The First Lady of Texas: Ima Hogg

Ima Hogg was born in 1882 to Sarah Ann Stinson and Governor James Stephen Hogg in Mineola, Texas. There is a legend that Ima had a sister named Ura Hogg, but Ima had only three brothers. Ima’s name came from a Civil War poem written by her uncle, Thomas Elisha Hogg. Ima’s beauty outshined all the society women in the State of Texas.

Ima dedicated her life to a patron of the arts and a philanthropist. Ima was absolutely gorgeous. She never married, but received over 40 marriage proposals in her lifetime. Ima’s mother, Sarah Ann “Sallie” Stinson Hogg, was the daughter of future Confederate colonel James Alexander Stinson and Sarah Ann (West) Stinson.

Her father, James Stephen Hogg, the first native governor of Texas, was born near Rusk, Texas, on March 24, 1851. James Hogg attended McKnight School and had private tutoring at home until the Civil War. His father, a brigadier general, died at the head of his command in 1862, and his mother died the following year. James Hogg and two of his brothers were left with two older sisters to run their plantation.

Ima Hogg came from a deeply patriotic family whether their sentiments were intended for the north or the south. Ima grew up privileged, and she used her privilege to add to the culture of the great State of Texas. Ima attended the Coronal Institute in San Marcos, Texas, after her mother died of tuberculosis in 1895, and in 1899 she entered the University of Texas.

Ima began learning to play the piano at age three, and went to New York to study music in 1901. Her father fell ill in 1905 and died in 1906. Ima came home to Texas in 1905 to take care of her father. Ima traveled to Vienna and Berlin to study piano after her father’s death. She moved to Houston when she came home to Texas. She gave piano lessons to gifted students in Houston.

At that time, Ima helped to establish the Houston Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra hosted its first concert in June, 1913. In 1918, Ima spent two years in Philadelphia under the care of a specialist in mental and nervous disorders. Ima was at the forefront of mental health care in her era.

The tide turned in 1920 with oil discovered on the Hogg property near West Columbia, Texas. This made Ima a very wealthy woman. In 1929, Ima founded the Houston Child Guidance Center, an agency that provided therapy and counseling for disturbed children and their families. Ima was a pioneer in mental health therapy.

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health began on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin in September 1940. The initial endowment came from the estate of Will C. Hogg, Ima Hogg’s deceased brother, and her brothers, Thomas Hogg and Mike Hogg, and their wives, played a major role in establishing the foundation under UT's Board of Regents.

Will Hogg's estate provided the initial $2.5 million to establish the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.  As of August 31, 2018, the foundation’s endowments showed a value of $72,999,058 with a market value of $181,024,368. As of August 2018, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health had seventy-eight active grants.

But even with her depression and dealing with of it, Ima did so much more in her life for Texas as a wealthy lady. When you think about Ima, think about the historic properties she gave to the state of Texas, the Varner-Hogg Plantation near West Columbia, the Winedale Museum near Round Top, and her home in Buffalo Bayou in Houston that she gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Ima was a pioneer in race relations way before the 1960s. In 1943, Ima was elected to the Houston School board and used her position to insist that African-American students receive art classes as well as the white students and set up a painting-to-music program in public schools. She advocated for equal pay rates for teachers regardless of gender or race.

Ima knew that the antiques we know of today were going to be of value when they were not antiques. In 1960, President Eisenhower called her to serve on a committee appointed by President Eisenhower for the planning of the National Cultural Center in Washington D.C., which is now the Kennedy Center. In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy asked Ima to serve on an advisory panel to search for historic furniture for the White House.

Ima Hogg: Antique Collector

"From the time I acquired my first Queen Anne armchair in 1920, I had an unaccountable compulsion to make an American collection for some Texas museum."

While sitting for a portrait in the New York studio of Wayman Adams in 1920, Miss Hogg admired a simple armchair belonging to the artist. She was surprised to learn that it was made in colonial America. That chair began Ima’s obsession for collecting American antiques. Ima ended up owning that chair from Adam’s studio almost a half a century later.

The American wing of the Metropolitan Museum opened in New York with a display of American furniture in 1924 thanks to Miss Ima Hogg. Miss Hogg went on to build a decorative arts collection for a Texas museum at a time when there was no art museum in Texas after that opening in New York.

Miss Hogg's "unaccountable compulsion” resulted in one of the nation's finest collections of American decorative arts from the period 1620 to 1870. The Bayou Bend Collection offers a rich overview of the history of American decorative arts. Her collection is also a reflection of Miss Hogg's own impeccable style.

Miss Ima acquired works on paper by German expressionists and other twentieth-century masters, which included works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, works by Russian avant-garde artists of the twentieth century, and pottery and artifacts made by the Native American tribes of the Southwest.

Houston, Texas, is a long, long distance from Texomaland. We have to celebrate our Texas heritage no matter where we live in Texas. Ima Hogg captured and exhibited what Texas was and is. I cannot think of another woman in Texas history who could have exploded with determination to preserve art and mental health like she. Yes, Ima Hogg was privileged, but she used her privilege to enrich us all.

Ima lived in the Bayou Bend area of Houston, which was her home, and which she donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. She donated her home to the museum in 1957, but continued to live there until 1965. Ima quoted, "Bayou Bend may serve as a bridge to bring us closer to the heart of an American heritage which unites us."

When John B. Connally was Governor of Texas, feom 1961 to 1969, his wife Nellie declared, "The Governor's wife is usually called the First Lady of the State, but Ima always has been and always will be the First Lady of Texas".

At the age of ninety-three, Miss Ima Hogg died of complications from a traffic accident while she was vacationing in England. Her funeral was at Bayou Bend. She was buried on August 23 in the Hogg family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin.

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