William S. Bush is a professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. His forthcoming book, “Circuit Riders for Mental Health: The Hogg Foundation and the Transformation for Mental Health in Texas.” The book is an exhaustively researched and revealing look at the history of the Hogg Foundation, with a focus on its first three decades. In this interview, Dr. Bush shares his thoughts on what his history reveals about the Foundation as its evolved over the years, and the inspiration for the title:
The phrase ‘circuit riders’ was actually a nickname that the foundation’s staff gave themselves in the early years, because they likened themselves to the circuit-riding ministers of some of the evangelical denominations of Christianity who, particularly in the 19th century and early-20th century U.S., “rode circuit”–that is, they served multiple communities and congregations, and so they had a regular route or circuit that they took. And the foundation’s staff performed a similar role, particularly in the first decade of the foundation’s existence, when there really weren’t any established agencies or institutions that provided any guidance or expertise on mental health around the state of Texas.
With his colorful recounting of the “circuit riding” of the Hogg Foundation’s early years, Bush makes an important point: that the foundation’s first three decades where dominated by public education and outreach more so than grantmaking. As the foundation continues to experiment with different ways of talking about the urgency of mental health (of which this podcast is one). there is valuable in remembering, and continue to draw inspiration from, the improvisational energy of Hogg’s early days.
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