ima hogg -- 3/16/20

Today's selection -- from Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas by Stephen Harrigan. Ima Hogg and her father, Texas Governor James Hogg:

"It isn't true, as Texas school children have long believed, that Governor James Hogg saddled his two daughters with the names Ima Hogg and Ura Hogg. Not quite true, anyway. There was never a Ura Hogg, but there was an Ima. The governor named his only daughter after the heroine of an epic Civil War poem -- The Fate of Marvin -- written by his older brother. Hogg later claimed that he and his wife, Sallie, 'never noticed the play of her name until it was called to our attention.'

"Ima's grandfather, however, saw the problem as soon as he got word of what the baby was going to be called, and hurried to the Hogg home in the northeastern Texas town of Mineola to put a stop to it. But he got there too late; she had already been christened. Ima Hogg lived until 1975, a renowned philanthropist, art collector, and preservationist. She never married and suffered from time to time with depression, but there is no evidence that she was ever scarred by her name or harbored any resentment toward the man who had given it to her. On the contrary, she worshipped him.

Ima Hogg, c. 1940

"When Ima Hogg was born, her father was a thirty-one-year-old district attorney and rising politician in the Democratic Party, which, after the ouster of E.J. Davis and his Republican regime, was effectively the only political party in Texas. James Hogg's father had served as a brigadier general in the Confederate army and died from dysentery during the siege of Corinth when James was eleven. As a young man, James worked as a typesetter on East Texas newspapers and then as a sharecropping farmer and an employee at a cotton gin. In 1869, he joined in to help subdue a gang of assassins who had ridden into the town of Quitman to kill the sheriff. A few months later, when he was eighteen, the same men lured him to an isolated house across the Sabine and shot him in the back. He lay there bleeding on a bed all night and half the next day. The doctor who finally arrived had no surgical instruments and used a stick to probe the wound, which was perilously near the spine. The doctor finally gave up trying to remove the bullet and went home. Hogg somehow survived, though it took a long time for the wound to heal and for his spirits to rebound.

"He was in a state of deep despondency until one day, while walking alone in the woods, he heard the song of a mockingbird. He was probably not the first Texan to feel restored to life by the piercing, ricocheting musicality of Mimus polyglottos, no doubt part of the reason it became the Texas state bird. (Although that did not happen until 1927, when the legislature declared with unbothered anthropomorphism that the mockingbird 'is a singer of distinctive type, a fighter for the protection of his home, falling, if need be, in its defense, like any True Texan.') Hogg sprang back -- and spread out. ('I have never,' he wrote near the end of his life, 'been willing to stand by and see the spare-ribs, back-bones, sausages, chitlings and sauce, spoil.') At over three hundred pounds, he was corpulent, but also tall and imposing. His big face, made bigger by his receding hairline, was usually clean shaven, but at periods in the 1890s it was obscured beneath an impressive, broom-like beard. He was friendly and unpretentious, a natural campaigner and powerful public speaker. The first Texas governor to be born in Texas, he emerged at a critical time, when the state sat on the hinge of modernity."



Stephen Harrigan


Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas


University of Texas Press Austin


Copyright 2019 Stephen Harrigan


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment