The death of investor, philanthropist and Fort Worth native Richard Rainwater on Sept. 27 has focused attention on the rare brain disease that claimed him, and his concerted efforts to fight it with research.
Rainwater, 71, was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy in 2009. The neurodegenerative disease is characterized by disturbances in eye coordination, loss of balance, slowed and stiff movements, and difficulty in swallowing and speaking.
I was not familiar with the disease prior to Richard’s diagnosis,” said Rainwater’s longtime friend John Goff in an emailed interview response. “I since have read a lot about it and know that it affects 5 or 6 people per 100,000.”
Rainwater added support for disease research into the framework of his charitable foundation beginning in 2010, and has contributed more than $50 million to the cause. But he took it a step further.
Rainwater formed the Tau Consortium, bringing together an international team of some 30 physicians and researchers to investigate the Tau protein which is also thought to be involved in similar diseases including Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
That work, and the Rainwater Foundation’s funding, will continue.
Friends and family members say it was a characteristic response for Rainwater, whose superstar career included managing and increasing the Bass family fortune and forming health care, real estate and resource companies .
“All of Richard’s charitable activities are approached with the same creativity, vigor and thoughtfulness as his investments,” said Goff.
At the time of his death, Forbes magazine estimated Rainwater’s personal wealth at almost $3 billion.
Rainwater, whose philanthropy efforts were on a par with his business acumen, contributed more than $265 million through his Rainwater Charitable Foundation. Most of it goes to early childhood education and school leadership development, plus broader efforts reaching children in Fort Worth and in South Carolina from birth through 12th grade.
Rainwater attended public schools himself as a child, graduating from Paschal High School.
“For the past several years, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation has funded programs in our Education Impact initiative, for which we have been very grateful,” said Tim McKinney, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, in a statement after Rainwater’s death. “Education, and particularly early childhood education, is a leading priority of the foundation.
“Richard was an extraordinary and wonderful human being,” said McKinney. “He had an enormous impact on the lives of many, and his philanthropic interests have made the community at large a better place in which to live and work.”
Goff last saw Rainwater a few weeks ago, he said.
“He always hugged me and any other friends or relatives that came to visit,” Goff said. “He gave me the thumbs up when I recalled with him a funny situation that we were both involved in.”
Rainwater didn’t “consume wealth,” Goff said, and his legacy will live on in many ways.
“He spent very little on himself and operated on the theory that he should continue to compound his capital so that he had more to ultimately give away,” Goff said.
“Beyond his own Charitable Foundation, it is important to credit Richard as a testament to the positive power of capitalism,” he said. “His investments have led to thousands of jobs being created as well as many fortunes being created. I know for a fact that many of these individual fortunes are being recycled into wonderful causes through charitable giving.”