Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"First Lady of Texas"--- Miss Ima Hogg

Well-known, Well-loved, and Well-respected

by Martha Rogers 

Ima Hogg: Many jokes surround the unfortunate name given to the daughter of Texas governor, Jim Hogg. 

Born on July 10, 1882 to Sarah Ann Stinson and James Stephen "Big Jim" Hogg, Ima grew to become a philanthropist, patron of the arts, and an American Society leader. She became known as “The First Lady of Texas and one of the most respected women in Texas.

Her first name came from the epic poem, The Fate of Marvin, written by her uncle Thomas Hogg. As she grew, she downplayed the name by making her signature all but illegible and using stationary engraved with the simple I. Hogg or Miss Hogg.

 Ima was the second child of James and Sarah and the only girl. Her father served as governor of Texas 1891 to 1895. She was nine years old when he took office and they moved into the Governor's Mansion.                         

History has it that the mansion had fallen into disrepair, and the Hogg children were given the task of helping with the renovation. Among other duties, Ima was assigned the task of removing chewing gum from furniture and door moldings. 

Texas Governor's Mansion
Public Domain

Her mother became ill with tuberculosis and died soon after Jim Hogg left office in 1895. Her widowed aunt moved to Austin to care for Ima and her three brothers, William, Michael, and Thomas. Because tuberculosis seemed to run in the family, her aunt made Ima promise she'd never marry and carry on the disease, and she honored that promise by staying single. 

In 1889 Ima attended the University of Texas where she took courses in German, Psychology, and Old English. She also traveled extensively in Europe where she studied music and worked toward her desire to be a concert pianist.

Her father bought over 4,000 acres of land that had been part of the Varner plantation near West Columbia in South Texas. After two years of music study in New York City, Ima returned to Texas. Then she divided time between the plantation and her father's law practice in Houston. 

In 1905, her father suffered an injury in a train accident, and Ima nursed him, but he never recovered and a little over a year later, in March of 1906, she found him dead in his bed. To help her through her grief, her brother William took her to New York City where she immersed herself in concerts and museums. Then she traveled to Vienna, Austria where she spent two years studying music under Xaver Scharwenka. Upon her return to Houston, she was instrumental in founding and managing the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Back home, the brothers tried to sell the plantation, but a provision in their father's will dictated it could not be sold for fifteen years. That was a fortunate provision because in 1918, oil was discovered on the land with a second strike the following year that resulted an income per month equivalent to $3.3 million today. The men and Ima didn't see the oil money as rightfully theirs because the land had produced it and they had nothing to earn it. They became determined to use it for the good of Texas and that they did. Ima had the home refurbished and assigned each room of the house to a period in Texas history. In 1958 she donated the home to the state to commemorate her father and the heroes of Texas history. She had refurbished the home and assigned each room to a period of the state's history.

Ima became known for her love of the arts and her big heart. She was an attractive woman who wanted only the best for people and increased her philanthropic endeavors to better the world for everyone.

She became affectionately know as "Miss Ima" by all who knew her, and that's how I always thought of her. She was considered to be "The First Lady of Texas." Even Governor John Connally declared her to be so. Even as she approached her 80's, she was a civic beacon in Houston.

She used her wealth to found the Houston Child Guidance Center which provided counseling for children with mental health problems and their families. Then she established the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas in 1940. One of her greatest endeavors occurred while she served on the Houston School Board in 1943 where she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay. She also established art education programs for black students.

The brothers then bought land along Buffalo Bayou on the edge of Houston and developed what became to be known as River Oaks, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Houston. They purchased one of the largest lots along the bayou and Ima named it Bayou Bend. It became one of the one of the best known in Houston. Not only did it have beautiful gardens, but it was also filled with art and antiques. After her death, the home went to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and is open to the public as a museum.

Every spring, visitors from all over come for the Azalea Trail to walk through the extensive gardens. This is one of the many statues seen in one of the areas. I've had the privilege of strolling through the gardens and can honestly say the pictures don't do them justice.

In 1960, as she approached the age of 80, President Eisenhower appointed her to serve on a committee to plan the National Cultural Center, now the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. Then Jacqueline Kennedy named Ima Hogg to the 18-member advisory committee to work with the Fine Arts Committed in seeking historical furniture for the White House. 

So much more could be written about this wonderful First Lady of Texas who endured jokes and ridicule about her name and made her beloved Texas a better place.

After her death in 1975, The Ima Hogg Foundation was the major beneficiary of her will, and carries on her legacy of philanthropy to benefit her beloved state. 

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published best-selling author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference of which she is a director. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 


  1. Thanks for posting! Ms. Hogg sounds like a wonderful person. Thanks for introducing her to us.

    1. She really was, and despite all the jokes about her name, she held her head high and served her state well. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Martha. What an incredible woman - the whole family, actually. That she and her brothers used that money to benefit people is amazing in a world filled with greed. Wonderful, uplifting story!

    1. Yes, she was, and her home is a beautiful museum of what makes Texas a wonderful place to live. Thanks for stopping by.