Society / Featured Parties

Houston Oil Tycoon Ponies Up as George W. Bush Wins Moral Courage Award

Record Generosity Adds Up to $4.2 Million Night

BY // 06.01.18
photography Priscilla Dickson, Gary Fountain Wilson Parish

As an oilfield wildcatter you have to be something of a gambling man. So it perhaps made sense that philanthropist/oilman Lester Smith and his wife, Sue, might have gone for double or nothing when it came to chairing the 23rd Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award Dinner benefiting Holocaust Museum Houston.

With his generosity and that of 1,150 guests, the night raised a record $4.2 million, doubling the prior record of $2.1 million, which dates back to 2005.

The Smiths were joined by his children, Shelly and Brian Hendry and Limor and Stuart Smith,  as chairs in the gallant fundraising effort.

The evening at the Hilton Americas Houston was special in another way. It honored former President George W. Bush, who earned the moral courage honor as others before him for their “stand against injustice, hatred and prejudice and using their skill and influence to make a better world for all people.” Houstonian Fred Zeidman, appointed by President Bush in 2002 as chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington D.C. (now chairman emeritus of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), sat down with the former president on stage for a casual, occasionally witty, give and take on various subjects including his time in office and his post White House life, much of it passed on the ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush joined an impressive coterie of previous Moral Courage Award recipients including Holocaust author and survivor Elie Wiesel, Senator John McCain, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, actress and activist Mia Farrow, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“This is an extraordinary evening for Holocaust Museum Houston and we couldn’t be more proud to honor a favorite son of Texas, George W. Bush,” said Kelly J. Zúñiga, Holocaust Museum Houston CEO. “We are also deeply grateful to a favorite son of Houston, Lester Smith, and his family who have spearheaded the most successful event in the museum’s history.”

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The evening’s effort was supported by honorary chairs Senator Joe Lieberman, Margaret Alkek Williams, Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Bush family. Mady and Ken Kades served as host committee chairs.

Who: Holocaust Museum Houston board chair Gary Markowitz and wife Sunni, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, Consul General of Israel Gilad Katz, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission members Peter Berkowitz and Martin Fein, Kelli Cohen Fein, Benjamin Warren, Lainie Gordon and David Mincberg, Heidi Gerger, Marcia and David Solomon, Beth Wolff, Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck, Jeri and Marc Shiparo, Trish and Rock Morille, Polly and Murry Bowden, Barbara and Charles Hurwitz, and Anat and Jay Zeidman.

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