- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, who was elected on promises to deal with the city’s crime rate, died Saturday. He was 89.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s office said Lanier died at home Saturday afternoon of natural causes.

The developer, described as large and lanky, won a tough race in his initial mayoral election in 1991 in a campaign that focused on the city’s spiraling crime rate. “Nothing else that we do will work until we gain ground on this problem of crime,” Lanier said at the time. “And we’ll hit it, and we’ll hit it hard, and we’ll hit it the first thing.”

In his first term, he delivered on promises to scrap plans for an unpopular monorail project and to beef up police patrols. Houston’s crime figures fell dramatically and his popularity soared. He coasted to victory in his next two terms.

The man known affectionately as “Mayor Bob” was barred by term limits from seeking a fourth term in 1997.

Lanier also pushed for legislation that allowed the construction of new sports stadiums.

Elyse Lanier said in a statement released to several media outlets that her husband considered his service as Houston mayor his greatest honor.

“The pleasure of working with thousands of diverse Houstonians to make our city better, along with his service as chairman of Metro, chairman of the Texas Department of Transportation and as a young naval officer in World War II, always brought a smile to his face and a twinkle to his eyes these last few years,” she said.

Lanier “left a lasting mark” on the city and was “never one to shy away from a tough battle,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement released to several media outlets. She said he used his “strength and popularity” to push through affirmative action protections, add police officers and improving neighborhoods,

Lanier grew up in the oilpatch suburb of Baytown, graduated from the University of New Mexico and got his law degree from the University of Texas. Before becoming mayor, Lanier was a Texas Highway Commission chairman.

He later headed the annual Lanier Public Policy Conference at the University of Houston.

The former mayor had undergone triple-bypass surgery in 1998, three months after suffering a mild heart attack. In 2001, he was treated for an irregular heartbeat. In 2006 he collapsed at the memorial service for convicted Enron Corp. founder Ken Lay and was taken to the hospital.

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