Chances are, if you don’t hail from the Lone Star State, you mightn’t have heard about this lovely lady. Ima Hogg (1882 – 1975), known as “The First Lady of Texas,” was a philanthropist and collector of arts and antiques. Yes, that was her real name. Bless her heart. And you can blame her parents, Sarah Ann “Sallie” Stinson and James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg, Attorney General of Texas and later Governor. Her first name was taken from The Fate of Marvin, which her uncle Thomas Hogg penned, and featured two young women named Ima and Leila. What was wrong with Leila?
As it turned out, she never married and was saddled with that name for all of her 93 years. Yikes. She knew it was an odd name, and tried to downplay it, using stationery that read Miss Hogg or I. Hogg. Her brother William defended the unfortunate name on more than one occasion, coming home from school with a bloody nose. The oft-told rumor of her having a sister named Ura is untrue.
On the bright side, she was rich! Living in the governors’ mansion, she and her brothers would slide down the banisters, attend operas, and even threw together an impromptu circus on the grounds of the mansion, consisting of their many animals. After a dare from one of her two brothers, Hogg mounted one of their ostriches, but was thrown from its back after one of the boys hit it with a slingshot (per wikipedia). At the age of sixteen, Hogg joined her father in a visit to Hawaii, where they met Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani and attended the ceremony that delivered Hawaii to the United States.
After both of her parents passed away, she traveled to Europe in 1906 and spent two years studying music under Xaver Scharwenka in Vienna. Several years later, her father’s plantation struck oil and made her an even richer oil heiress. Thus began a life of philanthropy. Among her many accomplishments, she:
- Founded the Houston Child Guidance Center, which provides counseling for disturbed children
- Established the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin
- Helped establish the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
- Established the Houston Symphony Orchestra and served as president of the Symphony Society
- Earned a seat on the Houston School Board in 1943, where she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay and established art education programs for black students
- Donated her home with its collection of American antique furniture as well as rare paintings by Chagall, Picasso, Klee and Matisse to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts
She died from a heart attack while vacationing in London at the age of 93. The University of Texas declared two days of mourning and flew the flag at half-staff. Her butler-chauffeur of over 40 years, with the snazzy name of Lucious Broadnax, had to find a new gig.
Here she is in a white hat, holding the hand of her friend, Hazel Ledbetter, in Round Top, TX in 1970.
That’s a stylish Hogg.