William C. Hogg was born in Quitman, Texas, in 1875, the oldest of James and Sallie Hogg's four children. Since his death in 1930, the Hogg name has come to be associated almost exclusively with his sister Ima Hogg, one of the great Texas philanthropists of the 20th century, and his father James, the 20th governor of Texas.
In his day, however, Will Hogg was a major cultural, political and philanthropic figure. From the top floor of the family’s office building in Houston, which he and his siblings purchased with the oil wealth flowing from their wells in West Columbia, Will oversaw a broad array of businesses, investments, charitable causes, and cultural efforts. In all things he was an enthusiast, a larger-than-life personality who had a genius less for business than for bringing people together around a cause.
As a friend later wrote: “Will’s spacious office, to be sure, was not a place where shrewd, undercover, overreaching trades were executed. Rather it became a mecca to which traveled those who needed help, where worthy causes were aided, where were born many movements for the common good.”
Along with being a ceaselessly generous giver of his own money, Will was known as a tireless and rather assertive fundraiser who would travel across the state with his “Blue Book,” collecting pledges from every man and woman of means who could be flattered, cajoled, charmed, insulted, or threatened into admitting that it was their civic duty to give.
The two most significant vessels of Will’s devotion were the city of Houston and The University of Texas. In Houston he gave to and fundraised for a wide range of institutions including the Houston Club, the YMCA, the Forum of Civics, and the Museum of Fine Arts. He was deeply involved in city planning and beautification efforts, and he gave to the city, at cost, the land that became Memorial Park, as well as a gift of $50,000 in order for the city to buy a contiguous tract. He also gave to the parks and people of Houston thousands of crape myrtle seedlings to plant.
He endowed numerous scholarships and funds for the university, helped found and served as president of the Ex-Students Association (now Texas Exes), and helped launch Alcalde, its alumni magazine. From 1912 to 1917 he was a member of the Board of Regents of The University of Texas.
Hogg’s most significant political fight came in 1917, when Governor James Edward “Pa” Ferguson vetoed the entire legislative appropriation for the university. It was an act of retaliation against the Board of Regents, which had refused to dismiss a number of professors whom the governor found objectionable. Will immediately set up shop in Austin and launched a campaign against the governor, ultimately playing a key role in Ferguson’s impeachment and removal. Although he always refused entreaties to run for office, Will continued to intervene in state and local politics when it seemed as though there was a need.
“Perhaps because of the sincerity of [their father’s] concerns,” notes one biographer, “the Hogg children saw themselves almost as trustees of the wealth that his investments eventually produced, rather than simply the inheritors of a large fortune. They donated much of their money to causes that had been important to their father.”
Will died in 1930 while traveling in Europe with Ima. He was 55. He left nearly all of his money to the State of Texas. It was this bequest, handled jointly by Mike and Ima, that would give birth to the Hogg Foundation for Mental Hygiene. Ima “chose the cause that would … live up to the Hogg family’s long-held ideals.”