Robert S. Strauss (May 2008)
Robert S. Strauss (May 2008) (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ NLJ)

Robert Strauss, a co-founder of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, died Wednesday at age 95, a firm spokesman confirmed.

Strauss, along with Richard Gump, started the firm in Texas in 1945. He later moved to Washington—planting the firm’s D.C. roots—where he served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the 1970s, and as a member of President Jimmy Carter’s cabinet.

“To those fortunate enough to work with him, he was a colleague, mentor and friend. To U.S. leaders, he was a trusted counselor and an honest broker. And to those across the aisle or the table, he was a man of integrity who always sought common ground,” the firm said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

President Barack Obama called Strauss “one of the greatest leaders the Democratic Party ever had, yet presidents of both parties relied on his advice, his instincts, and his passion for public service—not to mention his well-honed sense of humor.” Strauss, Obama said, “was truly one of a kind.”

Strauss was among the first lawyers to understand the relationship between government and policy and business, Akin partner Joel Jankowsky told Legal Times in 2008. That vision, Jankowsky said, would serve the firm as it grew and eventually developed an international reach.

“What he’s meant to this law firm is incalculable,” Akin name partner Alan Feld said in an interview with Legal Times in 2008.

Strauss’ storied career in international affairs included serving as Carter’s special envoy during Middle East peace talks. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award the U.S. can give a civilian, in 1981.

Strauss served as the last United States ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1991 and as the United States’ first ambassador to the Russian Federation in 1992 following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Strauss returned to the firm in 1992.

In a statement to The Associated Press, President George H.W. Bush noted that Strauss served as an adviser to presidents of both parties over the years.

“[L]ike the others, I valued his advice highly,” Bush said.

Strauss’ experience as ambassador helped shape the firm’s growth in Russia, Akin chairwoman Kim Koopersmith said in an interview with Legal Times last year.

“I think that caused us to understand that we can be very successful in taking our firm’s spirit and going into emerging markets and successfully cultivating legal relationships,” she said. Koopersmith could not immediately be reached late Wednesday.

Contact Zoe Tillman at Todd Ruger, Katelyn Polantz and Mike Scarcella contributed to this report.