This Week in Texas History: Houstonians remember the birth of Ima Hogg, the “First Lady of Texas”

Miss Ima Hogg of Houston, right, as she presented the Hogg Foundation with a book treasured by her late father, former Gov. James S. Hogg, containing marginal notes on mental health in his handwriting on Dec. 14, 1956 in Austin, Texas. At left Dr. Robert L. Sutherland, director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Hygiene, accepts the book for the foundation. (AP Photo/EFK)

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Despite her piggish name, Ima Hogg was anything but, and went on to become one of the most beloved and celebrated women in Texas history.

Born July 10, 1882, in Minneola, Ima was the only daughter of former Texas Governor “Big Jim” Hogg.

She followed in her father’s footsteps of service, becoming one of the leading philanthropists in the state lending her name and family fortune to many artistic and charitable foundations.

Beginning piano lessons at age 3, Hogg’s passion and lifelong interest was music.

Her studies took her to New York, Berlin and Vienna before she moved back to Houston, where she gave private piano lessons and used her family’s wealth to found the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1913.

She served as president of the Houston Symphony Society in 1917 and again in 1946.

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In January 1918, drillers struck oil on property the Hogg family owned in West Columbia, Texas; however, instead of using the find to boost their own considerable wealth, the civic-minded Ima and her three brothers chose to donate the proceeds from the oil toward charities and artistic efforts throughout the state.

That same year, Ima Hogg moved to Philadelphia for treatment of mental health issues. She subsequently poured much of her fortune into research and treatment of mental illness.

In 1929, she founded the Houston Child Guidance Center, a mental health facility for emotionally disturbed and abused children. She also endowed the Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas.

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Thanks to her generosity, much of Hogg’s own personal property belongs to the people of Texas, including her Houston home, Bayou Bend, and its collection of American art to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

She also donated the Varner-Hogg plantation, the source of the family’s oil wealth, to the state.

Ima Hogg passed away from a heart attack on August 19, 1975, at the age of 93.

The Ima Hogg Foundation maintains her legacy of artistic patronage and charitable giving, and her generous spirit lives on in Houstonians today.

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