SAKOWITZ, BERNARD (1907–1981). Bernard Sakowitz, civic leader and president of Sakowitz Brothers stores, was born in Galveston on January 12, 1907, the son of Matilda (Littman) and Tobias Sakowitz. He received a B.S. from the Wharton School of Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania in 1929 and began his retail career at R. H. Macy Company in New York. In 1929 he returned to Houston and the family business. He was named vice president in charge of merchandizing in 1937. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Force with the rank of captain. He returned to the store and became president in 1957. Under Bernard's leadership Sakowitz became a significant Houston institution, with stores at one time downtown, in Gulfgate, at the Shamrock Hotel, and in the Galleria-Westheimer area. He and his father built the first Sakowitz suburban store in 1959 on the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak. This was the bellwether that led to development of Westheimer Road into a major Houston street that soon included Neiman-Marcus and later the Galleria, built by Houston's Gerald Hines. The area became known as Uptown Houston. Later Sakowitz expanded to other cities, including Dallas, Phoenix, and Midland. Sakowitz never went public and was the last of the major family-owned chains of specialty stores in America.
Bernard Sakowitz married Ann Baum on July 20, 1933. They had two children, Lynn and Robert. Lynn, who married Oscar Wyatt, Jr., became an international socialite, a friend of such luminaries as Princess Grace of Monaco, and was often voted one of the best-dressed women in the world. Robert Sakowitz graduated from Harvard cum laude and entered the family business in 1963, becoming president in 1975. Bernard Sakowitz served on the board of directors of the Texas Medical Center, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and Congregation Beth Israel. He led many fund-raising drives for cancer research. He served on the Houston Crime Commission and was director of the Kiwanis Club, the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, he was a member of the National Retail Merchants Association, the Houston Angus Club, and the Houston Farm and Ranch Club and was vice president of the Contemporary Music Society of Houston. In 1972 he was named Retailer of the Year by Esquire Magazine. Following a heart attack, he died on April 24, 1981.
Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in the South and Southwest, Vol. 8.
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