Unlike some philanthropists, Ima Hogg’s first challenge wasn’t getting rich—it was getting around her comical name. The daughter of the governor of Texas was part of a high-powered family, and never lacked for stature or money, especially when oil was discovered under the family land she had inherited. From a young age, she played a major role in her father’s political and business affairs, and when she became an heiress in 1906 she turned her wealth to philanthropic purposes.
While she is perhaps best known for her work in mental health, she had an equally powerful interest in the arts. She had been a musician herself, having studied in New York, Berlin, and Vienna. She was a key figure in the creation of the Houston Symphony (which played its first concert in 1913). She outdid herself in 1966, though, when she gave her plantation home to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, including its magnificent main building, sprawling gardens, and impressive collection of American furnishings. The property, Bayou Bend, is now the museum’s American decorative arts center, and houses “one of the finest showcases of American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings in the world.” It draws thousands of visitors each year.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, mfah.org
- Virginia Bernhard, Ima Hogg: The Governor’s Daughter (Texas Monthly Press, 1984)