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Former State Rep. Leo Berman Dies at 79

Tributes poured in this weekend from Texas conservatives and Democrats alike for former state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, who died Saturday. He served in the House from 1999 to 2013.

By John Gravois, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Former state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, is shown in 2011.

Tributes poured in this weekend from Texas conservatives and Democrats alike for former state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, whose death was announced Saturday on the Texas House floor.

Berman, 79, died Saturday in Tyler after a long battle with lymphoma, according to a news release from a former staffer. Berman, a decorated member of the military before entering politics, was an unabashed and outspoken conservative who promoted Christian values at every opportunity.

Texas has lost a "brave patriot and a true friend of liberty," said state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who replaced Berman in the House.

"We are especially thankful for his service in the Army and to the state of Texas. He served well," Schaefer said in a statement. "No doubt Berman has received his reward in heaven, because there was no doubt he was a follower of Christ."

The Texas House recognized Berman with a moment of silence Saturday.

Berman was born in 1935 to Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Poland. He earned a bachelor of arts in political science at Southern Methodist University and then began a 22-year military career. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel after serving in Germany, two tours of duty in Vietnam and three years as an Army liaison to Congress, according to former staffer Diane Caron. He was awarded three Bronze Stars and nine Air Medals.

He settled in Texas after retiring from the military and became a public affairs executive for Sun Exploration and Production Co. Berman was a member of the Arlington City Council from 1979 to 1985 and served as mayor pro tem for two of those years.

But during his service in the House from Tyler from 1999 to 2013, Berman became known statewide for some notable conservative crusades. He was a staunch believer in state sovereignty from the federal government. He was involved in unsuccessful efforts to oust Republican Joe Straus from the House speaker's job. He made Texas Monthly's 10 worst legislators list.

He made headlines in 2009 when he threatened to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Republican businessman and politician Skip Ogle, who lost a bid to represent Berman's former House seat, said: "Leo's passion for our nation, state and community was unmatched. His heart was always to serve. Never wielding to a negative attitude, Leo was always looking forward to the next step in life while encouraging those around him.

This obituary originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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