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Interview with: A.J. Wray
Interviewed by: Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton
Date: December 23, 1980
Archive Number: OH JL24
[00:05] This tape was produced on December 23, 1980 by a volunteer of the Junior League of Houston at the Houston Public Library. It is one of a series on the history of volunteerism in Houston. This series is a segment of the oral history collection in the Houston Metropolitan Archives at the library. The interviewer is Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton. The subject of the interview is Mr. Andrew Jackson Wray.
DKHH: Mr. Wray, this morning we would like to ask you a few things about your background. Where were you born and educated?
AJW: Waco, Texas, January 11, 1900. We moved to Hearne, Texas in 1906 where I began my schooling in the little school there. All of the grades were in one building—small town. Then later on in about the eighth grade, we moved to Palestine, and I was there 6 months (___ ?? 01:18), and finished up the school year. I didn’t take any examinations anywhere, and back to Hearne, and then subsequently to Waco High. I didn’t take any exams at any of the years in high school. Of course, I was moving from one place to another, and I did not finish high school in Waco.
DKHH: Did you go on to college in Texas?
AJW: No, I went to St. Louis and got a job in 1917. I was 17 years old. My father had met with the (s/l reverses ?? 01:56) in the cotton business during World War I. They had five sons. I was the eldest. And I sensed that he was having a bit of a problem, and I had moved around so much that I’d lost interest. But the United States came into the war, and I turned 18 in 1918. So in June, my family had moved to Houston in the meantime. I came home for a visit, and I was so eager to get into the service and get over there to the Huns that I didn’t go back to St. Louis. I resigned my job there, and I met up with some friends here who were going to Southwestern University where they had a Student Army Training Corps, and they suggested that that was the best route to get into the service, and so I went along with them and arranged to take entrance examinations, and they got a blind man to read the papers, and I was admitted and inducted into the Student Army Training Corps.
[03:06] The war was concluded in November, the Armistice. We were discharged formally from the Service on December 15, 1918. So that ended my war service. Subsequent to that, I had innumerable jobs. I hadn’t prepared myself for any career. I worked in the Rio Grande Valley as a cashier for some brush cutters down there and as a bookkeeper for another firm and the time keeper for the Humble Oil while they were building their refineries, as a cost accountant for the Sinclair people, and the Emergency Fleet Corporation before any of this. They were in liquidation because they were building all these wooden ships here. Then for the South Texas Lumber Company up at Curry—a little oil field lumber yard—and eventually went into the insurance business with (Cravens Dargan and Company ?? 04:06) whose office was downtown where the Golf Building is now for $70 a month—not a very large wage.
[04:19] We lived at 2 (s/l Almond Caroline ??) which was in walking distance of town, and so I walked to my work and home. The community was smaller, and most of the people who lived in the south end knew each other. There weren’t many automobiles, and I could never walk all the way to (McGowen ?? 04:40) without someone stopping and offering to give me a lift which I didn’t really want because I liked to walk—I always have. Houston was an ideal community then. It was friendly, not too sophisticated, but we had our cultivated people and our learned people, and of course, Rice University was a great edition—or Rice Institute, as they called it then—to the community.
[05:20] I come from pioneering stock in this state on my mother’s side. My great grandfather and my great, great grandfather came into Texas in covered wagons, and during the days of Republic, settled in central Texas near Fort Gates. I think that’s all you might need to know about me.
DKHH: You mentioned that your family had already moved to Houston.
DKHH: I was wondering why you moved to Houston. Why did they move to Houston?
AJW: Well, my father was so disillusioned with the cotton business, he had established connections with German spinners, and he had cotton on the high seas. He went down with dengue fever on August 1, 1914. He borrowed lots of money on the bill of ladings to ship cotton. And while he was sick, these two little country banks that he owed a lot of money to—the war broke out. The stock exchange is closed. Everything was in a state of confusion. Markets went down. They sold them out. He got sick as a pretty well-to-do young man, and then this catastrophe happened. So he finally gave up the cotton business and moved to Houston and got a job here. Then he thought that his boys could get a better education. As a matter of fact, he had planned to move to Houston before he went broke in the cotton business. He bought a house here on Main Street which was adjacent to where Trinity Episcopal Church is now. As a matter of fact, the church used that house subsequently some. He furnished it with bird’s eye maple furniture from Waddell’s, but this financial debacle, all that went by the boards, so we moved to Houston. I did not go the school in Houston, but in time my brothers did. It was a very happy event for me because this is where I found my darling, Margaret, and we’ve had a very happy life ever since.
DKHH: [07:51] In 1926, you and Ms. Margaret Cullinan were married. Is this correct?
DKHH: During the previous year, she and a small group of other ladies including her sister, Mrs. (s/l Roy Cravens ?? 08:01), had organized The Junior League of Houston. Subsequently, their sister, Ms. Nina Cullinan, was the only lady to serve two terms as president of The Junior League. What are your recollections of this event from the point of view of the husband of the founder of The Junior League?
AJW: Well, I remember eating lunch down in the basement of the Gibraltar Building and Loan when these girls in yellow fox were serving food, and it was un-air-conditioned and hot, and they were perspiring but busy as could be, and we liked eating there. One thing, you mentioned—my sister-in-law, Nina, who was president at the time The Junior League’s building was built out adjacent to Courtlandt Place. When I was going to marry Margaret, her father called me down to the office and gave me a deed to that lot and a check for $12,000 to build a house on it, and I was ignorant and poor and a proud country boy, and we didn’t accept these gratuities from our parents and grandparents in those days like we do now. It’s sort of essential. So I declined with as much grace as I could and hoped that he would understand why that was not the way I wanted to start. So he destroyed the deed and tore up the check—or cancelled it. Subsequently when Nina and the league were interested in a building, why he still had the lot which he had no use for. He had bought it before he planned Shadyside thinking he might build there in the Courtlandt area. And so the league is somewhat indebted to me for being a proud country boy, I suppose.
DKHH: [10:02] Do you recall the attitudes of the Houston business community toward charity generally and toward the efforts of The Junior League at that time? How was this new organization perceived by the business community?
AJW: I could only surmise on that because at the level I was working, I was not privy to the councils of most of the business people. Actually, I don’t think they paid much attention to it because this was before the days of mini corporations. Most individual—most developers or people who were building businesses were individuals who put their own money in and who persuaded others to put money in, and credit wasn’t as easy to come by in the old days as it is now. And you had Jesse Jones with his empire, and various and sundry other people around town who were developing things, and I think they were so busy with their own show that I doubt that the league made much of an impact. I think they probably thought it was all right for these social girls who didn’t have a need to work—I mean to do some community service. But it has certainly grown into a rather significant part of our Houston operation.
DKHH: When did you first meet Mr. Joseph Cullinan?
AJW: Well, sometime after I met his daughter. (laughs)
DKHH: How did you meet Mrs. Wray?
AJW: Well, I had a—she had a friend, (s/l Katie Ruth Stricker ?? 12:15), who was a rather brash, aggressive woman in promoting social events. The American Republics Corporation, of which Mr. Cullinan was a principle owner of and president, had a fine yacht, the (s/l Minerva ?? 12:33), and he had a farm down at the ship channel, where Santa Anna was captured, with a large 2-story farm house. Katie Ruth was not a girl to overlook the possibility of a pleasant weekend on the yacht going down to the farm and so on, and she persuaded Margaret to secure permission to use the boat which she was reluctant to do and invited me along with other boys and girls to go. I had never met Margaret, and as a matter of fact she had a date with a very fine young man, a football player from Rice, named (s/l Russell Duggan ?? 13:17). I’m not sure that I had a date, but someone at the farm house started a silly game. They played several silly games. I mean (s/l Smut Your Face, Sit in The Circle ?? 13:35), or something like that. And then someone thought it’d be nice to play Post Office. So I observed Margaret’s date walking toward her wanting to play Post Office—they’ve got to kiss—and she was backing away until she was in the corner of the room, and I could see by looking that she was not being coy. She definitely did not expect to or want to be playing this game. So it was none of my business, but I just walked over and caught Duggan by the arm and said, “Leave her alone,” which he resented very much. But we bristled each other like dogs will all during the overnight weekend and on the boat coming back, but nothing else came of that.
[14:37] And then subsequently, I was walking down Main Street going home from work, and Margaret came by and stopped and asked if she could give me a lift, and I said, “Fine.”
And she said, “Do you want to go directly home or would you like to ride around through the park or something?”
I said, “Well, I think it’d be nice to ride around through the park.”
And she had two Irish Terrier dogs. She’s always been very fond of dogs. And as we were leaving Hermann Park in a wooded area, I smelled the foulest smell. I thought it was her dogs, and I said, “Your dogs need a bath.”
She was outraged and furious. It happens that we were passing a pig farm, and the pigs were in the trees, and that was where the odor came from. So our first meeting really wasn’t one that ended on an enchanting note because she really didn’t care for anybody that would pick on her dogs.
But subsequent to that, I liked her very much. She was a beautiful, lovely, witty, Irish gal and so full of fun, and I have—she said—always had pretty large grammar—pretty large words and vocabulary but very poor grammar. So she’s always enjoyed puncturing balloons—you know—my flights of fancy. But I think we had a very—this happens in most cases—I think a very genuine rapport and feeling for each other in interests from the beginning. We courted. I was travelling by that time and was away from town a good bit, but when I came in town, I usually called her up for a date. And then the Christmas holidays and dances came on, why my card was placed in hers and vice versa, and we (___ ?? 16:51), and this thing developed to where I proposed, and she was agreeable, but she said I would have to get her father’s permission, and I asked whether—
Am I talking too much about these things?
DKHH: That’s fine.
AJW: [17:08] Whether I should go down to the office, make an appointment, and ask his permission. “No,” she said, “that’s not the way we do it. Mother will tell us.” And so a couple of months later, I was invited to the house for dinner, and she said, “Tonight’s the night.”
And so after dinner, her father always went in the library. He was a great reader—a voracious reader—and had the greatest intellectual curiosity that I’ve ever known. As a matter of fact, travelling business men in those days had code names, and when he left town, he was always going to X—you never knew. It was secretive about where they were going. His code name was Curious which he had. He spawned an imagination. He spawned ideas just like a fish would with eggs. Amazing man! And so anyway, after dinner, I asked her when, and she said, “Well, when we leave the house.” So she and her sisters and her mother called a chauffeur and went for a ride. I don’t know why. It was a big house.
[18:25] But I walked into the library, and Mr. Cullinan put his book down, and I decided I wouldn’t ask his permission. I would handle it this way. I said, “Your daughter Margaret and I have been seeing each other a great deal over the last few years, so much so in fact that we know we’re in love, and we have decided to get married. And naturally, we very much desire your approval.” And he asked me about five or six questions, all of which were very pertinent. One had involved health. That’s the first question. And I said, “Well, I think I’m in good health. I’ll be glad to give you a doctor certificate.”
And he said, “That’s not what I mean. Some families have genetic weaknesses, that they may have diabetes or this and that, that’s transmitted.” And he said, “I would really not want my daughter to marry a family that was transmitting illnesses of this kind if it could be avoided.”
And I thought that made sense, and I said, “As far as I knew, we were pretty clean on that score.”
And so the interview didn’t last long, and he didn’t ask me to sit down.
DKHH: Can you tell me some of the other questions?
DKHH: What were some of the other questions?
AJW: [19:53] Oh, I had four young brothers. I had been helping them when one was at Rice and one was at the University and another one at Southwestern, and I’d been sending them a little money because I was single and could afford it. Apparently he knew a hell of a lot more about me than I thought he did, and he asked me if my brothers and family were in a position to dispense. He said, “You’ve been helping out?”
And I said, “Yes.”
“Are they in a position to dispense with your aid?”
And I said, “Well, of course. It was a voluntary thing. They’ll make out all right.” And I said, “If you’d like me to go into my financial affairs, what I make and so on,” I said, “Margaret and I worked that out. We feel that we are self-sufficient.”
He said, “No, no, no. Your financial affairs are yours.” He said, “I have no reason to (s/l perk ?? 20:44) in. It’s entirely all right.”
I don’t really recall many of them except that I never forgot the health thing. He was a man of intense feeling and sentiment, and as I sensed—I lived in the house for a year on one occasion in another period—most graceful man. He had real (s/l aesthete ?? 21:17) in everything he did. He smoked cigars, but the way he would take a cigar and snip the end of it. He was not a wet smoker. He (___ ?? 21:27) would chew cigars and so on. He was so graceful in everything he did.
So I’m probably rambling on too much, but—
DKHH: No, we’d like to know the personal side of Mr. Cullinan.
DKHH: What he was like personally.
AJW: To begin with, he was a powerful man physically—had tremendous drive and energy. And the first time I saw him though I didn’t meet him—I saw this man striding down Main Street before I’d ever met Margaret. I had no idea who he was. It was summertime. He had a Stiff Straw on or a Panama, I forget which. But the boldness, that stride, and that man and his courage, it attracted me so that I just wondered who that man could be because he just had that manner and courage. He was a natural leader as you’ve seen in the book and other things. When they had the big fire at Beaumont in the oil fields, he became the man who organized the fight and burned his eyes and just took charge. He was a take-charge man. When he sensed that they needed an intercoastal canal and C. S. E. Holland, who was with the bank here, was interested in it, and a man named Miller, I think, from Corpus Christi, and Mr. Cullinan got Goethals, who had done the Panama Canal, here, and they had a meeting and wondered what a preliminary survey would cost, and Goethals said, “$30,000” he estimated.
[23:17] And Mr. Cullinan said, “I will give it” and then went on to make plans from there. And that was the way he was. He didn’t say, “I’ll pass the hat.” He just said, “I will give it.” And so he was a key man in the initial beginnings of the Panama Canal—I mean of the Intercoastal Canal which has been a very useful thing in the Gulf Coast.
He was president of the local Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Chamber of Commerce and was interested in the Arts and the Humanities and things and as a matter of fact was one of the people who resurrected in 1936 the Philosophical Society of Texas. In Dallas, they met in December and decided to organize and have their first meeting at his invitation in Houston at the Rice Hotel because that was the site of the original capital, and he was to be the host, but he died in March of 1937, so he never attended the first meeting.
Almost anything that was worthwhile—he was an early conservationist when they were building a refinery down in the ship channel for one of his companies. There were some selected huge trees along the bayou. Engineers inclined to just clean things out, so they just swept—cut down all the trees. There were several that he admired, a great Cyprus and a great Pine tree that—it offended him so that he fired the engineers because he said, “It took God over 100 years to grow those trees, and any damn fool could cut them down in a jiffy.” So in every sense of the word, he had a feeling for the environment, and the story on Shadyside is pretty good evidence of that because when he wanted to build himself a new house—they lived on Rusk and Crawford—he wanted to create an environment, not just go out as most people were doing in those days and just build a house. Courtlandt Place had been conceived as a little exclusive residential enclave, and he may have gotten some idea from that. But he was looking for the proper location. And with Rice University having come into existence—that he’d understood that Hermann was planning the park thing, but they had land on this side of the street, too. He began negotiations with Hermann to buy this property, which he was successful in after Hermann died. Mr. (s/l Satigus ?? 26:18) knew that the negotiations were going on and followed through with it.
[26:18] Then he hired Hare and Hare who sent (s/l Kip ?? 26:28) down here to lay this thing out attractively. And as a private edition owning the streets and the utilities and having good sized lots so that he not only would have an attractive place for his own house, but that he would have neighbors that were congenial and who would build comparable houses. So the story of Shadyside was pretty well told from then on. It still is a private edition, and the old home was torn down after we won some litigation on the restrictions, and it’s been given to Rice as you probably know, and it’s now a bird refuge.
And I don’t know whether you’ve ever read Mr. (s/l Sels’ ?? 27:26) little booklet on Mr. Cullinan and The Birds of Shadyside. You have that, don’t you? Well, Lucy has it. It’s worth reading because Sels knew him personally and knew a side of him that would not be readily apparent to people in the business community. Mr. Cullinan fed the birds. He walked around his property in the morning and in the evenings, and he enjoyed the migrations. He had a Japanese gardener that planted things that the birds could eat, and he fed them. When he moved here, he still had horses and buggies as well as automobiles, so he built stables and had horses also and then the garage. So it was a magnificent property, one of the great houses he’s ever built here—three stories, many rooms, and built of reinforced steel concrete. It took Olshan about 5 months to knock it down it was so sturdily built. Mr. Cullinan said he was going to build it to last 1000 years—or 2000. But it wasn’t to be, and I think it’s unfortunate that a property like that disappeared. On the other hand, I have the greatest affection for Oveta. At the time, the governor died, and she couldn’t handle that big thing alone, and there wasn’t a ready market as there is now moneywise for people who would want to maintain that many acres of grounds and a three-story house and all. So to save taxes, she just knocked it down. So I mean we have no feeling about that. It was her property and so on. And now we enjoy the fact that it’s a bird refuge and I can look over there—very few people can—and say, “Well, 56 or 57 years ago, I used to court a black-headed Irish gal.”
But I’ve never known a man who set a higher standard in principle for himself than Mr. Cullinan did. He didn’t necessarily require it of others, but he was a man of greatest property. And I remember his saying to me he wants to give me some advice, “Meet all obligations promptly and in full whether made wisely or unwisely.” There are times when people are going to practice a little fraud on you or you’ll get yourself into a situation that wasn’t as you thought it might be, and you might have an out, but he never welched on anything. He just paid off and went on down the road.
And mentioning the Klu Klux Klan, he sensed immediately that that was un-American, it was a vicious thing, and he—
DKHH: [30:39] Can you tell us a little bit about the Ku Klux Klan in Houston? What exactly led to the—
DKHH: Can you tell us a little bit about the Ku Klux Klan in Houston? When did it—
AJW: Well, the Ku Klux Klan really got going in Texas in 1920. Some of the leading citizens in this town were in it, and it swept through Texas just like a fire, a prairie fire. (inaudible)
DKHH: [31:31] Mr. Wray, you have just started talking about the Ku Klux Klan and its role in Texas politics.
DKHH: Can you elaborate on Mr. Cullinan’s attitude toward this organization and any role that he may have played one way or the other?
AJW: Yes, I can. He was a leading force financially and otherwise in opposing the Klan as a very vicious, un-American movement. He saw no place for it in modern times. But it caught on so all over the state so that we were electing, as we did, Senator Mayfield—a Ku Klux—ran on a Ku Klux platform and ticket. Actually a great many, very decent, fine citizens somehow or another got intrigued with the Klan idea. I believe there must have been—during the Civil War—a reason for it because the South was terribly mistreated after the war, and I guess that sort of captured their imagination. I don’t know. But it is usually movements of this kind that got out of hand. We had vigilante groups—hooded groups—going around tarring and feathering people and in various and sundry ways taking charge of the community—not the regular law enforcement people. And it offended Mr. Cullinan’s sense of justice. He was a great patriot. No one thought more of the state of Texas than he did and was prouder of his heritage. He didn’t think it had any place here.
So he financed periodicals, papers, anybody who would oppose the thing and backed George Peddy to run as a Republican against Mayfield on a Ku Klux ticket. Peddy was defeated, but Mr. Cullinan played an important part in helping expose the Klan for what it meant in modern times. He was threatened. He was called the Pope’s paymaster in Texas. He was not affiliated with the church. It was his sense of—because they were really biased against the Catholic Church and against the Jews and against the Negros and against anybody that they thought needed a little discipline. So he was threatened, and he bought a machine gun and had other arms at his house—didn’t hire any guards—so that he’d be prepared in case somebody came after him—so much for that.
DKHH: [34:30] Mr. Wray, I would like to get back to Mr. Cullinan’s philanthropy over the years. As you mentioned earlier, he gave the first Junior League building at 500 Stuart Street in 1927. In 1917, he and the Hermann Hospital Estate had donated land for the Museum of Fine Arts. It has been said that Houston’s business mentality influenced even its most civic-minded citizens and gave their efforts a peculiarly entrepreneurial quality. Can you comment on Mr. Cullinan’s philanthropic efforts in this light?
AJW: Well, the most significant thing was he supported everything in the community that had any merit, but he discovered—began to reflect on the fact that a Negro ill could receive charitable treatment, free hospitalization, and be treated by a white doctor, but that no professional black doctor—or man or woman for that matter, nurse—could work in a white hospital, and all of the hospitals were generated by the Methodist Church or the Baptist Church, and they were white. He thought the Negro should have an opportunity to grow and develop and he should be as proud of his heritage as Mr. Cullinan was of being an Irishman. He was not by any means an integrationist. I don’t know that he would have opposed it necessarily. But he—in 1923—I think it was or along thereabouts in the early ‘20s—he built the Houston Negro Hospital and endowed it when he died with an eighth of his estate, which was a substantial sum, for maintenance. He did not build this as a charitable hospital. He knew that they could get charity in the other hospitals, but it was to be a totally and entirely staffed. You see a Negro surgeon in those days—he couldn’t afford an office and all of the equipment that goes along with a sanitary or a sterile surgery. He had to do it in the back office of his room of his house or something. They didn’t have the facilities. Mr. Cullinan provided them in the Houston Negro Hospital with a modern facility for practice, and he initiated what is very generally done now a hospitalization plan so that Negro families who—and it was only for Negros who desired to avail themselves of this facility—would pay so much a week or a month—I don’t know the time—into this fund so that they would be accepted into the hospital and have their illness taken care of.
Some years after his death—of course, he provided also that none of the endowment funds could be used for operating deficits or expenses. It could only be used to maintain the present buildings or to build new ones as they were needed. He wanted the Negros to be responsible for the operating fiscal responsibility of the thing. But subsequently when we came out with Hill-Burton funds—and they were only available to hospitals who were integrated—the board then constituted—went to court and broke the provisions of the Will—the family didn’t oppose it—so that the funds could be used for operating deficits and of course changed the provision that it would only be available to blacks. And then, I guess, because of the new sensitivity in the black community as they now call it, they changed the name to Riverside Hospital. But Mr. Cullinan had a high regard for Negros, and I’m sure that this happened after his death that he wouldn’t have been particularly pleased at the window dressing. Why shouldn’t they call it The Negro Hospital? But anyway, it’s done.
DKHH: [39:38] Mr. Cullinan’s interest in making the Negros assume the responsibility for running the hospital—
AJW: For their own growth and development and in particular so in this hospital, because there was a—he thought they should develop their own professional skills and be able to serve—and no doubt about the unfairness of the thing. I don’t care how qualified a black surgeon or physician might be, he couldn’t practice in any of the hospitals here.
DKHH: This attitude is reminiscent of an attitude which was expressed by his friend, Mr. Will Hogg, who evidently insisted on instilling a business mentality in the organization of the charitable causes which he gave to, and Mr. Hog, when he was soliciting money for an organization such as a home for disadvantaged boys, for example, referred to his philanthropy as preventive philanthropy. It sounds as if Mr. Hogg and Mr. Cullinan thought similarly.
AJW: Well, frankly I wasn’t there, and this may be presumptuous, but I have always felt that Will Hogg lit his candle from Mr. Cullinan, that Mr. Cullinan’s conception of so many things—because Will Hogg worked for him in The Texas Company and then was in the Organization of the Fidelity Trust and the American Republics. And when Mr. Cullinan lost his proxy in The Texas Company, Will Hogg who was a lawyer with The Texas Company and T. P. Lee who was field superintendant and Woodward who was foreman at (___ ?? 42:09) Lake quit The Texas Company and then came over to Mr. Cullinan’s office in the Carter Building and said, “Boss, what do we do now?”
And he said, “Well, I hadn’t planned on doing anything. Why don’t you stay where you are? You’re with a good company and so on.”
And they said, “We’ve quit.”
So he formed—he had a pixie sense of humor. He said, “Why don’t we just start a little oil company, and we’ll call it the Farmers Petroleum Company, and we’ll capitalize it for $50,000 and let you all have $5,000 stock (___ ?? 42:47)?”
[42:47] And they said they didn’t have the money.
“I’ll take your note,” which he did, and then he put Mrs. Autry and Mrs. (s/l Shaw ?? 42:56)—he was the guardian and executor of their estates—in there also for that amount. And their first venture was at ol’ Humble, and they struck a deeper fine-producing sand, and the company prospered enormously from the beginning. And all of this is a matter of record in various and sundry places.
Will Hogg, who died too young really, was an enormously valuable citizen and who had a capacity of organizing and brow beating people actually into doing things. He made a good bit of money out of the American Republics—or they kept changing the name from Farmers Petroleum to Republic Production. And then Mr. Cullinan made a deal with The Southwest Land Development Company to buy half (___ ?? 44:03) interest in 850,000 acres of cutover timberlands. And their first venture there was at Haw, Texas, and they discovered the (s/l Dolbear Field ?? 44:13) which was an enormously prolific and productive field, so that that gave Hogg some money. But then subsequently the old plantation they found (s/l oil on West Columbia ?? 44:26) so that he had ample funds, and he certainly was a benevolent, wise and vigorous contributor to everything that was worthwhile. He had vision. But I really think, knowing Mr. Cullinan as well as I did, I see so much in what Hogg was doing that I think that the original root or spring was from his association because he was in the house a lot. He was a social friend. He had great affection for Mr. Cullinan and vice versa. They had their differences later.
DKHH: [45:27] Mr. Wray, Mr. Hog is quoted as having said, “The government made a mistake originally in not reserving for its own use all the wealth under the soil. What I don’t pay back in taxes on the oil that should not have been mine, I’m glad to give away in Welfare.” Do you recall this philosophy of Mr. Hogg’s? And can you comment on how Mr. Cullinan might have viewed that philosophy?
AJW: Well, Mr. Cullinan would not have agreed with him at all. He believed in private ownership of wealth. And without detracting from Will Hogg because every man has a reason for his viewpoint— He was a bachelor. He had no children. He had no nieces or nephews. Miss Ima was a maiden lady. She had no children, and Mike didn’t. And they had this money flow in—no effort. That doesn’t alter the fact that he was generous to his friends, that he had vision about what ought to happen in the community. He was a strong supporter of education, but I have discovered that people who simply do not have any heirs have a much broader feeling about distributing the wealth that they’ve inherited or that came in the door than people who do have. And you know, in Plato’s New Republic, the efforts of man to govern themselves, to secure the fruits of their labor, and so on, have been attended usually with frustration and failure. So his plan was that you’d start at seven training people to become the ruling class, and you would have certain periods where you’d bring them on, and then ultimately I think they had to be 35 years old before they moved into actual authority. The Catholic Church picked this up. They couldn’t marry. They couldn’t own property because once a man has progeny and has ownership of property, that old greed—you know—is apt to be with you always.
[48:05] So I said I am never terribly impressed with a man who’s living it up and indulging himself and living in splendor and traveling and doing whatever he wants to, drinking the whiskey and making noise, when he decides suddenly the big heart beat that he’s going to take care of the world because I’ve just lived long enough to observe that the thing that keeps a society going is seceding generations. I have also observed that without the right to own and have reasonable use of private property, you do not have a good society, people do not have the freedoms in other respects that they need, but I don’t want to get off into that.
What else? Are you talking about the people here in Shadyside?
DKHH: I have to ask you some questions about some of the people whom you would have known well, some who lived in Shadyside, some who did not. One who did not is Miss Ima Hogg. You served on some boards with her?
AJW: Yes, primarily the—well, she was a long-time friend of the family’s. So through that connection, I knew her very well. We were in her home a number of times, particularly when I was drinking, and she never served any liquor. And then after I quit drinking, the first time I went there, she was serving Old Fashions, so we could have quite a get-together on this thing. But she was concerned about her brother’s drinking. This is after both of them had passed. So then she decided that maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to have a little of the Joy Juice. She was a magnificent woman and clear-headed and I like to say like a man except that she was all feminine, and I think it’s ridiculous to say that a woman who thinks straight and intelligently and clearly is thinking like a man because that isn’t necessarily so. She was thinking as a woman, a big-hearted woman. But in raising this money, we didn’t organize and hire professionals in those days, and I was having some difficulty, and I had to the—
DKHH: And you were raising money for what?
AJW: [50:40] For the Child Guidance Center’s move into the (s/l Dillingham ?? 50:44) Home to convert it. We needed about $140,000 or $150,000. And she contributed $18,000 right off herself and said she’d like to give more, but she was giving in so many directions. I asked the MD Anderson Foundation for some money. I thought this should fit into their program, and they received me very graciously but declined to give anything, and I so reported that to Miss Ima, and she wrote a letter to Judge Freeman and Bates and the others in that foundation. It was a masterpiece, and she scolded them, and they came through with $25,000. So Miss Ima was an effective woman, too. I happened to be in Round Top, where it was her 90th birthday—I think it was—where they were celebrating it at the Stagecoach Inn thing that she had been responsibility for. There were other speakers. It had been a long day, and I’m sure it must have been 10 o’clock at night when Miss Ima rose to respond, and she talked for 30 or 40 minutes without notes—clear voice. You could hear her all over the place—mind and thoughts well organized to the point, and it was thrilling. She’s a great woman.
DKHH: Mr. Wray, among your neighbors in Shadyside for many years have been Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lee Blaffer?
DKHH: And Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Farish?
DKHH: Mr. and Mrs. Harry Wiess?
DKHH: What were they like as people starting with Mr. Blaffer?
AJW: I really knew Mr. Blaffer less well than any of them. He took a walk every evening after dinner through Shadyside, and I used to do the same thing occasionally and meet up with him. In the Humble—the original Humble group—I don’t know whether he was the treasurer or not, but he was known as the nickel biter because the others wanted to spend money to do things—you have to. But before they finally committed themselves, they’d always run it by Mr. Blaffer, and he would criticize it, not necessarily unconstructively, but I mean he always looked for the flaw or the possible reason why it shouldn’t be done. So he was a counterbalance in that respect but a man of solid virtues and a no-nonsense type of man married to this exciting woman, Sadie, who entertained a lot. There again, she loved candle light and low light, you know, though we had electricity here. Will Hogg arrived at one of her dinner parties with a little pickaninny with a lantern leading him in because he didn’t think her house was well enough lighted. But we were at their house, their home, a great many times for dinner. And after Lee died, too young as a matter of fact, so many times after, well then she was a great hostess.
[54:52] Harry Wiess was my very close buddy. We played tennis together. We had the Shadyside Tennis Club which was on the old Cullinan property, and Harry was a steady. We played two or three times a week, always on Sunday morning and Saturday afternoon. We had my brother-in-law, Craig Cullinan, and D. D. Peyton also was a tennis player and Hugo Neuhaus and then Malcolm Lovett and Brown and Jim Baker who lived nearby and Bill Kirkland who at that time lived on (___ ?? 55:28) also. So we had about 20 people including Bishop Quinn—he didn’t come on Sundays—but who played with us. And somebody had to manage the thing, so I was called the King. But Harry was a scientist. He was better educated than any of them. He was meticulous in detail. When he was president of the Humble, he would go down on Sunday and do some work, and then he would come trotting in his shorts out on the court when everybody else had played and was ready to go home and plead with us to play a little more, which we did. After that, we usually wound up at his house for a rum cocktail or something, and the Wiesses set a standard for entertaining in an excellent and exquisite way that I don’t think has ever been attained in this town. I mean they had the most beautiful parties—dinner parties of the right size. It was never a gang. And those girls—when they made their debut, he always had the dance and the party at home. He built a pavilion with tents and even in wintertime, steam heat, hired the best bands. The weddings—the same way. But Olga was—and Harry had a feeling for it too. They were just people of great good taste, and we were fortunate living near them and being close to be there on all of those occasions. I was terribly distressed, all of us were, when Harry died too young of cancer.
DKHH: How old was he?
AJW: [57:31] I guess he was in his 50s. He was older than I was.
Mr. Farish, I knew less well because he went on to New York to head up the Jersey Company. And for a great many years—his last years, he was there and not here. But his son, young Billy, I was devoted to, and Miss Libbie was one of the world’s greatest darlings. There never was a kinder, sweeter, more gentle woman in the world than Miss Libbie. We saw a lot of her. Mr. Farish was a man of real vision and drive, and when they made their deal with the Jersey Company—of course, they had a bank behind them—they had plenty of money. But he knew that with all of the independent or the lease brokers that were around trying to tie stuff up, they didn’t have much money and they had to peddle those leases to some major oil company. Mr. Farish said, “These people need an immediate answer.” In other words, they went to the Gulf. They’d look it over, and if they thought well enough of it, they’d send it to Pittsburg. You might have to wait 2 weeks, which is a long time for a fellow who hasn’t got money to play around with, and the same thing was true of the Texas Company and other companies here. But the word got around that you could take something into the Humble at 10 o’clock in the morning, and you’d have an answer by 3—yes or no. So what happened? Everybody beat a path to the Humble’s store, and they had a first look at anything that might interest them. That’s just one (s/l innovation ?? 59:30) that I know of.
DKHH: [59:31] Was that Mr. Farish?
AJW: Farish, yes. But Harry’s field was really the chemical and the refining end of the thing.
DKHH: This is Mr. Wiess?
AJW: Yes. Mr. Farish was the producer—the develop-exploration head. But Harry was the man who rode (s/l herd ?? 59:55) on and who principally directed the building of the refinery and so on. As a side light, which I think is interesting on Jesse Jones because everybody knows most about Mr. Jones as a developer and real estate man and so on, but I don’t think many people knew this. Harry was one of three men who were head of the Rubber Reserve Corporation, which was a government defense corporation subsidiary thing making butyl and butadiene out of synthetic rubber.
DKHH: This was during the war?
AJW: Yes. Called on Mr. Jones and wanted to come in as a committee of three and talk to him, and Mr. Jones said, “No, Harry. You come in one at a time.”
And Harry said, “Well, that just uses up more of your time.”
“No, it doesn’t,” he said, “I’m not too quick about picking things up.” And he said, “I find if I have two or three people in my office, one of them will horn in and another one will talk about this and that, I get confused. In addition to that, if I make some off-handed remark that on a deliberation I might not have wanted to make, then I’ve got somebody there to corroborate with another one that I did it.” So he said, “It’s my policy that I will not deal with a committee. I will deal with a person, one at a time, eyeball to eyeball.” And that’s the way he did it, and he was a pretty savvy fellow for doing that. He did a marvelous job with the RFC. There were some shady points in his operations, but I think we owe him a great debt for his handling of the RFC.
[1:02:07] Jack (s/l Roddy), who lived next door, is one of the most amusing, witty, entertaining Irishman that ever lived. I always enjoyed being in his house.
Mr. Heitmann, though a much older man, and my father-in-law had the same birthday, New Year’s Eve. So always on New Year’s Eve, we were with Mr. Cullinan, and earlier in the day, Mr. Heitmann would come over and pay his respects to Mr. Cullinan. And then later in the day, Mr. Cullinan would walk over to Mr. Heitmann’s to pay his respects, and I was always present.
[tape ends] 1:02:44
DKHH: [00:07] All right, Mr. Wray, you were talking about Mr. Heitmann?
AJW: Yes. Who lived into is 90s, a very vigorous man, who had been known to have fast race horses and buggy horses in the early days. He was very careful and frugal with his money. He would not have a chauffeur. And so many mornings, I’d pick him up—he’s waiting for a bus—and drive him down to the Heitmann Hardware Company where he held forth. He would not have a telephone on his desk. He had it in a booth in his corner of his office, and when he was called to the phone, he wanted to know who it was. If he didn’t want to talk to them, he refused to talk. If he wanted to talk to them, he went in the booth and closed the door and talked. So as a matter of fact, on that chauffeur business, Governor Hobby, who was a fascinating man—enormous wit—and the wisest politician I ever knew. I mean one of the rich experiences in my life was having him live across the street. When Oveta was in Washington, he used to come trotting over here whenever he could see the lights on for a little Scotch and Soda and say, “Neighbor, can I have a little drink?” So I thoroughly enjoyed his company.
He got awful tired of Raymond Dixon who—I wish somebody could have taped Dixon’s stories about all these people. He was associated with Will and Mike Hogg as a partner and all that. But Raymond always wanted to talk about old times, and Governor Hobby was a man who always looked to tomorrow. He didn’t want to bother with that old business. But among other things, he never learned to drive an automobile, and he said, “I’ve been poor most of my life and livin’ on borrowed money, but I decided I wasn’t going to fool driving one of those infernal machines.” He’d never shave himself. So his driver would pick him up, take him to the Houston Club where the barber was waiting, and he’d get in the chair. He said, “I have a time to think while I’m being driven and while I’m under the hot towel, and I’m in no hurry to do anything.” And I thought that was a pretty interesting thing.
[02:46] In those days, the Neuhauses—there were four boys and one girl. The (s/l Likes ?? 02:56) had five. Henry Stude had two. The Wiesses had three girls. Heitmann had a boy and a girl. D. D. Peyton had three children, Jack Roddy had two, my brother-in-law, Craig Cullinan, had three. The (s/l Wommacks) had a boy. Judge Moore had three sons, and Smith had a boy and a girl. And this was the liveliest, most charming community. Everyone—the neighbors were all friends. They entertained each other. The children were friends. This lot that we have, lot K, Mr. Cullinan had had I think originally for his son, Jack, who died immediately after the war. It was a playground for the neighborhood children. They had their baseball diamond and so on, and they were all a little bit upset when Margaret and I acquired it and built the house in the late ‘30s.
DKHH: Now you’re talking about the Shadyside community here?
AJW: Yeah. So it’s changed now, but it’s been our courting place and our home for 58 years. As a matter of fact, we were staying at the big house—this is after Mrs. Cullinan was killed in an automobile accident—then Lucy was born, and it was on a Saturday. I had had lunch with Margaret at the house, and then she was going to take a nap while I played tennis. And we had Harry Wiess and Hugo and Craig and all playing tennis. I dressed on the third floor where there were two bedrooms and I kept my tennis things and so on. So I went up and showered and dressed and came downstairs, and I noticed the door open to the room Margaret and I occupied, and she wasn’t there. And I asked Mina the maid where she was. She said, “Well, she called her chauffeur, Howard, and went to the hospital. And it occurred to me she was probably going to have a baby. So I rushed out to the Hermann Hospital about 5:30, and by the time I got there, the baby had been born, was in bed with Margaret, and I was terribly disillusioned and disappointed because I expected—friends telling me it’ll come at 2 o’clock in the morning and this or that’ll happen. And here—that’s typical of Margaret all her life. I said, “Why didn’t you send word?”
She said, “Why, I can’t think of anything that’d cheer me more than you’re out there enjoying your tennis game while I’m doing this. You couldn’t do anything about it.” And that’s the way she’s been all her life.
DKHH: Mr. Wray, you knew Mr. John Henry Kirby?
AJW: [05:47] Yes. Well, John Henry Kirby was a big man, a good-looking man, and he had great vision in doing things. He was a poor financial manager. He didn’t realize that you sometimes had to pay this money back, but the thing is he was an achiever and a doer. I always thought this remark by a bootblack in Beaumont typified John Henry Kirby more than anything I ever heard seems that a stranger in Beaumont sitting getting his shoes shined in the barber shop. When Mr. Kirby walked in—he usually wore a rose flower in his button hole. He was a big, handsome fellow. The stranger realized from the way the barbershop picked up that this was a man of some consequence. So he said to the bootblack, “Who is that fella?”
And the bootblack popped his shine cloth a couple times, and he said, “That’s John Henry Kirby, and when he crows, it’s daylight all over east Texas.” (laughs) What I mean is when John Henry Kirby crows, it was daylight all over east Texas.
And Jesse (s/l Car ?? 07:15)—Jesse Jones, always had one (___ ?? 07:17) on his desk. It’s an old German thing. They got too soon old and too late smart, and that’s the truth.
DKHH: Did you know Mr. Cullen?
AJW: Roy? Yes. Pretty well. We both like good cigars. And as someone remarked once to Bishop Quinn when Cullen was giving all this money—a million to this hospital, a million to that, and so on—he said, “Well, you’ve got your money. A fellow’s got all that money.” He said, “It didn’t mean anything to him. He just—afford to do it.” Bishop Quinn said, “I want to tell you something about Roy Cullen. I’ve been in the church business and raising money and seeing givers a long time. Givers are born. People who have a lot of money don’t always give. Sometimes they’re the hardest, but Roy Cullen is so generous and so inclined to give—it’s part of his nature—that before he became wealthy, he gave me checks that would bounce occasionally, and he’d be embarrassed and say, ‘Bishop, hold it a week and run it back through, and it’ll be good.’” And I thought that was a very significant tribute to him because not all people who amass well are generous. Now, this he was still doing while he was still here and before he set the foundations up I suppose. But there are many people who simply created foundations to avoid taxes. And then Mr. Jones, for instance, and their foundations have continued to render broad service to the community. But Mr. Jones, having no education, was always heavily influenced toward scholarships—innumerable scholarships at various colleges and universities that he gave all along. Anything else?
DKHH: [09:46] Mr. Wray, you have been involved in raising money for many charitable organizations in Houston over many years. Can you tell us what you think is the most effective way to go about encouraging others in the community to be generous with their funds and donate to these organizations?
AJW: [10:17] Well, I have served on the board. I’ve been chairman of drives to raise funds for the Museum of Natural Science and the Museum of Fine Arts. I was the first chairman for the Pin Oaks Horse Show the year that they decided to give the proceeds to the Texas Children’s Hospital. Prior to that, the Junior League and the Hedgecroft Clinic devoted to polio had gotten the proceeds, and the Hedgecroft Guild and the Junior League girls had raised the money. And I didn’t know that the switch had been made when they caught me and it was late in the day. The man who was supposed to head it up backed out because he didn’t have any workers. And after they plied me with Martinis and got me nailed to the mast, they did admit that they had a bit of a problem. I’d have to build a new organization, but I knew Caroline Wiess and Martha Lovett and all those who had been active in the league and who had been doing good jobs in the Pin Oaks Show thing, and I talked to them about it. I said, “This Children’s Hospital thing is very worthwhile, and I’m hooked into this thing. I need help.” And they came through beautifully, and we got the job done.
I was a governor at the University of Houston before it became—not a regent, a governor—before it went into the state system, and then I was with Frank Smith and Freddy Dudley on a foundation sort of money-raising thing. I’ve been active in the United Fund. And without enumerating them, really most of the effort—I have this feeling—you put people on your board of directors to help you raise money, not to run the place. There are many people who are glad to serve on the board who will attend meetings but who operate as high llamas. They stay in their office, and they are not effective workers, and very often they don’t even give substantially. Now, the funds that are needed are so great, running into the millions, that the foundations are the principle support. The Museum of Natural Science—and there again, I don’t know when he went on the board awhile, but Herbert Frensley, who is not a well man, has almost single-handedly raised over $8 million for the expansion of that thing. He is a godsend. He’s given moneys to it himself, but he has a modest way with people, and he’s going to see them. He didn’t delegate to somebody else. But except for those people who want to put their name on something, you are not going to raise very much money from individuals. There are always people who will make modest contributions to anything that’s worthwhile. But I said the need for funds is so great that you just have to get most of it. And finding a person who will serve at any capacity with enthusiasm and effectiveness is difficult.
DKHH: [14:17] How would you characterize—if you were looking for board members, you want someone who is going to be active and go out and personally—
AJW: I’d tell them right off that we’re not trying to honor them, but we have a constant need for funds and that it never diminishes and that—the ones that I—I’ve been in a position where I invited them on the board. And I said, “I don’t want you to come on. We don’t need any advice.” See the SPCA, for instance—that doubled the facilities out there. I was chairman of the board for a long time, and we didn’t have a professional when I went out and just raised the money, but we didn’t need very much. We needed about $150,000, and it wasn’t difficult. We didn’t get any, but the Cullen Foundation did come through. Doug Marshall was on the board. The people I took on—recently after the years after that, I said, “If you think you’re too busy, and you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and work and give, don’t come on.” But there are people that’ll just love to be on boards that don’t contribute much frankly.
DKHH: Thank you so much, Mr. Wray.
AJW: Thank you, my dear. It’s been a pleasure to see you, and I don’t know whether you can get anything out of all of this (s/l orang ?? 15:49) I gave you.
DKHH: I think it will be very valuable. Thank you.
AJW: But anyway, I did my best. As I said, you know, I am a very sick man, and I don’t have much reserve left. I just get up every day and do the best I can.
DKHH: Well, you’re very, very generous to have done this for us. Thank you very much.
DKHH: [16:16] Mr. Wray, you said that you’d be willing to give us a few of the particulars about the lawsuit which was brought by the Blaffer and Hobby interests regarding the Shadyside restrictions.
AJW: Yes. Those would be the Yaggers and the Moores and Heitmanns and the Blaffers and the Hobbys, and I think that was the core anyway of those who brought the litigation. Mr. Cullinan, in setting up Shadyside, related the deed to each property to a trust agreement, and it’s in there that he had a number of provisions. Paragraph 17 says that no business establishment, boarding house, livery stable—any number of things—and also place of public resort shall ever be erected on this property. Well, many lawyers feel that perpetuity is the weakest thing you can have. It is unreasonable. And he never did say specifically that only for one-story single residency, although there was a provision in the trust that anybody had to build within certain restricted building lines and they had to build a certain type of house, value-wise. The streets, which were privately owned by the—held by the trustees for the benefit of the property owners—there was a provision that at the end of 50 years, the streets would revert to the city of Houston unless renewed—that is, the restrictions—renewed by a majority of this residence—the property owners. So those people who had ceased to live here and who had properties that would be very much more valuable on a commercial basis, quite naturally would like to see the restrictions end, and they had a reason for it. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Hobby’s lawyer, George Butler, told her when they bought that the restrictions ended in 1969. And he told me himself that he was never more surprised in his life. So in a friendly way, we never did fall out. We thought it would be good to have a court decision on it.
[1:21:54] Their contention was on two points. One, that the encroachment of other things in the area—the Rice Football Stadium, the Medical Center, the Wallack Hotel, etc. —made this no longer a suitable place for residential purposes. The other point was that perpetuity was unreasonable and that the fact that the streets—all of which was part of this document expired in 50 years—that these provisions did. They wanted in the first one-judge trial court on the point of the restrictions ending in 50 years, the judge ruled against them on the (s/l placked ?? 20:17) that it was not a desirable place to live because he said, “It was still highly desirable.”
We appealed the decision against us, and the others appealed theirs to a three-judge appeals court. And there, all three judges unanimously voted on all points—both points—in our favor. And then it was appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court, by a 5 to 3 vote—it could have easily gone the other way—decided that though perpetuity in its way was unreasonable, that nothing had really occurred to interfere with this being a highly desirable place to live and reside and that they could see no reason why they should rule otherwise, and so they ruled in our favor on all points. Outside of the fact that it cost us a bunch of money, we are all happy, and we’re still friends with all of the property owners because they had a perfectly legitimate right to—and some basis on which to go.
DKHH: [21:40] Have the restrictions been renewed for another period of time?
AJW: Yes. We—those of us that wanted them renewed, renewed them. And we had some opposition from the others. For a while, they wouldn’t pay their assessments. You see, we have to assess property owners to pay the man who cleans the streets and things like that. But they all came around ultimately. Rice now owns some properties in here—the Wiess residence and the old Cullinan property. And I don’t know what the future holds. I won’t be here.
DKHH: [22:23] When do the present restrictions run out?
AJW: I don’t think they do.
DKHH: Oh, I see.
AJW: I think we just renewed as was, but we did renew. I don’t know that we renewed any of these restrictions because the man said that they were still valid. It was the streets where—we renewed the street thing because otherwise we’d have to open this gate down here, and we’d have all kinds of traffic going through here. It wouldn’t be private anymore.
DKHH: I see. Thank you very much.
[tape ends] 23:10