A. R. Schwartz, a Jewish Texan politician, was born in Galveston, Texas. Schwartz attended Texas A&M University and the University of Texas School of Law. He is married to the former Marilyn Cohn of Harlingen, Texas, and they have four sons: Bob and Dick Schwartz, both of whom live in Houston, John Schwartz, who lives in New Jersey, and Tom Schwartz, who lives in Florida.
As a legislator, he specialized in legislation to protect the environment and manage the resources of coastal areas, and earned a reputation as a fiery liberal speaker and a wit. In Molly Ivins's book "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?," Ivins referred to Schwartz as a "white-maned pixie" and called him one of the legislature's "excellent orators." Reporter Patricia Kilday Hart referred to Schwartz in the Houston Chronicle "as one of the most liberal, yellow-dog Democrats ever to serve in the Texas Legislature." In "[Confessions of a Maddog: A Romp Through the High-Flying Texas Music and Literary Era of the Fifties to the Seventies]", Jay Dunston Milner referred to Schwartz, along with Bob Eckhardt, John Henry Faulk, Maury Maverick, Jr. and others, as being among those in the 1960s who "fought the good fight against the Philistines. They lost most of the time, of course--the Philistines were in the majority. But they won a skirmish here and a point there, anyway, which was better than nothing." Texas Monthly took note, stating that during the sixties and seventies, the best entertainment the Capitol had to offer was the oratory of Galveston senator A. R. "Babe" Schwartz. Schwartz was also named one of the "Ten Best Legislators" by Texas Monthly four times. The first time, in 1973, the magazine called him "the most complex, remarkable man in the Senate" and "one of the most consistently influential members." As a legislator, Schwartz was known for his spirited feuds, in particular with fellow state senators William T. "Bill" Moore of Bryan, called "the Bull of the Brazos" and William Neff Patman, son of former U.S. Representative Wright Patman. In a dispute with Hilmar Moore, the longtime mayor of Richmond, Texas, over Moore's appointment to the state's Public Welfare Board, Schwartz said, “You can have that job over my dead body.” Moore replied, “Senator, I can’t think of any other way I’d rather have it.”
In the 1979 legislative session he helped lead the "Killer Bees," a group of state senators who brought the legislature to a standstill by going into hiding and breaking the Senate quorum. During his tenure as a lawmaker, he served on every major committee of the legislature, and served as the chairman of the Rules, Jurisprudence and Natural Resources Committees.
Schwartz was defeated in the 1980 election by Republican J. E. "Buster" Brown, a candidate who was recruited by then 29-year-old Karl Rove, who was working at the time for Texas governor Bill Clements. Since his defeat, Schwartz has worked as a lobbyist. Decades after his defeat, however, he remains a newsworthy figure: the Galveston County Daily News, in November 2007, published a story on one of its blogs stating that the "legendary Texas lawmaker" had not, in fact, died. Schwartz has continued to work with the legislature. In October 2008, he was appointed to the House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike Storm Devastation to the Texas Gulf Coast by the then-Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick, as the committee's public member. In May 2016, Galveston named a stretch of restored beach "Babe's Beach" in his honor. At the ceremony, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said, “We should have done this for Babe Schwartz many years ago... You’ve given a lifetime of commitment not only to Galveston and our community, but to this state."
Schwartz became a lobbyist and legislative consultant on local, state and national issues. He has appeared in the PBS documentary "Vote For Me: Politics in America" (1996) and "Bush's Brain" (2006). Between 1996 and 2005, he taught Legislation and Coastal Zone Management Law at the University of Houston Law Center as an adjunct professor. In 2009, he began teaching Coastal and Ocean Law at the University of Texas School of Law. In September 2008, he was quoted in The New York Times on the subject of damage to Galveston from Hurricane Ike and other hurricanes over the years. The 1900 Galveston hurricane that devastated Galveston, he said, was a “message from God.” He explained: “God’s message was, ‘man wasn’t meant to live on no damned island.’” In an Associated Press story after Hurricane Ike about the fact that the 1959 Texas Open Beaches Act, a state law protecting public access to beaches might cause some Galveston-area homes to be seized by the state, Schwartz said, ""We're talking about damn fools that have built houses on the edge of the sea for as long as man could remember and against every advice anyone has given." That story, in turn, led to an attack on Schwartz by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who said, "You know, folks, it’s one thing to be smacked by a natural disaster; it’s quite another to have to be smacked around by the government that you’re looking to for help." His oral history for the Texas Legacy Project is featured on the project's site and in a 2010 book published from those interviews.
He remains a keen observer of Texas politics, and his comments have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, "60 Minutes" and many Texas newspapers and magazines. When Republican congressman Tom DeLay was first indicted in October 2005, many commentators predicted that he would bounce back politically; Schwartz, however, told the New York Times that "He's been gut-shot politically," and was proven right.