Robert Wesley Barrie, 87, dies; Washington lobbyist; lived the American dream.
Robert "Bob" Barrie, long-time powerful Democratic lobbyist in DC, primarily on behalf of General Electric, died on October 27, 2012 at 87 years old. He had Alzheimer's Disease for many years.
Mr. Barrie lived the kind of life that books are made of: born in 1925 in the farm country of Lester Prairie, Minnesota and growing up in the very small town of Osnabrock, North Dakota, Mr. Barrie volunteered at age 17 for World War II (thereby missing his own high school graduation, at which his principal delivered his valedictory address). Mr. Barrie's father was laid off from work as a result of the Great Depression and his family suffered. Mr. Barrie always thought of politics as an important answer to social ills.
After the war and as a result of the GI Bill, Mr. Barrie was the first member of his family to attend college. He had 2.5 years of service from the war and, therefore 2.5 years of paid college education. He completed his bachelor's degree in Political Science at the University of Minnesota in those 2.5 years and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn a PhD from the University of Minnesota and his dissertation, entitled Congress and the Executive, The Making of the U.S. Foreign Trade Policy, was published as a part of the Encyclopedia of the U.S. Congress.
Mr. Barrie idolized then-President Franklin Roosevelt growing up, and always hoped to pursue a career in politics. Mr. Barrie began his career in Washington, D.C. when he was appointed Special Assistant on Productivity and Technical Cooperation in the Mutual Security Administration during the Truman Administration. Subsequently, he served on Capitol Hill as Administrative and Legislative Assistant to Democratic New Jersey Congressman Pete Williams. He then served in the Kennedy/Johnson Administration, first as an Assistant Administrator for International Activities, which involved preparation for GATT and other negotiations and later as Deputy National Export Expansion Coordinator. Mr. Barrie was also appointed Executive Director to a Cabinet Committee on Export Expansion. Later, he served as a Presidential appointee on the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations during the Carter Administration and into the Reagan Administration.
After leaving government service, Mr. Barrie joined the Committee of American Shipping Lines directing the industry's export expansion program. Thereafter, he joined General Electric and ultimately became Senior Manager for Corporate Government Relations. During his tenure with General Electric, Mr. Barrie coordinated numerous industry efforts on tax and trade policies, including NAFTA approval in 1993, Most Favored Nation for China in 1994 and GATT approval in 1994. He was Chairman of an Industry, Labor and Governor's coalition dedicated to promoting governmental policies which encouraged United States exports. Even after he retired from General Electric, he continued to represent GE as a consultant with the law firm O'Connor & Hannan, LLP.
Throughout his career, Mr. Barrie was actively involved in Democratic politics with the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mr. Barrie was a high-profile member of the political campaigns of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, John Kerry and many other Democratic candidates. Mr. Barrie was also actively involved in the 2000 campaign as a member of the Democratic Leadership Council and of the Democratic Business Council of the Democratic National Committee. He also served on the Steering Committee of numerous Senate and House Members.
Mr. Barrie was well-regarded throughout Washington for his thorough knowledge of all political issues, particularly trade issues, and his professional and personal tenacity.
Along with his wife, Mr. Barrie established the Robert and Paula Barrie Fellowship at the University of Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, to provide scholarship money for students who intend to study international trade, international development, and public policy.
A memorial service will be held on November 19, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD.
Mr. Barrie is survived by his wife of 45 years, Paula; two children: Robert W. Barrie II of Denver, Colorado and Julie Barrie Buchanan of Chevy Chase, MD; son-in-law William Buchanan, and one granddaughter, Claire Buchanan, of Chevy Chase, MD.