Northwest San Antonio in 1971 and became a fixture at Holmes High School, the alma mater of their three youngest children.
Bob Vale passed away from brain cancer in 1992 at the age of 60, leaving behind a legacy of passion and compassion that today continues to benefit the state of Texas and the San Antonio community.
Robert Lee "Bob" Vale. N.d. Photograph. Legislative Reference Library of TexasWeb. 4 Aug 2013. <http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberdisplay.cfm?memberI....