Monday, March 26, 2012

IMA HOGG, THE FIRST LADY OF TEXAS

By Caroline Clemmons

Governor James Hogg
and his family and, yes,
the boys and Ima are
wearing kilts
Every city has philanthropists and patrons of the arts. In that respect, the woman I've chosen to feature for Women's History Month is not exceptional. After all, she was born to wealth and privilege. Why did I choose her? From the time I heard her name, I've been fascinated by her. The poor woman was cursed from birth with an abominable name.  Who could refrain from feeling sympathy for anyone going through life named IMA HOGG?

Ima Hogg, philanthropist and patron of the arts known fondly as "The First Lady of Texas," was born to Sarah Ann (Stinson) and Governor James Stephen Hogg in Mineola, Texas, on July 10, 1882. When she arrived, her father said, "Our cup of joy is now overflowing! We have a daughter of as fine proportions and of as angelic mien as ever gracious nature favor a man with, and her name is Ima!"

Why, you may ask, would a man who loved his family and adored his daughter choose that name in combination with Hogg? Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha Hogg in which the heroine Imogene was also called Ima. She was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life.


Ima Hogg
 Ima Hogg later recounted, "My grandfather Stinson lived fifteen miles from Mineola and news traveled slowly. When he learned of his granddaughter's name he came trotting to town as fast as he could to protest but it was too late. The christening had taken place, and Ima I was to remain."

During her childhood, Hogg's elder brother William often came home from school with a bloody nose from defending her name. Throughout her adult years, Hogg signed her name in a scrawl that left her first name illegible. Her personal stationery was usually printed "Miss Ima" or "I. Hogg", and she often had her stationery order placed in her secretary's name to avoid questions. Hogg did not use a nickname until several months before her death, when she began calling herself "Imogene." Her last passport was issued to "Ima Imogene Hogg". The story that she had a sister named Ura is untrue (although I heard it all my life).

Ima had three brothers: William Clifford Hogg was born in 1875; Michael Hogg was born in 1885; and Thomas Elisha Hogg was born in 1887. Ima and her brothers were born into a family whose tradition of public service was an integral part of Texas history. Her grandfather, Joseph Lewis Hogg, took the oath of allegiance to the Republic of Texas in 1839, helped write the Texas Constitution, fought in the Mexican War, and served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Her father was the first native born governor and was elected in 1890.


Miss Ima, 1900
She was eight years old when her father was elected governor; she spent much of her early life in Austin. After her mother died of tuberculosis in 1895, Ima attended the Coronal Institute in San Marcos, and in 1899 she entered the University of Texas. In 1901 Ima, who had played the piano since the age of three, went to New York to study music. Her father died in 1906. From 1907 to 1909 she continued her music studies in Berlin and Vienna.

In 1910, Ima moved to Houston, where she helped found the Houston Symphony Orchestra, which played its first concert in June 1913. She served as the first vice president of the Houston Symphony Society and became president in 1917. She became ill in late 1918 and spent the next two years in Philadelphia under the care of a specialist in mental and nervous disorders. She did not return to Houston to live until 1923.

After their father’s death in 1906, Ima and her brothers tried to sell the Varner plantation, but a provision in their father's will specified that the land be kept for 15 years. Luckily for them! On January 15, 1918, oil was found on the Varner plantation. A second strike the following year provided oil income amounting to $225,000 a month shared among the four siblings. That’s a lot of money now, but imagine what a sum that was in 1919! According to Ima’s biographer Gwendolyn Cone Neely, the Hoggs did not believe that the oil money was rightfully theirs, as it had come from the land and not hard work, and they were determined to use it for the good of Texas.

In spite of her personal health problems, or perhaps because of them, Ima Hogg founded the Houston Child Guidance Center in 1929 to provide counseling for disturbed children and their families. Ima was convinced that if children's emotional and mental problems were treated, more serious illness could be prevented in adults. Her interest in mental health came from her father, who had read widely on mental health issues; during his terms as governor, Ima had often accompanied him on visits to state institutions, including charity hospitals and asylums for the mentally ill. She furthered her knowledge of the field while she was a student at UT, taking several courses in psychology. Ima was convinced that her youngest brother, Tom, would have benefited from similar intervention, as he had reacted badly after their mother's death and as an adult was "restless, impulsive, and alarmingly careless with money". Although her ideas on mental health would be considered mainstream today, in 1929 they were pioneering. In 1972, she told a reporter for the Houston Chronicle that, of all her activities, she had derived most pleasure from her role in establishing the Houston Child Guidance Center.

She joined her elder brother William on a vacation in Germany in 1930. During their visit, he suffered a gallbladder attack and died on September 12, 1930 after emergency surgery. Ima brought her brother's body back to the United States. His will bequeathed $2.5 million to UT and his desire was that it be used alongside money donated by his sister for far-reaching benefit to the people of Texas. Legal challenges tied up the grant until 1939, when the University received $1.8 million. In 1940, after discussion with her brother Michael—the executor of the will—Ima used the money to establish the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin.

Miss Ima Hogg, Philanthropist
and Patron of the Arts
In 1943, Ima Hogg decided to run for a seat on the Houston School Board so that the board would include two female members. During her term, she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay. She championed a visiting teacher program for children with emotional problems and began art education programs in the schools for black students.

Varner-Hogg Plantation
Although Ima Hogg spent little time at the Varner plantation after Bayou Bend was constructed, she continued to purchase art and antique furniture on its behalf. In the 1950s, she restored the plantation, and each room was given a different theme from Texas history: colonial times, the Confederacy, Napoleonic times (1818), and the Mexican–American War. One room was dedicated to her father, and contained his desk and chair as well as his collection of walking sticks. She donated the property to the state, and it was dedicated as the Varner–Hogg Plantation State Historical Site in 1958, the 107th anniversary of Jim Hogg's birth.


Bronco Buster by
Frederick Remington
 Ima Hogg donated works she inherited from her brothers to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, including one of the limited editions of Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington. In the 1920s, Hogg's brothers began to develop a new elite neighborhood, which they called River Oaks, on the outskirts of Houston. For their home, the Hoggs chose the largest lot, 14.5 acres. Ima worked closely with architect John Staub to design a house that would show off the art the family had purchased. William and Ima moved into the house, which she christened Bayou Bend, in 1928. In 1939, when she restored her estate along American lines, she donated more than 100 works on paper to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH), including works by C├ęzanne, Sargent, Picasso, and Klee. Following the death of her brother Michael in 1941, she donated his collection of Frederic Remington works to the museum. Consisting of 53 oil paintings, 10 watercolors, and one bronze, it is known as the Hogg Brothers Collection, and is called one of the most important groupings of Western paintings on display in an American museum.  Ima donated her collection of Native American art to MFAH in 1944, including 168 pieces of pottery, 95 pieces of jewelry, and 81 paintings.

In 1960, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve on a committee to plan the National Cultural Center, now called the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy named Hogg to the 18-member advisory committee to work with the Fine Arts Committee in seeking historical furniture for the White House.

One morning in 1914, Ima was awakened by a burglar in her bedroom. She confronted the man, who was attempting to steal her jewelry. Not only did she convince him to return the jewelry, but wrote down a name and address, handed it to him and told him to go there that very day to get a job. When asked why she did that, Ima responded, "He didn't look like a bad man."

The Hoggs' Bayou Bend Home
River Oaks area of Houston
Later that year, she sailed to Germany, alone. While she was en route, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and the day before she arrived, Britain declared war on Germany. The United States was still neutral, however, so Hogg continued her tour of Europe, not leaving until several months later.

Though Ima Hogg has been described as a woman of "unfailing politeness", she was not without adversaries. For instance, at a concert arranged by the Houston Symphony for her 90th birthday featuring the elderly pianist Arthur Rubinstein, he characterized her as a "tiresome old woman." Hogg, in turn, regarded the musician as "a pompous old man." By contrast, Hogg said of Vladimir Horowitz, whom she met backstage at a 1975 concert in Houston, "Such a nice man. Not at all like that Mr. Rubinstein."

Ima Hogg was a generous benefactor, and believed that inherited money was a public trust. She was described by the University of Houston as "compassionate by nature", "progressive in outlook", "concerned with the welfare of all Texans", a "zealous proponent of mental health care" and "committed to public education."

Bayou Bend's Clio Garden
A lifelong Democrat, Ima Hogg died on August 19, 1975, at the age of 93, from a heart attack resulting from atheroma. She had been vacationing in London at the time, but fell as she was getting into a taxi, and died a few days later in a London hospital. An autopsy report revealed that her death was not related to the earlier fall. On receiving news of her death, the University of Texas declared two days of mourning and flew the flag at half-staff.

Through her long life she received far too many awards and honors to list here. In 1963, former Governor of Texas Allan Shivers—when presenting Hogg with the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association (the first woman so honored)—said of Miss Ima: Some persons create history. Some record it. Others restore and conserve it. She has done all three.

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back!

Sources: Virginia Bernhard, Ima Hogg: The Governor's Daughter (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1984). James Stephen Hogg Papers, Barker Texas History Center, Univerity of Texas at Austin. Louise Kosches Iscoe, Ima Hogg (Austin: Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, 1976). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (4 vols., Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971-80). Wikipedia.

9 comments:

  1. She was a pretty woman. It makes you wonder if part of her mental problems stemmed from her name....

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  2. Paty, I always wondered the same thing. Caroline, I, like all Texans, grew up with the stories of the Hogg family, except in addition to the fabricated sister, Ura, I thought until 5th or 6th grade, Ima had a brother named Hes-a Hogg. Ima was a facinating woman who did many great things. Thank you for bringing her story to everyone.

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  3. Caroline--what a wonderful post! I've always heard about Ima Hogg, being in Texas all my life, and yes, I always heard she had a sister called Ura Hogg. Funny, but sad, too, to make such fun.
    I also pictured her as not so pretty, but she was a very good-looking woman. I'm proud of Ima. Her father should have been hung on the nearest hanging tree for giving her such a name.
    We lived in River Oaks in 1960 when we first married. However, we lived in apartments on the edge of River Oaks with the RR tracks running just behind our apartment. I learned to ignore and sleep through the trains. But I loved River Oaks, and though maybe some day I'd be rich enough to live in one of those houses. Uh-uh. Not to be.
    The Hogg home was nearby, though.
    Thanks, Caroline, for such a wonderful story about a grand lady!

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  4. I loved this post, Caroline. What an amazing woman. Something I've learned this month is that there have been so many strong women of the west who've never married. They certainly made this country a better place and someone to be proud of with all of the accomplishments.

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  5. Hi Caroline, wonderful post about a wonderful woman. She sounds absolutely tireless.

    Oh, yes, even in California we heard about Ima and Ura as kids. On those days, I thought it all a joke. Now we know what a ground breaking woman she had been.

    Love this post, another amazing woman of the west

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  6. Does anyone have confirmation, record or recording of the legendary apocryphal story of the Hogg family standing on the back of Father Gov. Hogg's truck and singing the campaign song that supposedly won elections for him: "Ima Hogg, Eure Hogg, We're All Hoggs, Vote for Hogg?"

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  7. OH WHAT A NEAT POST, CAROLINE! I love this! Well, of course, living a neighbor to TX here in OK all these years, we heard the "Ura" story too. What a giving person, and she certainly was very pretty. Thanks so much for this post.
    Cheryl

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  8. Great post! I, too, had always heard of Ima and Ura Hogg, and I wish I'd known all this back when every person in school was making fun of such names. What an amazing woman.

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  9. This is an amazing post I have heard that she had family relations to the land family. If so I would love to more. This woman was a very positive influence in this country. She made a good difference in this world

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