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Interview with: Former Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz
Interviewed by: Frank Michelle
Date: February 11, 2008
FM: Today is February 11, 2008, and we are here with former Houston Mayor, Fred Hofheinz. Thank you very much, Mayor.
FH: Delighted to be here.
FM: Give me some recollections of when you first decided to run for mayor and what the campaign was like. Talk about that a little bit if you will.
FH: Well, I guess I had always been interested in politics, Frank. I grew up at the feet of a master. My dad had been the mayor of Houston from 1952 to 1955 in a rather tumultuous period of Houston political history. Too bad he is not around to give an oral history about that because that would be more interesting than mine even I think. And knowing what I knew about politics, I went off to the University of Texas and came back about the time my dad was building the Astrodome and seeking county support for bond issues that were needed to build the Astrodome. He got me involved in that so that puts me in contact with a lot of the activists in Houston. I was always interested throughout my college career in African American rights and civil rights questions and during that period of time, I met many of the early African American heroes in Houston - the champions of the Civil Rights Movement. So, come 1969, we had a school board in Houston that was run by the conservative bunch that had run it all along that may have been struggling against Brown v. Topeka Board of Education and all the other federal constraints that have been put on our system, and a group of people got together including me and many other guys that were much more active in it at the time and much more intelligent about the issues than I, and I formed a group called the Citizens for Good Schools. That was 1969 which, incidentally, was where I met Mickey Leland. They fielded a ticket that was a ticket that involved a rambo group of people. We had blacks and whites and Hispanics on the ticket and lo and behold, we won. And that emboldened everyone. It was 1969. That coalition which was essentially a coalition that I like to refer to as the bourbon coalition after the old European coalition between the rich and the poor against the middle class, this was blacks and upper educated white collar people that were simply opposed to the old traditional conservative management of Houston - whether it was schools or the city. And in 1971, after a lot of urging on the part of the people, I agreed to stand as a candidate with essentially that same coalition behind me, running against the incumbent mayor, Louie Welch, who had been in office for, at that time I think, for 8 years. And the essential issue was the civil right issue. The City of Houston was generally divided on the police department and the attitude of the police department towards policing the African American communities. I mean, it was a big issue and Mayor Welch had supported his police chief whose name was Herman Short and Herman Short was the symbol of the old-style Southern attitude about blacks. And he became, of course, the enemy and, of course, the rallying point for my candidacy in 1971. We did not win that election in 1971 but it was the Civil Rights Movement, without any doubt. That was what it was all about. There were collateral issues like the environment. We were very concerned about the failure of the city to accept the federal funds at that time that dealt with not just the environment but many other things. There were a number of federal programs that had been initiated during the 1960s that the City of Houston had refused to take. We simply were refusing to take federal money which did not make any sense to us. And the theory was, well, if you take federal money, there are going to be strings attached and the federal government is going to be dictating to us about local issues, which was kind of an extension of the police department question because there were some police federal funds available to support your local police and they, of course, turned those down, but in conjunction, they also turned down funds to improve your sewer system which was badly needed. Our sewer system was just wrecked all over the City of Houston. It was awful. And the EPA was threatening to shut it down on building permits. But we refused to take federal funds, refused to do the things necessary to save it and also the early mass transit administration which now has another name, there was a lot of money in that old system called _______ for local cities to build bus systems. We did not have a transit system in Houston in 1971 when I ran. We had a local bus company that had a franchise from the city that carried people around but it essentially took people from the east side to the west side for domestic purposes - for the maids and the black community to ride the bus to River Oaks. That was our public transit system and we were refusing to take federal money in order to do anything about it. That was an issue in 1971. But we lost that race. Mayor Welch - we didn't lose it by much. Mayor Welch then decided that 10 years was enough and he retired and the other side, shall we say, the opposition to our candidacy, settled on a man that I had known most of my life whose name was Dick Gottleib who was on the City Council, a very popular city councilman, had been on television, had worked for my dad back in the 1940s. My dad was in the radio/television business and Dick had worked for my dad so I knew him very well. He had been to my house frequently in those days. So, you know, here are two guys that knew each other very well but he bore the mantle of the old crowd and I wore the sword of the new one and the new one won. We won that election. We did not win it big but we won it. And that coalition that we put together then has, in every single election since that time - this is now 2008, with one exception, won the mayor's office. The one exception was the Whitmire/Lanier race and Bob Lanier turned around after beating that coalition, turned around, put the coalition back together and it was his coalition for the balance of his term which makes me say that he was a pretty smart politician. That got me into office in 1973, that election was. I took office in 1974 and we proceeded to take federal funds and we did a lot of things in those 4 years that I was in office. I would be happy to talk to you about them if you want to talk about my term in office.
FM: I will in a minute. I am going to stay with the politics just a few minutes more though where, in one newspaper article, you mentioned that you and Louie both were seeking the title of the sewer mayor. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
FH: Well, we were threatened by the EPA that we would have to close down all of our downtown building construction until we did something about the north side plant which was a plant that takes all of the sewage out of downtown over north of the bayou. And I am sure that Mayor Welch thought many times about how we might remedy the problem but the essence of the problem was that the federal funds that were available to us, Environmental Protection Agency funds that were available to us had to be matched by local funds and we did not have a way to match them. So, within the first few days after I came to office, after discussing this with Mayor Welch, we decided to go forward and bite the bullet which was a big bullet because remember, I had been supported by more African Americans in numbers voted for me than voted for Barbara Jordan when she ran for Congress, O.K.? It was my constituency basically and it is the constituency that is the hardest hit by water rates. But we bit the bullet and what we did was to form an entirely new enterprise for them, for the city. There is an old water fund over here where your water bill paid the bonds that were sold in order to build a water system. We created a new system, the sewer system. The sewer system bond out of a whole clause and we went out and we sold bonds based upon our willingness to tax people for wastewater treatment as opposed to water. So, we essentially doubled everybody's water bill. It wasn't exactly doubled but it came pretty close to double and my opponents insisted it was doubling everybody's bill. We did a lot of things to try to ease the pain. For example, in those days, before I was mayor, the water bill came out on a postcard and you never knew what it was. You looked at it, it was very noncommunicative. And we converted the system to an envelope that explained everything to everybody and how it works. And in addition to that, we gave every water meter reader in the city of Houston a little slip of red paper, bright red paper that said, "your water meter has been read," because so many people complained that, "You didn't read my meter. You just sent me a bill and you didn't read my meter." So, every time they read a meter, they put that in there and all over town, you would see these little red things pop up. So, we tried as best we could to communicate the reason for this and our best in the African American community to explain why everybody's water bill gets doubled, and we came through it fine. We had some opposition coming but we were immediately supported by the business community of Houston. They came in immediately and slapped behind me on this because it was so important to the long-range future of Houston. We sold $500 million worth of bonds and completely revamped the northside sewer system as well as began the program throughout the city of Houston to completely revamp the system. Now, I won't say that Louie wasn't part of that because the basic ideas about what had to be done were in his administration but when we got there, we were the ones that bit the bullet and actually did what had to be done to get it done.
FM: That was a courageous political thing to do at the time.
FH: Well, it was, believe me. My main public opponent on that was a very famous television -- I guess I would have to call him commentator -- who was very warmly regarded in Houston's black community, Marvin Zindler. Marvin, who was always my friend until the day he died, was very aggressive in his opposition to what we did there. It was a populist position to take and it had wide concurrency but in those days, Frank, and I believe this with all my heart - civil rights trumped all other issues. They trumped all other issues. We moved in to the police department and we did what needed to be done there, hired a police chief who pledged that he was going to, notwithstanding comprehensive state laws about how you promote police officers, we were going to promote black police officers, Hispanic police officers. When I came into office, we had one Houston police officer that was above the rank of patrolman. He was just a sergeant. One. And we proceeded to integrate the Houston Police Department, we integrated every department in the city of Houston. And the record will show that. You don't need an oral history of that. That is just a fact, that that was the first thing we did the first 6 months we were in office. We took every step we could within the law in order to integrate City Hall. And that trumped everything else. I think the African American community was willing to say, well, O.K., we are building the community, we are doing the things that are necessary to make it possible for us to continue to grow. The African American community has always been growth oriented, growth oriented. Job growth oriented. And so, they forgave me that.
FM: Well, those things you described were also very politically courageous then. Did you see it that way at the time?
FH: Yes, we were stepping on a lot of old Southern toes, without any doubt. I had very strong opposition from that element of the community, very strong opposition, but the coalition that we had together stuck and it was guys that were . . . you know, by then, I was 35 years old and virtually everybody around me was in kind of the same general age group . . . we were just the young guys that had come in as a new generation. We passed the torch. It was the managerial class of Houston that recognized what we were doing was right, it had to be done, and despite opposition, we did it and got reelected overwhelmingly 2 years later.
FM: Well, you know, it has been often said that Houston handled the civil rights issues in a way that a lot of other communities did not and kept a lid on it and it was through strong leadership. Do you agree with that analysis?
FH: I agree with that. It dates back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. My dad was mayor from 1952-1955 and those issues were big around in those days. And when Oscar Holcombe ran against him in 1955 and beat him, by the way, one of the issues was whether blacks can swim in Houston swimming pools in 1955. And, of course, my dad's position was blacks can swim wherever anybody else can swim. When he took ownership of the Houston Buffalo baseball team which was 1958, somewhere around there, 1959, when they were getting ready to build the Astrodome and to bring a new baseball team to Houston, they bought the old Buffalo baseball team and for the first time, in 1958, let blacks sit anywhere they wanted to sit in Buffalo Stadium. My dad ran that company. I had a history of a family that supported the rights of Houston's African American community.
FM: Had you and your father talked about those things as you were growing up or did he lead by example on that?
FH: I think it was more leading by example and by just osmosis. I grew up that way. Everybody in my family - anybody was welcome in my family. We never had any kind of old Southern racial prejudice at all, any of us - my brothers, sisters, my father, my mother - none of us, but that certainly wasn't true of a lot of other families in Houston.
FM: You broke some other ground along the civil rights front when you appointed Nicky van Hightower as the City's first ever women's advocate. Can you talk about what led up to that, why you felt there was a need for that?
FH: Well, this is in the 1970s and in the 1970s, women's rights were just getting national publicity. There was a great political upheaval regarding that and women's rights in the commercial market, women's rights in the political world, and we were part of that. I was part of the coalition that brought us into office, certainly the part that elected Kathy Whitmire to office several years later. And we did step on a lot of toes by doing that. Essentially what we did was to hire somebody to come in to city government to monitor hiring policies of city government to see to it that there was no glass ceiling for women and hopefully get as many women appointed to high places as we could. One of my executive assistants was female ________.
FM: And how did you come to choose Dr. van Hightower, do you recall?
FH: Generally, basically, when I would make those political appointments like that, I would go to the groups that had been active on the issue, similar to the way . . . for example, I appointed the first Metro board. We bought the transit company, the old bus company in Houston we bought, I bought for the city and we went to the federal government for some funds to do a better bus system in Houston but that wasn't the solution. We had to have a tax in order to be able to build a comprehensive transit system and we were thinking at the time Atlanta. Atlanta had done something very similar several years prior. And when I appointed that board, towards the end of my term, we got the Enabling Act passed to form Metro and I appointed the first board of Metro and I did it politically because I knew that there was a vote coming up to authorize the tax. That vote wasn't coming up until after I left office. In fact, shortly after I left office, it came up and it passed the one cent sales tax for Metro. But I appointed the first board and if you go back and look at that board, it is a pretty political board. It was a little piece of every part of our coalition out there to assure that that election for that one cent tax was passed.
FM: That was pretty forward looking. Another thing that would fall into that category is that Intercontinental Airport got built in your administration.
FH: Well, actually, Louie started Intercontinental Airport and I built terminal C. Terminal C was entirely my creation but the actual building of A and B, that was Louie's deal. My dad was involved in that also, by the way, dating back to his administration when a group of Houston businessmen including Bob Smith and Mr. Abercrombie and I have forgotten who else, quietly came to the city while dad was mayor and said, "We want to preserve the future of Houston's airport system and we want to go buy this piece of property [that is now Intercontinental Airport out there] and we will hold it until the city is ready." So, they went out and actually bought that property. And the airport bonds were sold and built during Louie's administration but in my administration, air traffic just went crazy during this gigantic rapid growth and we wanted to build terminal C. We could never get Continental Airlines -- it wasn't a main source of revenue for the airport system to agree to the plan, what we wanted to do. They were reluctant to do this, reluctant to do that, wanted us to scale back this or that. And so, one day, with a consultation first with the airport committee and the partnership with Chamber of Commerce, we just decided Houston's credit was so good, we were going to go out there and sell revenue bonds before we got a tenant. We did not have a tenant. Continental had been stiffing us for one year anyway, refusing to agree to what we wanted to build out there. And so, we went and sold, I think it was $110 million worth of revenue bonds with a good interest rate, competitive interest rate, in order to build terminal C without a tenant. We did not have a tenant in the building.
FM: Another courageous decision.
FH: That was very courageous. That was. Continental signed up shortly thereafter, by the way.
FM: And so your first term as mayor, what are some of the things that you recollect or you would say were the hallmarks - things we may not have discussed thus far?
FH: There are quite a few. I inherited this old council. There weren't but a couple . . . well, Judson Robinson has been there for 2 years and I cannot recall whether anybody joined council the same time I did but it was essentially the old council. So, you can imagine the kind of things we were doing that had not been part of the city government before, weren't easy, let me put it that way, and I had a couple of very strong attractors on City Council, and one of the issues was part of the group that had supported me all along were groups that were interested in Houston's art community. We had an enormous interest in Houston, in expanding the arts and winning some sort of city support for all the arts. I mean, all of the arts. Not just the opera and the symphony - the traditional arts - but all the arts including arts from the minority community and _______. So, we formed and got passed by the City Council the Cultural Arts Council which currently functions now. It grew out of my administration’s interest in promoting Houston's art community.
Another thing I am very proud of that we did . . . one of my close friends I brought to the City with me, her name was Barbara Dillingham, and she was very interested in parks and open spaces and if you know Houston, the way it has developed over time, we have been more interested in developing than we have in preserving. And in the early 1970s, that was particularly true. We didn't until well after my entrance into office have setback requirements, land use requirements where a subdivision comes in, you've got to set aside so much green space. That happened later. What we did . . . and also, we knew that there was an awful lot of philanthropy in Houston, a lot of it, a lot of people with a lot of money that just are really in a position to help the City but there is just no way that they can do it. For example, I remember while I was the mayor, before he died, Gus Wortham who was a tremendous civic leader in Houston, asked me on several occasions to come by and visit him because he had a lot of money and he didn't know what he wanted to do with it. He wanted me to discuss as the mayor of Houston what he was going to do with his estate. It just kept coming back parks, parks. Parks kept coming back. And so, what we did was we formed out of whole cloth a group called the Houston Parks Board and we appointed on that board people who, what should I say - were in a position to help. And the Parks Board rolled. Nobody was willing to say, 'I've got a piece of land over here and I am going to give it to those rascals down there on City Council and let them figure out what to do with it.' That wasn't going to happen. So, we formed this foundation over here that is a nonprofit group that is going to hold this real estate and hold it on behalf of the City until the City is ready to use it, etc., and then we might attract more philanthropists, and we did. We attracted, just in the few years I was there, I have forgotten the number of acres we got but we got significant additional help and that board continues to function today as a major weighing of Houston's Parks Department, that Parks effort.
FM: It sure does. And so then, you left the mayor's office and Houston hit on tough times. In the late 1980s, what is referred to as the oil bust and maybe the savings and loan crisis, national came in . . .
FH: I was in the oil business in 1985, 1986, 1987.
FM: So, talk about that a little bit, if you will. What are your recollections of that?
FH: Well, when I left office in 1978 voluntarily, I went in the oil business. I went to Europe to raise money for drilling oil wells for a company here in Houston. We had some success and, you know, for the next few years, that was my business. In the latter part of the 1970s, here in Houston, I remember that was when oil prices went very, very high and everybody was saying they were just going to keep on going. I remember seeing one run check for $40 for a barrel of oil and everybody thought that was just outrageous. And then, it leveled off a little in the early 1980s but I think it was 1986 when we had the first major drop and then maybe 1 year or 1-1/2 years later, the second major drop, and that affected everything. It was the collapse of the oil markets that affected Houston's real estate market. It was the hardest time in Houston in my history. You could go to downtown Houston in the late 1980s and you had a parking place just about anywhere. It was a real measure. The vacancy rates downtown, particularly the parking facilities downtown, were a real measure of what was going on in this city. And, of course, that is the period when you had such enormous bank consolidations, you had banks in trouble, and they consolidated and all the local banks went away for a while. Those that are around now in 2008 are new banks that have come on since that difficult time. But you had to live through that as someone who was a player in the community to appreciate its severity. It was a very severe recession and it was based on, first, the great optimism and growth that we had because of oil prices and then the collapse of oil prices.
FM: And what role did the Arab Oil Embargo play?
FH: Well, that was what caused the price to go wild back in the late 1970s. When Carter was the president, you will recall, there is _________ in America. That price of oil, the Arab control of OPEC in those days was what caused the price to go out of whack in the late 1970s.
FM: And yet, Houston persevered. Some people have pointed out great things like the Wortham Center was built during that period, I believe, with entirely philanthropic . . .
FH: Exactly. Mr. Wortham put a lot of money into that, his estate did. Mr. Wortham's estate also gave the City a bunch of money for what is now I think the Eleanor Tinsley Park along in front of the old American General Building, and others. It has been a while. I have forgotten all that they did but the Wortham Foundation has been a very valuable asset for Houston.
FM: And then you decided to run for mayor again in 1989.
FH: That was a large mistake.
FM: How so?
FH: I will tell you how that happened. I was approached, in fact, one night, sitting in my home where a then very popular and everywhere popular congressman Mickey Leland knocked on my door and said, "Come on, I want you to meet with a bunch of people," and he took me over to a restaurant and introduced me to a cross-section of Houston's black leadership, many of whom are my very close friends, and they were all saying we are really tired of an administration that we believe is no longer interested in accomplishments. They are just holding their own. It is an administration that we believe is stagnant. We've got a lot of issues we are interested in and we would like you to consider running again. I said, of course, no. And then, they started coming back and coming back and bringing others around saying that we could do it and, at the time, if you looked at the polling, it looked as though the City agreed with that. Mayor Whitmire had been in office for, at that time, I think, 8 years. A long time. She had lived through the hard times and there was this attitude now that maybe it is morning in Houston again and it is time to move away from the bad times into the good times and we need change. And you read the polls that those fellows did and it showed me that they would pretty much confirm what the guys were telling me. So, I agreed to do it, unfortunately. I lost badly and the reason why I lost was essentially we did not have an issue other than it is time for a change. And voters don't really respond to it is time for a change. They are more interested in the civil rights questions and the environmental questions - the things that we had raised back in the early 1970s. And the real problem that I had I guess politically was that Mickey Leland who was the man who talked me into doing this, he was killed in an airplane accident about mid summer, I think about the first of August, before the coming election in November. And, as a result of that, we never did get the kind of African American support in that race that we had all anticipated we would. Had we been able to get it, we would have won the election.
FM: I was going to ask you a little bit about some of your recollections of Houston, your earliest recollections but maybe let me try it this way . . . but before we do that, I just remembered I would really like to get you to talk about, before the camera rolled, we talked about the newspaper endorsement and how you spent a life in politics but never could quite get the support from . . .
FH: Frank, I think, as I said, I am probably the only man who was ever mayor of the City of Houston who never got endorsed by a newspaper. The Chronicle was my bitter opponent for the 2 terms that I ran, every time I ran, and the Post didn't endorse me because they had a favored son. The owner of the Post's son was in the process of running for and then became lieutenant governor of Texas and they weren't endorsing anybody. The Post was friendly to our administration, they liked everything we were doing - there is not any doubt about that, the editorial board did, and after I was elected, Mrs. Hobby wrote a really wonderful editorial about our administration, but I have never been endorsed by a newspaper.
FM: Not for lack of trying.
FH: Not for lack of trying although I gave up on the Chronicle.
FM: O.K. I kind of wanted to go back a little bit in time. Let me try it this way, and I am not trying to put you on the spot but maybe I will just ask you to make a few comments about the mayors you have seen and known here and we will start back with Oscar Holcombe who your father had more experience with, of course.
FH: Well, I came through the door of mayoral politics in 1952 when my dad was elected on the Chinese ballot and maybe everybody in history would like to know what a Chinese ballot is and I will tell them: in those days, you did not have runoff elections and in those days, you had all your mayors elections on the same day you elected congressmen, governor, president and all of that. And on election day in November of 1952, my dad was on the Chinese ballot and won, and the way the Chinese ballot works is if you don't get everybody's first choice, then you had second choices and a third choice until you got a guy that got the most votes, so you did not have a runoff. But you had to vote choice 1, choice 2, choice 3 as you voted. And so, when he won that election in 1952, and I was there - I was a 14 year old kid that was carrying his briefcase everywhere - when he won that election, I guess it was the Post, maybe both - I forget -
Eisenhower elected president. And then, you'd turn down to the bottom of the page somewhere, they said Roy Hofheinz elected mayor of Houston. There was very little comparative attention sent on mayors’ races in Houston because they all occurred on the same day that you had a big, national election or for that matter, congressional gubernatorial state election. My dad . . . I can't comment about any of the mayors before my dad because I really did not pay a whole lot of attention until then. After that, I can comment on all of them. He was the mayor for 3 years. It was a tumultuous period of time. He was in constant conflict with his city council. There were 8 members just as in my administration, there were 8 members, and the accusations flew around of political corruption involving the way in which the purchasing department of the City of Houston purchased deals and the allegation that the City Council people interfered with that and these guys got better, etc. . . . the City Council has to approve all the bids. The specifications go out, City Council has to vote on it, and there was this constant conflict. Behind this somewhat also was some of the racial stuff, too, and my dad integrated the City Hall facilities - bathrooms and drinking fountains during the period of time he was in office. And so, that was somewhat _______. If you think my council was bad on issues like that, you've got to think back 20 year before. That was really an old Southern city council, all white city council. And so, after the first term of this constant bickering that was widely publicized and disliked, I think, by most of the voters in Houston, my father got the idea that he was going to just truncate his term by 1 year which is the reason why he served 3 years instead of 4. He was reelected once but he truncated the second term by 1 year by asking the voters to approve a change in the City charter which essentially those changes which were approved were pretty much kind of like the ones that we have now because they essentially said instead of electing councilmen all by district - they qualify them by district and elect them at large. That was the system up until the revisions back in the late 1970s. And furthermore, the election moves from the day that we elect presidents and congressmen to off years which is the way we are now. That charter, that initiative passed on my dad's effort - my mother, too. We all got involved in that and got that passed. And then, he put together a slate of people that were going to run for city council with him and they were going to clean up the whole mess and they got beat decisively. And the mayoral candidate that beat him was Oscar Holcombe, who served for 2 years. It was his brouhaha. He was really brought in, in order to stop the Roy Hofheinz stuff basically. He was the anti-Roy Hofheinz candidate brought in by the Establishment because they did not like what was going on at all. My dad had created also some animosity with . . . he was very strong on public utility rates. He had struggled against the telephone company and electrical companies with regard to their rates. In those days, the City Council in the 1950s and not until the Peveto matter back in the 1970s which you might want to ask me about, the City Council regulated the public utilities. And so, that made the mayor a pretty powerful guy because he was the one that took all the heat or all the credit in recommending to the Council what the new electrical rates were going to be. Well, he was not very aggressive in helping the electrical company or the telephone company, and those guys weren't very aggressive in helping him be reelected in 1955. And they were the Establishment. So, he was defeated in 1955 by Oscar Holcombe who was kind of, in those days, a very old grey fox. I remember him only vaguely but I do remember that he was a business as usual mayor who was a guy that seemed to just want to keep things together. He did not administer the City in any controversial way. There wasn't any in that 2 year period, any initiatives that would be controversial, shall we say. And he decided that he was old enough and that was his last hurrah. He had been the mayor more . . . I am sure he will hold the record. He was first elected I think when he was 25 or 26 years old, something like that, and had been the mayor several times over the years since the 1920s, I think.
Then came the Hofheinz forces back and we campaigned for, helped . . . my dad was deeply involved. I was off to college at this time . . . in the behind-the-scenes efforts of Louis Cutrer who ran for mayor and I have forgotten who Louis' opponent was. I don't think it was Louie Welch at that time. Louie Welch ran for county judge about a year later, I think, but I have forgotten who it was. Louis Cutrer was a real fine gentleman. He was very deeply interested in issues as I remember. His big issue was the one that got him defeated. Lake Livingston project was an extremely important aspect of Houston's development over the years and Mayor Cutrer was the champion of that project and in conjunction with that, he did what I did but he didn't survive. In 1961, I think it was, he ran against Louie Welch and was defeated. The issue was that he had raised the water rates, that Louis Cutrer had raised the water rates and that they didn't need to be raised. And that beat Louis Cutrer when he ran for mayor. It was something I thought about a long time when I did the same thing many years later.
FM: But the Lake Livingston was an important decision because it ensured Houston water supply and allowed it to grow . . . talk about that.
FH: For a long, long time. That was the first big reservoir deal. And then, the SIWA (sp?) system that was built during Louie's administration was a real important part ______ Water Authority to get that water back to Houston, and then the Lake Conroe project. Houston has been very fortunate - in a state where water is extremely scarce and fought over, to have had the _______ to get those resources in place earlier than we might have. We can go back and look at our mayors over time. There has been strong support all the way through for all of that but it beat Louis Cutrer in 1961.
Louie Welch . . . I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to Louie's politics early on until the civil rights issue started arising late in his term. He was the mayor when we were building the Astrodome in the mid 1960s. We started construction on it in 1961, about the time Louie got elected and there was nothing but cooperation between the City and this project. There was a friendly relationship I would say but no political issues that I remember because I wasn't really involved in that and neither was my dad. My dad was interested in the 8th wonder of the world and not in city politics at that time. But I did get interested in Mayor Welch's politics beginning 1967, 1968, when the civil rights started flaring up. 1968 in Houston, like it was all over the world, was a gigantic watershed year on the question of civil rights. That is the year that Martin Luther King was killed, that is the year that Bobby Kennedy was killed, and that is the year that generated all this interest on the part of my generation in trying to do something to change what is going on. And, of course, Mayor Welch, because of the defense of his then police chief, Herman Short, was a target. He was a target. And so, we started paying attention.
FM: And then, that was a little bit later then we got into this Peveto Bill issue.
FH: Well, that came up in my administration. You are looking at the guy that might be responsible for getting all that done. I was the president of the Texas League of Cities and they are the chief lobbying group in the Legislature for issues involving Texas cities. And there were two issues during the 4 years that I was there that were extremely important to Texas cities and one was utility regulation - who regulates utilities - and the other one was how your taxes get appraised. When I was the mayor and the president of the Texas League of Cities - I think that is the name of it, isn't it? Texas League of Cities?
FM: I think it is the Texas Municipal League.
FH: Texas Municipal League . . . I reversed the City of Houston's position with regard to both of those issues and our delegation, the only big city in Texas to do it because all the small cities were opposed to the big cities on those two issues. All the small cities, the City of Houston regulates the utility rates and it would affect Bellaire and it would affect Webster and it would affect all the other cities around and they did not much like the City of Houston setting their electrical rates or telephone rates, for that matter. The business about appraising property in all the little bitty cities all over the . . . everybody thought it was a mess and they wanted to do something about it. So, you had such divergence between what the City of Houston would do on this block and then you would go across the street over here to Hunter's Creek Village and it is a whole different deal. Then, it caused problems. And so, what we did was we lobbied and got passed the legislation the formulation of the Public Utilities Commission. We were the big city in Texas that supported it and broke the back of the opposition to it and I think Peveto passed while I was there. We certainly supported it. I have forgotten the exact date that Peveto passed but Peveto created an enabling act where the appraisal authorities for real estate would be countywide so that you would not have the disparity between two neighbors who just happened to be sitting in separate jurisdictions paying substantially different taxes. You evened out. You made it even. You also got it away from . . . you made it professional. I was there, you know, I could see the way in which the appraisal process worked when the City was doing it and it was terribly inefficient, terribly unprofessional, and it was not properly staffed. Basically, it was ________. So, getting it professionalized I think was a significant step forward for Texas.
FM: And that system remains in place.
FH: That system remains in place as does the Public Utilities Commission.
FM: I won't take you through all of them but maybe Jim McConn and Kathy Whitmire you would have a couple of comments about?
FH: Well, I left office voluntarily and I announced it as early as I could to be fair to everybody because I did not want to be a lame duck forever. I think I announced it around May of that year. I had spoken privately to several people ahead of time that I was going to do it but when I did it, there weren't but 2 candidates that came out of that that wanted to run for mayor essentially. The people who wanted to follow me were limited to Jim McConn and the Chronicle candidate whose name was Frank Brisco who had been a district attorney here in town for many years and was the old school and supported strongly by my nemesis, the Houston Chronicle, whose editor at the time was part of the old school, shall we say.
FM: Everett Collier?
FH: Everett Collier. And essentially, the choice got real easy. And within the last few days before the election, I said, look, folks, there is one choice and I publicly endorsed McConn and he won overwhelmingly. I think Jim was, in the tradition of Houston mayors, he was not one that initiated a lot of programs, there wasn't a lot creativity there. He had the reputation, although I was not part of it, of having difficulty deciding among friends, and I think he made one serious mistake I will state for the record that I had thought about before I left office. There was a great clamor for the CAT lease systems in town and I was aware of that. I was being lobbied all over the place on that subject matter and it was just too late in my administration to do anything about it so I left that up to McConn. And the way they did that I think was just wrong. They divided the city up into 4 sections or something like that and let local people bid on it and, of course, when that happened, the local people got the concession for the cable television and turned around and sold it to Time-Warner and others for megabucks, when what the City should have done and what I was telling everybody they ought to do is to put it out for bid and let the high bidder take the whole bloody mess and the high bidder would have been Time-Warner or one of the big cable companies. I think that was a mistake.
Kathy Whitmire? Kathy Whitmire, I thought when she was elected was a bright, energetic and programmatic mayor. She had a lot of good ideas and she had an energy about her that I think was good for the City. She just stayed there so long and after 2 or 3 . . . you know, I was there for 2 terms and I felt like I had done about all I could do in 2 terms. You get to where you have spent your political capital and your ideas run out, and she had been there so long which is why Louie ran against her and was beaten in 1985, I think it was, and I ran against her in 1989 and was beaten. So, she was pretty dominant. She stayed on until Bob Lanier beat her.
FM: You talked a little bit earlier about how you were part of a generational change in Houston leadership and you sort of had a foot in both those worlds with your relationship with your father and some of the people he knew and so, there is something back then you may have had some experience with though you were pretty young, to something called the 8F crowd. Do you have any recollection of that? Tell us what that was about.
FH: I knew a lot of those gentlemen. I only met Jesse Jones once or twice on the street. He was a political opponent of my dad. The Chronicle was an opponent of my dad, too. And I knew Mr. Brown very well. Mr. Wortham, I knew very well. Well, what that is for history - my dad ran for mayor in 1952 and the reason why he ran for mayor is because a small group of individuals in Houston who had a poker game that they played in suite 8F in the old Lamar Hotel which is now torn down, downtown Houston, came to him and said, "Roy, we think you would make a good mayor and we would like to support you." Well, that was almost tantamount to being elected in 1952 because the City was then strongly controlled by a small group of individual entrepreneurial businessmen called the 8F crowd, the most notable of which was Jesse Jones. And you contrast that to what happens now, it is just night and day, and basically it is whoever can get out there and fight and scratch and claw can be elected mayor of Houston now. But in those days, it was a very small crowd that determined that very important office. I think anybody that was living in the 1940s would probably confirm that. I can only confirm it by the 1952 race when my dad came home one day and said, "They want me to be the mayor." And he was. And then, they got mad at him because he wouldn't do everything that they wanted him to do, particularly on public utility matters.
FM: But you knew some of those folks personally?
FH: Oh, yes, of course.
FM: Maybe you have some recollections of one or two of them? Oveta Culp Hobby, for example?
FH: I knew Mrs. Hobby. Of course, I know her children, too. But I knew Mrs. Hobby. In fact, she was represented by Butler Binion, Jack Binion, who also represented my dad. They tried to impeach my father in 1956. The City Council instituted impeachment proceedings against him on the issue of his inability to cooperate with them on City purchasing matters, I think. I have forgotten what the issue was. But, he, of course, defeated it and Jack Binion represented him. Jack was also a mentor of mine and, of course, we shared . . . if he was my lawyer, he was also Oveta Culp Hobby's lawyer, so we spanned that generation. He was quite a character. But I guess the best story I would have to tell about . . . I told you Mr. Wortham solicited my advice about what to do with his estate which seemed kind of strange to me. He was talking to the mayor, he wasn't talking to me. He was asking the mayor "What would be a good way for me to spend my estate?" But I remember one story that . . . it might have been in print somewhere, I don't know - I haven't told it very many places but George Brown, rest his soul, who was a great benefactor of this city and his family continues to be, made the announcement one day . . . actually, I got a call from Imma Hogg asking me to come to her house to meet her, and I went to Mrs. Hogg's house, her apartment, and George Brown was there. And Mr. Brown said, "Do you know Ms. Imma?" Of course, I knew Ms. Imma very well. And he said, "Well, we wanted to talk to you about something and what we want to talk about is I want to drill an oil well in Memorial Park." Well, you know, I dropped to the floor as I sat and listened to these distinguished Houston leaders as they were. Imma Hogg is without _______ in the history of Houston for her support for the park, the big park, and the arts and in giving away Memorial Park, her father had put a clause in there that said that it is for park purposes only, you cannot use it for anything else and in this meeting, I was told that they thought that that meant that only Imma Hogg could change that, the only survivor and maybe executor of the estate - I don't know. But, in any event, she was presented as one that could change that and that you could actually drill a well in Memorial Park. And she said to me that she did agree to let Mr. Brown go down and do that. She had fretted about it. And his idea was he was going to drill it down in the bayou, low in the bayou so you could barely see the rig above the tree line. And, of course, when this news hit the public that George Brown and the Brown Oil Company, whatever it was, wanted to drill this oil well, it was a front page story on the New York Times. And even the Houston newspapers were choking a little bit about it. I mean, this is park land. This is not . . . and part of it was the business about the oil companies fighting back, pushing back against those who say we cannot do things environmentally. And Mr. Brown was saying we will prove that you can get down there, you can drill this oil well, you can get that rig in there, get that rig out of there and nobody will know the difference after it is all over and you won't have any environmental impact. Well, there wasn't any way I could do that and I knew it. I went back and the City Council begged me, just begged me for me to be the one to go tell them though and so I did, I was not real brave - I took my city attorney with me. Mr. Brown actually came to the mayor's office and Jonathan Davis, my city attorney is a witness to this . . . I had called ahead of time, and I lose track of names now but the man that ran Houston Natural Gas, Bob . . .
FM: I know who you mean. I can't recall the name.
FH: I can't recall the name but if you ask me later, it will come to me. And said, "Hey, you know, if worst comes to worst and we've got to drill this oil well out there, would you drill it and give every bit of it to the Parks system for the City of Houston? Whatever you get out of it, the Parks system for Houston. George Brown's proposition was a 20% interest in the well to the City, a percentage interest in the well to the City. So, I solicited . . . the head of this meeting was Mr. Brown. Somebody said, "Yes, we will drill it and we will give it all to the Parks department of the City of Houston." So, I gingerly said to Mr. Brown, "If you've got somebody that will drill that well and give it all to the City, you will agree to do the same thing, I'll let you do it." And he got all excited about it. I said, "Mr. Brown, 3 days ago, I read in the Houston newspaper where you gave $5 million to Rice University. This is just a drop in the bucket. It would probably make your environmental point that you can do these things environmentally and you won't get the criticism that it was for profit. It is for the Parks system of the City of Houston." He said, "No, and that gift to Rice University, I make my money with my right hand, I give it away with my left hand. Rice was a left hand deal. This deal is a right hand deal."
FM: That is a great story.
FH: Yes, it is. I told that to Marguerite Johnson. I think she may have had it in one of her books.
FM: You have mentioned a few of them - Imma Hogg and some others. You knew a lot of very famous influential, powerful great Houstonians including your father. Did you have a sense growing up around them and dealing with them of what you were dealing with at the time?
FH: I just kind of grew up in it, Frank, I guess. I frequently say to my wife now that a new generation has come on behind me that I knew all the daddies. I ran first for office when I was 33 years old and the guys that were supporting me or most of the guys putting up the money, they are gone now but yes, I knew a lot of the Houston leadership over the years just because my dad had been the mayor and it is just impossible to be the mayor of Houston and not know everybody that is a mover and shaker. You know them all. They come through your house and are a part of your life.
FM: And your dad was mayor but he was also county judge from 1936 to 1944.
FH: I was born in 1938 and he was the county judge.
FM: Do you recall any stories he might have told you about his experiences as the county judge?
FH: Well, you know, I can remember some. My dad was a great father. I mean, he drug us everywhere and particularly me as we got older so I followed him around constantly. I have many very vigorous memories of him as the county judge, particularly at campaign times, before television. He was a great orator, a stump orator, had a loud voice and he could project it out there and he could say the right things to the right people. I remember in those days, you politicked not by television - there was some radio but your main political deal were the rallies. The people would gather in parks and in buildings and he would go make a speech to the large audience. He would take me to all of those things. He would generally triumph because he was a great orator. I mean, that is what he was. Then, I remember when he ran for the mayor's office and television was just getting started in 1952, so television advertising was a small part of the deal and that doesn't work on television. He would get on there and he would project and he felt like he was talking like William Jennings Bryan. I don't think he ever learned the talent. Subsequent mayors did. In fact, the one guy that I think is probably the best television in my lifetime is Louie Welch. Louie managed the sound byte better than anybody I know and he could always get his point across in a 15 second little sound byte and he was very good at it and it was always a zinger. He always could zing it.
But back to my dad, in the county judge days, my mother was a very big part of all of that. She went around also. Dad was the flamboyant politician. He wore the cowboy boots and the cowboy hats and all the trappings of a Southern western politician. He was a Lyndon Johnson-type of politician. Everybody was welcome. Our house was a beehive of activity and just everybody that was around his life at the time. How he did it . . . I could not do that. When I was in politics, I couldn't do it. I wanted my privacy and what have you but dad was an open door politician and had a lot of people around him all the time. As county judge, I remember one story he told me about what got him interested in getting into politics instead of just being a lawyer. He said he was representing a fellow right out of law school actually, after getting the Bar - he never went to law school, went 1 year, I think . . . representing the fellow for rape. Down at the county courthouse and he goes in and he makes a passionate plea to get this man off for rape and as they are walking out of the courtroom, the guy says, "Roy, I want to tell you that I really appreciate what you have done for me and I will never do it again." He said that was the end of his legal career. After that, he was going to be a politician. He got elected when he was 24 and held that office for I think about 8 years, something like that. And those were different days, you know. Those were different days. He was a great outdoorsman, too. Many people don't know that. A sports fan. I think a lot of people know that. But I grew up with shotguns and with fishing rods and boats. My dad was a genuine outdoor enthusiast, every weekend. And he did take us with him.
FM: And he got this nickname, "the boy wonder of Harris County." Tell us about that.
FH: Well, that is just because of his youth. He was such a young guy to be in politics, at age 24 being the county judge. In those days, the county judge in Harris County wore the hat of the probate court and wore the hat of the juvenile courts. My dad would bring home the juveniles that were problem juveniles. Rather than send them over to what is now an equivalent of a bailant or whatever, he would bring home the juveniles. We lived on a track of ground that is now the Galleria essentially. 80 acres on Yorktown Road at Westheimer which we had a big old house there. He built the house there. But he called it Rodina Ranch for Roy and Dina and we had horses. I had nice saddles and things like that. One of those kids he brought home stole my saddle. Of course, he was a probate judge and I think one of his proudest moments as county judge came as a probate judge some time in the 1940s. He presided over the Rincon oil field estate dispute and ultimately ruled in favor of Rice University and that has been the main endowment for Rice University. He was proud of that. I think he was finally defeated, I think about 1945 but only because he decided he wanted to be in the radio business in competition with Mr. Jones, by the way, towards the end of his term and right at the end of the war and he got the first radio license to broadcast in Harris County after the war in 1945.
FM: Did you have a sense that you were living with a local celebrity, somebody important or was he just dad or some combination?
FH: I don't think we looked upon him as a celebrity. We thought he was an important guy.
FM: And then this thing came along called the Harris County domed stadium that he is generally seen as the guiding father of. Everything about it was unique and unusual. Talk about that a little bit including they had an unusual groundbreaking ceremony. Do your recollect that?
FH: I am not sure right now. I was not there. I was at the University when they broke ground. I was still up at Texas. But I was coming home every summer and I was very much a part of all the early development of that and their thinking behind it and I told him once that I thought it was a mistake because television was the important thing now and baseball wasn't a good television game and I thought he was making a mistake. That is why he did so well in the sports business and I didn't even try. He was a small part of the Houston Sports Association when it began in its attempt to form the continental league. The Houston Sports Association was really the creation of 2 guys, Craig Culinan and George Kirksey. George was a newspaper guy and Craig was a member of an old Houston oil family. His grandfather had formed Texaco Oil Company and they decided they wanted to get a new league in competition with all these other guys. And they solicited a bunch of people to join them including my dad and Bob Smith who, at that time, were real estate partners. One thing led to another and it became apparent that the two big leagues did not want this other league to start and so they put out feelers that, well, we will expand here if you put the right deals together. And so, the early stages of this did not involve the Dome. The Dome became dad's idea after discussions with the National League where they said they didn't think they could come to Houston because Houston's climate was adverse to baseball, they had had bad experience in New Orleans and other markets, the Gulf Coast markets, for summer mosquitoes and heat and you can't play daytime baseball in the summertime in this part of the world and they would like to schedule daytime baseball blah, blah, blah. So, he and Bob Smith had been involved in real estate business together and on the family homestead that I grew up on which is now everything between Westheimer and San Felipe on Yorktown Road, some 80 acres there. He and Mr. Smith had planned to build a shopping center and in order to build a shopping center, they needed a lead tenant and the lead tenant they focused on was Foleys Federated Department Stores. They designed this shopping center as an air-conditioned shopping center. One had been built out in Gulfgate already, out the Gulf Freeway, but they were going to build this gigantic air-conditioned structure like just coming into vogue in the United States. And that got dad interested in air-conditioned structures. But he lost the Federated attempt to get Foleys, he lost it to Frank Sharp who built the Sharpstown facility out the Southwest Freeway and so they had to abandon that shopping center idea and he took that concept of air-conditioning large spaces over I want to air-condition a stadium. Well, the next step wasn't necessarily a dome. Well, the next step was to discuss with everybody that would talk about it - how do you do this? How can we build an air-conditioned stadium here and show the National League that you won't have summer problems in Houston? One thing led to another. He had been to the Montreal World's Fair and had seen the geodesic dome that was displayed there and one thing led to another and a dome, everybody told him it would be easy to build, it was just a tension ring dome, it was just a matter of building something - it has already been built, only building it bigger. And away they went. He got him two big models of that and went to New York, lobbied the National League - this is the way it is going to be built, the way it is going to look. I made one of those trips with him. Roy Hofheinz, if nothing else, was the world's greatest salesman and he managed to convince the National League that he could build a domed stadium. And then, he built it.
FM: And then it became the Astrodome and the 8th wonder of the world. Do you remember where those concepts came from? Was he behind the marketing.
FH: The 8th wonder of the world, somebody else said that. I have forgotten who. The books will tell us that. It was somebody who said that. The Astros and the Astrodome and the association with the astronauts was naturally . . . because, at that time, we had just started the Johnson Space Center here and were famous for our astronauts and for Houston being the space capital of the country. But I can recall very vividly Roy and my dad and Mr. Smith were partners at this time. My dad later bought Mr. Smith's interest. But at the time, over in the lobby of the Shamrock, we had been the Colt 45s in the National League when we first started playing baseball before we went to the Dome. We had a temporary stadium just north of what is now the Dome. Outdoor stadium. And it was miserable. Mr. Kirksey, who had been a key player in acquiring this team said the way to select this name is to have a contest. And so, the newspapers ran a contest and somebody selected Colt 45s. Well, no sooner had we gotten uniforms and announced that that was our name and put the Colt logo everywhere, the Colt 45 pistol people sued us. And so, the handwriting on the wall - we were going to have to settle that suit and we were going to have to change our name. But when we moved into the Dome, a logical place to change your name. We didn't put it out for a contest at that point. I don't know whether history knows this or not but it boiled down to 2 names and they were very serious about both of those names. The 2 names were Astros which was kind of a funny name when you stop and think about it, astronauts, astros, and the other name was simply Stars. And in the lobby of the Shamrock Hotel, my dad said to Mr. Smith, "Which one do you want?" He said, "Astros." And that was it. We were the Houston Astros.
FM: And before the Astrodome was built, there was one more brush with the Colt 45s with the groundbreaking. You said you weren't there but you can tell us about it.
FH: Oh, well, when they broke ground on the stadium, we still hadn't changed the name. This was long before . . . the stadium, in fact, was built in 2 splurges. One was with the one bond issued that dug a hole out there and then they had to go back to the voters to get a revenue issue to build the building to put on top of the old one. But in that first go-round when they first broke ground to dig the hole out there, we were still the Colt 45s. And so, everybody had a 45 pistol and instead of shoveling dirt to break the ground, they shot pistols into the ground. There is a famous picture of that.
FM: There is, and then, a lot of people know the history of the Astrodome, very revered and such but there were a lot of things in there that became known in some areas as the house that Roy built. There were a lot of unusual things in the Astrodome, shall we say - can you talk about some of them?
FM: Sure. The County built the building, very cheaply, by the way - about $25 million just for the building but in addition to that, HSA, the sports association, installed on their ticket all of the sky boxes around the top. That was an afterthought of the building against the architect's wishes, by the way, because it really kind of changed the look of the building and they didn't much like that but it was dad invented this idea of a sky box kind of up there and out of the way but it was the beginning of that concept adopted by virtually all stadiums that came after that. And they built the score board on our ticket, on the HSA ticket. They put that in. The County did not put that in. Sold advertising on both ends of it to pay for it and it did amortize over 5 years to pay for that score board and in the middle, they had the first of the animated completely different technology than your modern board but the first of those animated score boards and they sold advertising on that. But in addition to that, he also, for a lot of money, built his offices in right field in the structure of the building out there and very elaborate, what should I say - Disneyland-type offices which was his selling area. He came out of the radio/television business beginning in 1945, as I said, and his idea of how you make money is in advertising because he had spent his life selling advertising to the radio and television stations. And so, he sold every piece of little advertising that he could at the Astrodome and the clients would come through the offices out there. That is where they would be impressed and ultimately buy whatever it is you had for sale. He was the only major league baseball team that retained their own radio rights and conducted his own radio broadcast. He retained the rights, put together the team, sold the advertising for it, did the whole bit because that was his background - that is where he came from.
FM: I remember some unusual things in there in the offices like a bowling alley and things of that sort.
FH: Oh, yes. He had a bowling alley, he had a chapel, he had one of these rooms, a tipsy room, where you walk in it and you feel like . . . it was an entertainment place. It was very, very typical of my father who was very flamboyant and a showman. Basically, Roy Hofheinz, at the end of the day, was a showman. Even dating back . . . I remember going to the livestock show and rodeo in the old coliseums back in the 1940s and dad would wear these fancy Western costumes. He looked like Roy Rogers. And a big hat. He was a showman.
FM: We will wrap up here in a few minutes. The Astrodome is one example of how dramatically Houston has changed over the years. I want to ask you to go back to the beginning. You were born here?
FH: Born in Memorial Hospital downtown in 1938.
FM: And where did you go to school?
FH: I went to River Oaks Elementary School. I went to Lanier Junior High School. I went to Lamar Senior High School.
FM: And do you have any early recollections of Houston? Did you, for example, have a favorite theater you attended, a favorite department store, a favorite part of town?
FH: Well, you know, everything was downtown when I was growing up mostly. Department stores - Foleys opened in the late 1940s, I think, early 1950s. I forget. But movie theaters, it was easy. There were 3 of them downtown and you could pick your 3. And then, you had some neighborhood theaters like the Alabama and the Tower on Westheimer and the Village in the Village and the Heights in the Heights - all of which you went to at one time or another. The City grew to me. I was originally born in what is now the Third Ward on Live Oaks Street and my dad lived but moved shortly thereafter to his new real estate that he bought out on Yorktown Road at Westheimer. A big spread of 80 acres. And that was a long way out of town and at the time, was not in the City of Houston. A long way from the City of Houston. The last bus stop was Lamar High School when I was growing up early, so most of everything that we did, we had to go beyond Lamar High School and into town and the Tower Theater was the closest one to us during that. Westheimer Road was 2 lanes. There was a lot of shell on the side. Where Highland Village is now was the city dump. The dump was on the north side up against the railroad tracks there and it stunk like the Dickens if you came out Westheimer Road to get to what is now Galleria. Sage Road dead-ended at . . . you could not get to what is now San Felipe through either Westheimer or Sage. It didn't go through. Yorktown Road where I lived was a shell road. All these roads out here were shell roads. This was a country place. I hunted quail at what is now the Briargrove subdivision just behind my house. In fact, I was out there one day in the late 1940s maybe, early 1950s, as a 10, 12 year old guy carrying around a shotgun with me. My dad let me hunt. And geese came almost close enough. I think it was that far away from civilization when I was growing up in the 1940s out there. And stayed there until I went away to college and by the time I got back to college, my dad was in the Astrodome building business and he ultimately sold that tract which was where he got his money to put in the Astrodome, I think. So, my recollection of growing up in Houston is just watching this city grow around me. I mean, basically it grew around me. I will be 70 years old in 1 month and I have seen a lot of history.
FM: You sure have. Well, I will ask you maybe one last question. If you can think ahead, 10, 15, 20 years - people watching this - what you might like to know if you can condense it and what you might like people of that time to know about your time here in Houston?
FH: My time in Houston has been what I would think, Frank, history will recognize as the fastest growing and most formative period in this city's history. Because we are so big now, the things that happen to Houston in the future are not going to be nearly as impacted on the nature of the community as what has happened in my lifetime. I mean, I started here when this city was a couple of hundred thousand in the late 1930s and when I was mayor, we were at one million eight. And now, if you include all of Harris County area, over three million people live here. And so, you are not going to be able to impact this city the way my generation and my father's generation did in the future. The other thing that is also patently clear to me is I grew up in the era in which individual entrepreneurs made a tremendous difference in Houston. Your George Browns, your Roy Hofheinz, your Jesse Jones - these are individuals. They are not corporations, they are not big conglomerates. We have since come to a point where the impact in this city are made by the corporations. If you go down and you look at the list of support for our museums, our art museums and our symphonies, etc., this is corporate support. In the old days, it was all family support. The big family influence in Houston, the big entrepreneurial influence in Houston has passed. It is all now up to these guys that run the big companies if they are going to make the difference.
FM: Those are good thoughts to close on. Thank you very much, Mayor.
FH: My pleasure.