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March 31 , 2009

James Stephen Hogg

A Biography


No other governor has become so completely identified with Texas and its citizens as Jim Hogg, the first native Texan to hold the state's highest office. His fame was not, however, easily earned. Orphaned at twelve, he worked as farmhand, typesetter, and country editor to finance his study of law, an endeavor that eventually led him into public life. Even before his admission to the bar in 1875 he served as justice of the peace in Wood County. Later, in two terms as district attorney (1881–1885), he proved himself a fearless prosecutor. His growing reputation, with his magnetic personality, brought him the attorney generalship in 1887, and in that office he fulfilled his campaign promises to enforce all laws. During Hogg's tenure, suits brought by his department resulted in the restoration of more than a million acres of state lands held by the railroads. In 1890 Hogg was elected governor. Early the next year he began urging his reform program, the keystone of which was establishment of the Railroad Commission. He also brought about the passage of laws preventing the watering of railroad securities, the indiscriminate issuance of municipal securities, and the establishment of landholding companies. Land ownership by aliens was likewise restricted. Throughout Hogg's public life, from iustice of the peace to governor, he was motivated by his concern for the welfare of the people. Invariably his criterion for evaluation of an issue was the effect of a decision upon the common welfare. In this democratic progressivism he was the Texas version of Thomas Jefferson or Theodore Roosevelt. Molded by his varied experiences, Jim Hogg was a man of many professions—printer, lawyer, politician, statesman, oil magnate. In these relationships he was still a warmly human person, a loving son, brother, husband, father, friend. His ambition to provide abundantly for his family was expansive enough to include all Texans; so his love for "the people" was reiterated in his public benefactions, through which Texans are even today still sharing his wealth. Jim Hogg's varied public life and his heart-warming personal life are dramatically presented in this absorbing biography. In it, the far-sweeping panorama of Texas development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is shown in relation to his dreams and achievements.
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