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Ron Kirk

Assumed office 
March 18, 2009
President Barack Obama
Deputy Peter Allgeier
Preceded by Susan Schwab

In office
June 5, 1995 – February 20, 2002
Preceded by Steve Bartlett
Succeeded by Laura Miller

In office
April 4, 1994 – January 17, 1995
Governor Ann Richards
Preceded by John Hannah
Succeeded by Antonio Garza

Born June 27, 1954 (1954-06-27) (age 55)
Austin, United States
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater Austin College
University of Texas at Austin
Profession Attorney
Religion Methodist

Ronald "Ron" Kirk (born June 27, 1954) is the 16th United States Trade Representative, serving in the Obama administration. He served as mayor of Dallas, Texas from 1995 to 2002; he also ran for the United States Senate in 2002.


Early life and career

Born in Austin, Texas, Kirk is the youngest of four children; his father was a U.S. postal worker and the family was politically active.[1] He grew up in a predominantly black community, and attended Austin's public schools.[1] He was a leader in high school, and was elected student council president in his senior year.[1]

Kirk attended Austin College, graduating with a degree in both political science and sociology in 1976.[1] He then went to the University of Texas School of Law. Upon receiving his Juris Doctor in 1979,[1] he practiced law until 1981 when he left to work in the office of then-Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. In 1983, Kirk returned to Texas to lobby the state legislature in Austin, first as an attorney with the city of Dallas, and later with a law firm.

Texas political career

In 1994, Kirk worked for then-Texas Governor Ann Richards as Secretary of State of Texas. The following year, Kirk ran for mayor of Dallas. With support of Dallas' business community and influential members of the city's African American community, Kirk was successful in his bid and became the first African American mayor of Dallas, Texas while winning 62 percent of the total vote.

During his tenure as mayor, Kirk earned the reputation of being a coalition-builder, managing to keep the always-tumultuous Dallas City Council and Dallas School Board together. Under his leadership, he proposed the "Dallas Plan," a vision for the next 25 years, which included the controversial Trinity River Project, a $246 million plan that called for constructing a network of parks and highways in the flood plain of the Trinity River. He also pushed the construction of the American Airlines Center, whose opening he oversaw in 2002.

In 1999, Kirk was re-elected as mayor of Dallas in a landslide with 74 percent of the vote.

In 2001, Kirk resigned as mayor of Dallas in order to run for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Phil Gramm. Facing then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and Libertarian Scott Jameson; Kirk lost with 43 percent of the vote to Cornyn's 55 percent.

Post-mayoral career

Following his failed bid for Senate, Kirk returned to the law firm of Gardere Wynne Sewell in Dallas, and was briefly a candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee after the 2004 election, and was a partner with the Houston-based law firm Vinson and Elkins, where, according to Texans for Public Justice, he was, as of March 2007, one of the four highest paid lobbyists for Energy Future Holdings Corporation, the group created by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs to acquire TXU.[2]

During the Democratic National Convention, Kirk came out in favor of establishing the U.S. Public Service Academy as a civilian counterpart to the military service academies.[3]


Trade Representative nomination

Although there was speculation that Kirk would be appointed Secretary of Transportation by President Barack Obama, he was given the position of Trade Representative.[4] As a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), his selection has drawn criticism from advocates of protectionist trade policies.[5] His nomination ran into further controversy when it was revealed that he owed $9,975 in back taxes.[6] As compensation for speeches he gave from 2004 to the present, he had $37,750 of payments made directly to a scholarship fund at Austin College.[7] Kirk should have included the $37,750 payments with his gross income and then claimed a charitable deduction for the same amount.[7] Kirk also claimed deductions for three years of season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks as qualifying entertainment expenses.[7] In order to claim a qualifying entertainment expense, the Internal Revenue Service requires written documentation of the time, place, business purpose, name, and business relationship of the person being entertained, records that Kirk did not keep for almost half of the basketball games.[7] Kirk's deductions for tax and accounting fees were also too large.[7]

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kirk as United States Trade Representative on March 18, 2009 with a vote of 92 in favor and five opposed and he was sworn in the same day.[8] Kirk was formally sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on March 20, 2009.[8] Kirk is the first person of African American descent to hold the position of United States Trade Representative.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Harper, Liz (2002). "Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk (Democrat)". PBS. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  2. ^ "Ex-Dallas mayor and Cabinet hopeful Ron Kirk faces hurdles as former lobbyist". (WFAA-TV, Inc). 12 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Recio, Maria (2008-12-12). "Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk a finalist to be transportation secretary". McClatchy Company. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  5. ^ Wu, Brandon (2008-12-19). "Ron Kirk tapped as next USTR". Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  6. ^ Shear, Michael D. (March 2, 2009). "Tax Problems Surface for Trade Rep. Nominee Kirk". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Gillman, Todd J. (2009-03-03). "Cabinet-pick Kirk owes $10,000 in back taxes". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  8. ^ a b Gillman, Todd J. (2009-03-21). "Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk sworn in as trade ambassador". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  9. ^ Tate, Deborah (March 18, 2009). "US Senate Confirms Trade Representative". Voice of America News. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John Hannah
Secretary of State of Texas
1994 – 1995
Succeeded by
Antonio Garza
Preceded by
Steve Bartlett
Mayor of Dallas
1995 – 2002
Succeeded by
Laura Miller
Government offices
Preceded by
Susan Schwab
United States Trade Representative
2009 – Present
Succeeded by


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