James Stephen Hogg, the first native Texan to hold the position of state governor, was a unique personality in Texas political history. His individuality and strength of purpose would lead to wide-ranging reform protecting public interests against those of railroads and other corporations.
“Jim” Hogg was born March 24, 1851. His family history in the state dates back to 1839, when his family moved from Alabama to the Republic of Texas, settling in Rusk. He attended McKnight School and had private tutoring at home until the Civil War.
His father, Joseph Lewis Hogg, represented his district in the Eighth Texas Congress and served as a state senator in the First Texas Legislature in 1846. During the Civil War, Joseph served as a brigadier general and died at the head of his command in 1862. His son James became an orphan a year later when his mother passed away.
Unable to maintain the family estate themselves, James and his siblings sought employment wherever they could. It was during this time that James worked as a typesetter at a printing office, eventually working his way to running his own papers in Longview and Quitman from 1871 to 1873. During this period he studied law and was licensed to practice in 1875.
His career as an elected official began with his service as the Texas attorney general in 1886, included his leadership of the Texas Democratic Party from 1887 to 1890, and culminated in his term as Texas governor from 1890 to 1895. In this time James would come to cement his reputation for stirring public addresses, which often advocated on behalf of “the little man” against big railroads, banks, and insurance companies.
James Hogg was also one of the early participants in the Texas oil boom that had begun with the Spindletop oil strike near Beaumont in January 1901. That spring, James purchased 4,600 acres of adjacent land in nearby West Columbia and mineral rights to 15 acres on Spindletop Hill in partnership with James Swayne, a friend and Fort Worth lawyer who had served in the Legislature during James’ governorship. The partners formed the Hogg-Swayne Syndicate, which later became the Texas Company or Texaco. Even as James began to transform his new property, which included a former plantation, into a family home and farm, he continued to believe it contained oil reserves. (This belief would be vindicated in 1917, 11 years after his death, when a large oil strike on the Varner property made the family extremely wealthy.)
James gave up his law practice in Austin and opened a new one in Houston to be closer to home and to his booming new oil partnership. On a return trip from Houston in January 1905, James suffered a serious neck injury in a train accident that would require several surgeries during the next year. On March 3, 1906, Ima entered her father’s bedroom to wake him from a nap for lunch, only to find that he had died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack.
Historians agree that James Hogg had an interest in mental health and illness for several years prior to his term as governor, but the extent of this interest is unclear. During his term he was preoccupied with reforms in the regulation of business and political lobbying. James did not place reform of the mental hospitals on his legislative agenda nor does he appear to have spoken publicly about the subject. It is the belief of writers on the subject that his concerns were shared privately and to a great extent with his daughter, Ima, who would later carry out that interest in the formation of the Hogg Foundation.