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John Mobley III '51 October 27, 2020 1:15 PM updated: October 27, 2020 2:01 PM

John Allen Mobley III
MAY 29, 1930 – OCTOBER 21, 2020

John Allen Mobley III of Austin, Texas, died peacefully in his home on the morning of October 21, surrounded by his family. He was 90.


Born in Houston on May 29, 1930 to John Allen Mobley II and Mary McDonald Mobley, he was the oldest of five children. He attended elementary school in Longview and graduated from Kilgore High School in 1947. He played football, participated in stage plays and ran a filling station. After two years at Kilgore Junior College he finished with a BBA from Texas A&M in 1951.

1951 was the landmark year in his life. He got married, graduated from Texas A&M, and began his career as a businessman.

The marriage part was obviously the most important. In September of 1950 he met Lois Ann Parker from Center, Texas. They married on June 6 of 1951. Last June they celebrated their 69th anniversary and one of the great true love stories of their age. Never have you seen such a couple. Their friendship, loyalty, and mutual respect is a model for marriages everywhere. They were rarely apart and had similar interests such as travel and history and Jeopardy. Ann was a strong partner in making the big decisions that would become his life story. They did everything together, including going to Costco to get cheap gas.

They raised two sons, Jimmy (b. 1952) and Steve (b. 1956). How he survived that part is a testament to the stout constitution that saw him through 90 birthdays.

Also in 1951, he assumed management of a small family business consisting of three old tank trucks serving the East Texas Oil Field. From the sixties into the nineties he and his brothers Tom and David started, built, and sold several businesses, most of them in some aspect of the waste business. His business career was interrupted by a series of jobs in Texas politics.

In early 1965 Governor John Connally appointed Byron Tunnel of Tyler, creating a vacancy in Tunnel’s house seat, its district consisting of Gregg and Smith Counties. John ran in and won the abbreviated winner-take-all special election against a field of some seven other candidates. He moved the family to Austin and on February 22 and was sworn into the office by the newly elected Speaker Ben Barnes. One term was all it took to conclude that he was better off a full-time businessman. He declined to run for re-election and thus escaped the legislature. But he could not escape politics. Governor Connally didn’t know John well, but he wanted him on his staff. Connally overlooked scores of experienced political hands in favor of a proven, energetic manager. He began directing legislative affairs and took over as chief of staff when then-chief of staff Larry Temple took a job in LBJ’s white house.

After the end of the Connally administration, John had a unique opportunity to give back to his beloved Texas A&M. His boss was the like-minded President James Earl Rudder, who viewed A&M not as infallible, but as a great institution that deserved to become greater. John handled legislative relationships for one session and then returned to his business briefly.

As A&M had shaped John as a student, John would shape A&M in the decades to follow. He was appointed to the Board of Regents by Mark White and served from 1985 to 1991. Before and after that, he was often called upon to serve on task forces and advisory panels, lending his considerable expertise to the big-picture issues of the A&M system’s future role in Texas higher education. John had one other boss: Lloyd Bentsen. They didn’t know each other very well but the savvy Houston businessman sidestepped the many accomplished political veterans available to run a state-wide campaign in favor of another savvy businessman—this one from Kilgore. The campaign was spectacular success and the senator-elect persuaded John to go to Washington, but only for nine months. In that period of time John implemented a management consultant’s recommendations to set up what would become long-known as one of the best-run offices in the senate. In August of 1970, with Washington in the rearview mirror, John left active politics for good, five years and nine months after he started. He went back to his business and worked at it for 30 years.

From the early 90’s until 2007 he served on the Board of Directors of Scott and White, which he and Ann enjoyed immensely while making fascinating friends in the medical field. He and Ann began a long-term love affair with Colorado summers and made many dear friends in the Beaver Creek area. With their best friends Larry and Louann Temple, they stayed in Europe all they could. Of these trips came far more great stories than decent photographs. It is estimated that at their peak the notorious golf foursome of Larry Temple, Howard Rose, Ben Barnes and John Mobley once exchanged insults at the unheard-of rate of 43 insults per hole.

In his later decades he gambled all the time—but with Ann, of course. Every afternoon they played gin rummy for a penny a point, quarter a hand and a dollar a game. The sessions were lively and peppered with uncomplimentary jabs. They kept a running total and in the rare times when one of them amassed a $50 lead, a check of that amount was written. This financially pointless ritual came to an end when, in his final years, they switched to playing Skip-Bo, which did not involve wagering. And that’s about as exciting as his vices got.

Along the way there were grandchildren, then great-grandchildren. The family circle that loved him grew steadily, and nothing gave him and Ann more joy than to spend time with them. A rite of passage for the grandchildren was a Christmastime trip to New York in their tenth year.

If he hadn’t read this quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, he may have had to write it himself. “a man must share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.” John Mobley shared the action and passion of his time, and live he did.

John is preceded in death by his father, John Allen Mobley II, mother, Mary McDonald Mobley, brother David Mobley, sister Jean Grunwald, son Jimmy Mobley and grandson Andrew Mobley.

First among the survivors is his wonderful, wonderful wife Ann. She’ll survive this for sure. The others are son Steve Mobley and daughter-in-law Carolyn Cheu Mobley of Austin; brother Tom Mobley and sister-in-law Betty Mobley of Kilgore; sister Ann Mobley Harkins and brother-in-law Sonny Harkins of Houston; granddaughter Allison Mobley Clark, son-in-law Allen Clark, great-granddaughers Alice and Lillian Clark of Houston; granddaughter Lisa Mobley Miller, son-in-law Nicholas Miller and great-granddaughters Eliza, Genevieve and Adelaide Miller of Austin, granddaughter Melissa Mobley of Dallas; step-granddaughter Maggie Cheu and her husband Adam Ernst of Austin; step-grandson Henry Ross Cheu, en route to residence in Kerrville; and numerous nephews, nieces and their families.

For about two weeks before his death, Lisa Miller moved into Ann and John’s house, separating herself from Nicholas and the three girls to avoid any risk of infection. During that time, she did nothing—nothing at all—but take care of John any way she could and Ann any way Ann would let her. Through some very tough days of hospitalization and hospice care, she was heroic. For her service, and for the grace her family showed in her absence, we stand in gratitude and awe. The family is holding a graveside service at Texas State Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Texas A&M Mays School of Business, Tarrytown Methodist Church, or the Capital Area Food Bank.

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