Honoring Miss Ima’s 125th Birthday and the Hogg Family Legacy
September 1, 2007
Although described by some as the "First Lady of Texas" and "a Southern lady with Western toughness," most people affectionately referred to her as Miss Ima. The only daughter of Texas' first native-born governor, Miss Ima Hogg would have celebrated her 125th birthday this summer. She was born on July 10, 1882 in Mineola, Texas.
A world-class philanthropist, Miss Ima was responsible for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health's founding and numerous other gifts to the people of Texas over her lifetime.
Concern for the citizens of Texas was instilled in Miss Ima and her three brothers at an early age by their father, Governor James Stephen Hogg. As children, Miss Ima and her older brother, Will, sometimes accompanied their father on political trips. It was during those trips that they visited some of the state's prisons and mental asylums. Those experiences had a lasting impact on Miss Ima and later served as the inspiration for her creating the Hogg Foundation.
When Miss Ima's brother Will Hogg died in 1930, he bequeathed the bulk of his estate to benefit the common good of all or part of Texas. He did not stipulate how the funds should be used, but permitted Miss Ima to decide that mental health would be the focus for both her brother's and her endowments. In 1940, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Hygiene was officially established with Miss Ima's call "to develop a broad mental health program of great benefit to the people of Texas."
Miss Ima's emphasis on mental health, in contrast to mental illness, was a revolutionary concept at the time. She was a strong voice for progress in mental health at a time when few people would even acknowledge the subject. For the rest of her life, she remained involved in the foundation, providing guidance on its activities and direction. Today, the Hogg Foundation's Ima Hogg Endowment is dedicated to funding mental health services for children and families in the Houston area.
In addition to her commitment to mental health, Miss Ima was passionately involved in music, decorative arts and antiques, and historic restoration. Her interest in music began with childhood piano lessons. She studied music at The University of Texas at Austin and continued her studies in New York and Germany. In 1913, she co-founded the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and later served multiple terms as president of the Houston Symphony Society. As a tribute to her memory, the prestigious Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Young Artist Awards are given each year to musicians between the ages of 16 and 25 who play orchestral instruments or piano.
Miss Ima's fondness for decorative arts and antiques began when she purchased her first piece of early American furniture, a chair, in 1920. It was then that she had the idea of collecting American antiques for a museum in Texas. Originally built as a home for Miss Ima and her brothers, Bayou Bend in Houston became the repository of her growing collection.
A granddaughter of one of Miss Ima's friends recently recalled visiting her at Bayou Bend and being exposed to formal, classical gardens for the first time. "I already had an appreciation for gardens, since Mimi's [her grandmother's] garden was beautiful...in a more English cottage fashion," said Betsy McPhaden, a watercolor artist who lives in Seattle. "However Miss Ima's gardens were awe inspiring. There was a long reflecting pool with a statue of the goddess Diana at the end. Fountains along the length of the pool made it truly spectacular. As an adult when I visited the beautiful formal gardens of Europe, I thought back to those lovely grounds at Bayou Bend."
In 1966, Miss Ima dedicated Bayou Bend and the antiques she had acquired over 45 years as a museum and presented them as a gift to the city of Houston.
Throughout her lifetime, Miss Ima restored and donated several other properties to the people of Texas as museums and parks, including the Varner-Hogg Plantation in West Columbia, Governor Hogg State Park in Quitman, Jim Hogg State Park in Rusk, and the Jim Lewis House and surrounding structures at Winedale.
Thirty-two years have passed since Miss Ima died on August 19, 1975, but her legacy lives on in the many gifts she left to the people of Texas.