Leopold Meyer

Duration: 1hr 57mins
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Interview with: Leopold Meyer
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava
Date: April 26, 1978
Archive Number: OH 227

 

LM:      [00:06] In the early days of the United Fund—which was originally called Community Chest—during the Depression—Mrs Sharp borrowed $5,000 to donate to the Chest, and the Chest refused to take her contribution. She was so liberal and had been so kind to the Chest, they thought they would rather wait until Mrs Sharp’s fortunes were recouped—which was merely a matter of time because she was not broke—never was broke—but merely badly bent like many of the other people during the period of the Depression.

I’d like to say another thing about the oil business. I’d like to make a reference to a man named J.S. Cullinan—one of the founders of the Texas Company—a very handsome man—and I’d like to make a personal observation here—you might like it or not like it—a very capable man and successful—not through luck—through brains. I recall one situation over 50 years ago—maybe 60 years ago—when Houston had a problem with the Ku Klux Klan. It is my recollection than Mrs Cullinan was a Catholic. I don’t know what Mr Cullinan was, but he fought the Klan, which was very much anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.
Mr Cullinan fought hard and was—his—the man—the newspaper man that championed—God, I forgot about it—I haven’t thought of this in fifty years—that championed the cause against the Klan was M.E. Foster—known everywhere as Mefo—about 120 pounds—all brains. Well, it seems that Mr Cullinan wasn’t getting the right cooperation from a Jewish gentleman of the community. And he became very bitter. For some reason, I was called on to answer some criticism that Mr Cullinan made in the paper—a committee of Jews called on me. And I refused to answer Mr Cullinan because I thought it was right. The Jewish gentleman had not done his share, and I couldn’t—I couldn’t quarrel with Mr Cullinan when his—when his cause was just. Well it so happens that I knew his son and his daughter—one of his daughters—very well—Nina Cullinan—who was a fine citizen. I served on numerous committees with her. His son was Craig. Craig and I—can I tell a funny little story?

MI:       Yes, please.

LM:      [04:48] Craig and I are very good friends. So one day when I was visiting in his office in the Petroleum Building, he said—it was just at the time that the state of Israel became recognized—he said, “Lep,” he said, “you and I have been friends for a long time. I want to make a deal with you. If you get all the Jews of Houston together with all their possessions, we’ll send them all back to Israel, and I’ll pay the bill.” Well, I says, “Craig, that’s not a bad idea.” I said, “I’ll see what I can do about it.” Well, I was having lunch at the Ramada Club about—several weeks later, and I told Craig, “I want to meet you in your office after lunch.” We went up to his office, and I said, “Craig, I need your check for $35,000,000. I’ve gotten all the Jews signed up, and I’m going to send them back to Israel. And I’m going with them.” “Oh no,” he says. “I don’t want you to go.” “Oh, yes,” I says. “I’m another Jew. I’m going with the rest of the flock.” He said, “If you go, there’s no deal.” I says, “It’s too late.” And then, of course, it was all a bunch of foolishness. And we laughed it out. I knew him until he died. I liked him very much. I’m particularly fond of his children. Although my son went to Los Alamos in New Mexico with his son—little Craig Jr—I’m very much better acquainted with
J.S. II—a lovely man. I appreciate him very much and consider him one of my good friends of the younger generation.

MI:       Let me ask you this while we’re on the subject of anti-Semitism —in your years in Houston, have you experienced—have you seen much of it? Has there been much evidence of it?

LM:      No—unequivocally, no. If you look for trouble you can find it. Do you agree with me?

MI:       Yeah.

LM:      I want you to know that not one single time am I mindful of one anti-Semitic situation in which I was involved—and I’ve lived eighty-six years. Remember, if you go around with a chip on your shoulder, somebody’s going to knock it off. That’s my honest opinion. I’d like to talk about one of God’s chosen people—James Smither Abercrombie. I—there is no way of describing Jim Abercrombie. I’ve tried in conversations. I’ve tried in writing. He had more virtues and pure faults—pure obvious faults—or discernible—than any man I ever knew—a liberal thinker—liberal, I mean, towards unfortunates—lesser persons—that’s the way I mean—not liberal as we construe liberal today. I would call him charitable rather than liberal. He was more or less a loner. Upon my word, I think—including his brothers—and all of them blind of a good men—including his brothers—I think that Herbert Allen—who was the president of Cameron Iron Works—who grew up under Mr Abercrombie—Ralph McCullough—who was the manager of the Abercrombie interests—and I were the only three men that knew him. It isn’t that he was complex. He was not complex. He was shy, a wonderful father, an outstanding husband. I think that every member of his family owed him something but all were worthy. I knew his two sisters very well. I knew his brothers—Bob, John, Milo, Joe, Will. His sisters were Vinnie and Emmie. Mrs Abercrombie herself was fantastic. I would say she is one of the most loved people that have ever lived in Houston in my time. She deserved it. She was good, charitable, and although they were fabulously rich, he was as simple as a peon. He knew no bounds in his good works. I remember when he and his wife visited my wife and me when we were vacationing in Arizona. I was sitting on the porch one day, and evidently, I looked concerned. He said, “Buddy,”— He walked up to me and said, “Buddy, you looked worried.” I said, “I am. I’m worried how the hell can I spend your money.”

 

cue point

 

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      [13:07] Well, he said, “That must be one of your favorite pastimes. I don’t see why it should worry you now.” I said, “Well, I tired of wrestling with little contributions like $50,000. I’m talking about some money. I want $2,500,000.” He said, “What for?” Well, I said, “I want to build a children’s hospital.” Well, he said, “What do you know about children’s hospitals?” I said, “Everything.” As a matter of fact—on paper—I did know. I studied for seven years. I worked with what was known as the Texas Children’s Foundation whose ultimate hope was a children’s hospital. But it was too inactive to suit me, and I was wondering whether to quit or produce. Well, he said, “Where are you going to get the rest of the money?” I said, “You’re not the only chump in the world.” I said, “I’ll get the money.” He said, “You’ve got it.” Well, of course, I was excited and came back home. My board of Texas Children’s Foundation was in a state of collapse when they heard the news. From then on, it was remarkable how the money came in. There was some good people that helped us—a number of good people. There’re the Brown brothers—who were very substantial contributors—Wesley West—one of the finest men that ever breathed the mortal breath—was a very, very liberal giver.

MI:       The Brown brothers also helped you with the School for the Retarded.

LM:      [15:30] Everything. Everything I ever did. Mrs W.L Clayton, the Sid Richardson estate—which made a contribution that resultantly influenced with the estate of George Brown, and of course, I could go on and on. Mr Cullen helped us. But I think the case of Mrs W.L. Clayton—unique. The lady never saw the plans. She never crossed the threshold. I had no reason for believing she had known about the hard work that had been done. And out of the blue—when she died—she left us $5,000,000—which has been held intact—by the way—that was stipulation—we could only use the interest. Mr Will Clayton himself—see I talk to much—(tape recorder noise)—I go from one man to another—Mr Will Clayton himself was very sympathetic to Children’s Hospital. I considered Mr Clayton one of my good friends. I knew him since I was relatively a boy. (laughs) I went to his office one time and asked him for $500 towards something that I was trying to accumulate to put in condition baseball fields for amateurs. I could tell that
Mr Clayton was a very busy man. He listened to me respectfully, and he said, “My dear boy, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you’ll just let me go back to my work, I’ll give you $250.” I said, “I’ll take it.”

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      So, (doorbell rings) he had two men in his association. I wish I had words to describe them. I wonder who the hell that is—(buzz)—oh. One of them was
Mr Lamar Fleming—the other, Harmon Whittington. And when you are reading about the symphony orchestra, you are going to be intrigued with the exchange of correspondence between me and Mr Whittington. I’d like to talk to you another time.

MI:       Okay.

LM:      May I?

MI:       Certainly.

LM:      All right.

[19:05]

Leopold Meyer Oral History Interview
Oral History 227 02 D3
Interview 2 of 2

 

Leopold Meyer
May 9, 1978
Houston, Texas

 

MI:       [19:08] Continuing interview with Mr Leopold Meyer. May 9, 1978. Mr Meyer, I’d like to begin this session by talking about two individuals who we haven’t discussed before—Roy Hofheinz and Glen McCarthy. Both of them have been widely publicized. And I was wondering if we might be able to talk a bit about them with regard to their position with the other leading members of the community who we have discussed before.

LM:      Well, Hofheinz had a very unique career, and—in my opinion—if he had been a little more in control of himself, he would have made a more favorable impression on the community at large. A friend of his—such as I was—understood him. I considered him a very remarkable young man. I knew his wife. I knew his wife’s sister. I knew his father-in-law. And at 27 years of age, he was County Judge—which was no small office. He handled himself with due dignity, and I think he’ll go down in the record—history of Galveston—as a very successful individual.

MI:       You mean Houston. You said Galveston.

LM:      Houston—I meant Houston. Now, Roy had the dream of the Astrodome. I know when he presented it by means of charts in Mr Jim Abercrombie’s office, he wanted endorsements of as many people as possible for ulterior motives. I was in the office at the time. I man named McCullough, and according to my recollection, Herman Brown was there. His presentation made no sense. It was too imaginative. I recall the very remarks of Mr Brown—who had more brains in his feet than most of my friends had in their heads. Brown said, “I went along with him until he said it could be air-conditioned. That just can’t be done.” Well, my personal reaction was that Herman could not be wrong. Abercrombie wasn’t excited, and as far as I’m concerned, I think I was only there because Hofheinz had in mind a horse show—of which I was president for many years. The horse show would put on a performance in the Astrodome. Be that as it may, he went ahead, and he made one big blunder. He proved that it was not a dream. It’s the first great, big dome stadium in this country—according to my understanding. The biggest blunder he made was falling out with Bob Smith—R.E. “Bob” Smith. If he had managed to keep Bob Smith’s good will, the Lord only knows what he would ultimately have accomplished.

 

cue point

 

MI:       [24:12] Why did they fall out?

LM:      Bob Smith couldn’t visualize the magnitude of Roy Hofheinz’s thinking. It was over Bob’s head. And Roy was continuously reaching out for the enlargement of his activities within the dome—which you know was made possible because of the Harris County financing. The fact that his baseball team was a failure—because his failure to understand the public—he was too money conscious and consistently traded off some of his best players. I have an idea that was the beginning of his conflict with Smith. When he traded off his good, fine players for money—sold them—he incurred a good deal of bad will from the public. As a matter of fact, I’m a baseball fan, but I don’t remember the details, except that I know that two of his men were rookies of the year—either rookies of the year or outstanding so-and-so positions of the year—I don’t remember the details. Oh, I could sum this up by saying—he had a find mind—no limits to his potential. I think he was a good mayor, and he then incurred some bad will, too. And I believe that the whole reason that his bad will was incurred was because his thinking was beyond the community as a whole.

MI:       What did men like Abercrombie and Jesse Jones and the Browns and the other men closely associated in that group think of him as a politician? Did they support him?

LM:      I think they all thought favorably of him. I know Judge Elkins did not. I remember certain things he said that I don’t think I should repeat. I presume that Elkins asked for something unreasonable, and Roy wouldn’t give it to him.

MI:       As mayor?

LM:      Sir?

MI:       When he was mayor?

LM:      Yes, sir. I know later on—I think—I may be wrong—my recollection is that he owned the First City National Bank $6,000,000, and therefore closed, but what the details were thereafter, I don’t know.

MI:       [27:32] You mean, Hofheinz owed them money?

LM:      Yes. Yes. That is for the—all his operations—the corporate loan. I don’t think Roy himself is broke, but I know the Astrodome operations were—as such—not a success. I know him favorably. I know his second wife—his first wife died. I know his second wife since she was a girl. As far as—in my book—he has an
A rating.

MI:       What about Glen McCarthy? How did he fit into all this?

LM:      (laughs) The man was a child of fortune. He didn’t know how to incur the good will of the bigger men—the more important men—of the community. His was purely luck. He hit oil and got rich and was doing all right as long as he minded his own business. I think Glen’s misfortune—ultimately—revolved about the Shamrock. As far as he himself is concerned, it was a failure, and I’m certainly free to criticize him. He didn’t know anything about the hotel business and lost his pants just the same as I didn’t know anything about the apartment house business and lost my pants. I didn’t stick to my own knitting. Glen was pugnacious. He could have been saved financially if he had known how to court the good will of the oilmen—all of whom finally were unfriendly because in everyday language, Glen was too big for his pants. And it was well understood by men like me who knew him well, if he had been anything different, I can’t imagine what he would have been. I know he was a good drinker—

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      —I drank with him. I could drink better than he could drink. I drank as much and stayed sober, and he drank his and got drunk. I think Glen was a pretty good drinker as long as he stayed with Scotch whiskey. When he drank bourbon, he was another guy. I know—

MI:       Was he the fighter everyone said he was?

LM:      Sir?

MI:       Was he the fighter everyone said he was?

LM:      [31:21] He was the most contentious, pugnacious individual that I knew. He fought with everybody ultimately. And the only reason why he didn’t knock the hell out of me was he had—his conscious would have hurt him because he was a tremendous man—powerful. Glen liked people. Surprisingly, he was a
soft-spoken man—relatively. I never heard—I never heard Glen raise his voice to a noticeable degree. As family men go, I think he was a good one—as they go—a normal—a normal sort of life that he led with a remarkable wife who understood him. And I would say offhand—had I any more than I did—that she put up with a hell of a lot. I don’t think that Jones, Abercrombie, Cullen had any particular regard for him—all because Glen was a—what do you call it? There’s a certain word I can’t think of. He was a—stop that, will you? He was a maverick. He wanted to go his own way. He was associated with a man named Frank Champion. Glen was afraid of Frank Champion physically. In my opinion—although I have no idea that Glen was a damned fool—I’d say that Frank Champion was damned smart. Frank was a tremendous man. He was once a bouncer in a saloon on the West Coast—San Francisco. That’s where he got his college education—he was a bouncer.

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      I was very fond of him. And he objected to Glen’s building the Shamrock, and I think that was the beginning of the end of those two men.

MI:       Over the Shamrock?

LM:      Over the Shamrock deal. In other words, Champion wanted Glen to stick to the oil business—which whether he knew originally anything about or not, he ultimately did learn and would have been a fantastic success if—so to speak—he had minded his own business.

MI:       What connection—what direct connection did Champion have with him?

LM:      I don’t think he was a partner, but frankly, I think he was more or less—well, he did Glen’s thinking and had capacity. He was a very smart man in my book.

 

cue point

 

MI:       Now there was a conflict between McCarthy and Jesse Jones—wasn’t there?—over the selection of the international airport site?

LM:      [35:53] I don’t remember.

MI:       Okay.

LM:      I can’t understand why Glen would have had anything to say about it.

MI:       Well, Glen McCarthy had an idea to build it out by Sharpstown.

LM:      Sir?

MI:       Didn’t he have—didn’t McCarthy have the idea to build the airport by Sharpstown—in that Sharpstown area?

LM:      I must say, I don’t know.

MI:       Okay. Fine.

LM:      I don’t know. I know I knew him well—as men go with other men. I still have a high regard for him—regardless of anything I might have said favorable or unfavorable.

MI:       Well, he—

LM:      I like McCarthy.

MI:       He was never included in the inner circles.

LM:      Never. He was a loner.

MI:       Okay.

LM:      Definitely a loner. And that’s why the other men—other oilmen—were impatient with him. If he could have curried the favor—which he needed—of other men when he got in trouble, he would have been paid out. Well, I’m sure there’s much more to Glen than I’ve said, but I certainly would want to go on record as favorable to Glen McCarthy. I’ll admit he was a difficult man. He liked those he liked very much, and those he didn’t care for, the hell with them.

MI:       [37:33] Earlier, you had told me you wanted to talk about James Abercrombie.

LM:      Of all the men that I was every associated with in my life, I know of no man that I loved as much as I loved Jim Abercrombie. If I were forced in the presence of God—I would have difficulty in saying that I loved my brothers more than I loved Jim. I really feel that my affection for him was reciprocated. Although he was only two years older than I was, I felt very small in his presence. He had a magnificent mind—uneducated but not illiterate—a sound thinker—very analytical. In most respects, just the opposite of me. I was impulsive. He was a man of reflection. If I had—if I had been more willing to listen to Jim, I would have been a very rich man, but I could not have pursued normal impulses. I simply could not avoid public service. It was an escape from what my life’s ambition really was and to keep from grieving, I had to consistently be doing to get my mind off myself. I know before, I’ve said in this interview, I hated every aspect of the retail business except credit—which I thought was a science—and dignified. I don’t care how—who you point out—or whom you point out—as outstanding in the retail franchise business, to me there’s something missing. You’re nothing but a glorified peddler. Now, Jim didn’t want me to do most of the things I did.

MI:       You mean charity activities?

LM:      Yes, sir. He himself was a solo charity. I knew him nearly 50 years, and I—there was never one occasion on which I asked for help that I didn’t get it. I wrote my own ticket. He often hurrahed me about disregard for his pocketbook. I remember once when Jim said, “What the matter? You look worried.” I said, “I am worried.” He said, “What’s worrying you?” I said, “I’m worried how to spend your money.” Well, he said, “I don’t know why you’re worried on this occasion. You never have worried before.” Well, of course, to carry on my story, I asked for a large sum of money and got it. He was impatient with men who were not charitable but understood them better than I did. I think it’s because I’m a Jew. A Jew who isn’t charitable can’t be a good Jew. That’s one of the basic principles of Judaism—is charity. If you’ll read the Talmud—which is a treatise reflecting the philosophy of Jews over the centuries—you will see all through the Talmud—which is the basis for Jewish philosophy—charity is taken for granted. It’s one of the—it’s one of the tenets of the faith and indexed to character. I don’t want to repeat myself.

 

cue point

 

MI:       [43:05] Okay. How was Abercrombie viewed in the inner circle of—?

LM:      Mr Abercrombie—in any circle—was Mr Jim. He loved fellow—his fellow men. He served his fellow men. He was a very religious man in his thinking and in his actions but not a churchgoer. He was a very tolerant man—was sympathetic with all faiths. He contributed to all faiths. He was a good man to work for as an employee and a good man to work for in my capacity. I am very proud of the fact that through my influence, Mr Abercrombie satisfied a certain hunger that he couldn’t appease—and that is a hunger to give. He didn’t know how unless he was sold a bill. I don’t mean that he had to wait for me to come along to do something good, but he liked my philosophy of life. And in this way, I say I felt like a child in his presence—he was so much smarter. He appreciated my instincts—although he wasn’t sympathetic with my overactivity. He didn’t understand that it was necessary for me to be very, very busy to be at all happy.

I don’t believe there are enough words in the English language for me to really express my sentiments about Abercrombie. He was a magnificent husband, a fine father—past overindulgent in all respects. Overindulgent not only with his family—immediate family—but with his brothers and sisters—also with his friends. Anything within reason was recognized favorably if at all possible. I would say that Mr Jim was one of the few men that I cost some money. He knew I was wrong in my apartment house project. His right-hand man was a man named McCullough. I loved Ralph McCullough. He’s everything that I thought was good and loyal—as an employer and as a friend. He loved Jim Abercrombie—worked for him nearly 50 years. I think it was the only job he ever had in his life. I know when I needed money one time, he gave McCullough a blank check and said, “Give him what he needs.” I cost him $150,000. He even went so far one time as to fear for me, and late in life—before he became sick—he said, “Lep, I’ve got a lot of money. Do you think I’d better start a trust for you? You’re irresponsible, and somebody better look after you, and I want to do it.” And he was serious—and right. Of course, I told him no, and if I had to say so today, I would still say no. But it reflects the character of the man. It wouldn’t have been a trust that would’ve been published in the Houston Post. It would’ve been a confidential trust between Jim and me.

I worked hard for Jim. I put up with the horse show for over 30 years. I did it for Jim. I didn’t know a horse’s head from a horse’s tail. I knew organization. I told him I was going to take the job if he’d let me build the finest horse show in America. He said, “You do the job. I’ll pay the bill.” I did the job. It is the finest horse show in America. As long as he lived, he paid the bill. He loved the hospital. Anything I wanted to do for the hospital was okay with him. As a result of his big-heartedness, when it looked like I would be in trouble financially with the hospital, he said, “Lep, I’m going to underwrite the deficit for five years.” As a matter of fact, he underwrote the deficit as long as he lived. But just before he got sick, he established a trust. He and I had discussed the hospital finances. He wasn’t particularly happy about us always being in trouble. We were in trouble because we were a big charity factor—which as far as I was concerned was one of the reasons why I gave it years of my life. He agreed with me.

[49:59] So finally, he created a trust, which paid all the dividends from a certain—from certain stock in Cameron Iron Works for 40 years. I think the date of the trust is 1968. After 20 years—no, I’m not stating it right. I got all of the proceeds from the trust for 20 years and half of the proceeds for 20 years more—which we have estimated that as the situation continues for the life of the trust—at the end of the trust, we should have a foundation of $30,000,000 and $40,000,000. At the present time, that trust is paying—and has paid for the last several years—about $1,350,000 a year. The hospital is so functioning now that the entire proceeds of the trust go to the foundation. The hospital is breaking even. He loved the hospital as much as I did, and although he wasn’t active in the details, the philosophy behind the hospital appealed to him. He was—in my opinion—after knowing every man of any importance in the city of Houston—Jim Abercrombie was a standout. My opinion is not solely my own. I think that men who knew him would generally agree. And of course, his interests weren’t as broad as other men that I know—only because he wasn’t introduced to general activities on a base scale. Oh, yes, he made the contributions—everything conceivable—but he had things in which he was particularly interested. I know he was good to Rice. I know that his daughter had been good to Baylor. But I’m sure there’s lots I didn’t know anything about.

MI:       Sure.

LM:      But if he was in doubts about the worthwhileness of any cause, he would talk to me. I can’t—I don’t know what more I can say about Abercrombie. He was one of God’s chosen people.

 

cue point

 

MI:       [53:35] Let me ask you now about a period of time—the early ‘50s in Houston. You may recall there was a—the fear—well, it was the McCarthy period—

LM:      Yes.

MI:       —the McCarthy period—when there was a great fear for communism and so on. How did that affect the community here?

LM:      The community was never communist-minded. It was not a general subject of conversation.

MI:       But there wasn’t any concern among the leadership in the city?

LM:      I never heard it expressed more than casually by anybody. It was never a factor in the city of Houston’s life—public or otherwise.

MI:       Do you recall the Minute Women?

LM:      Yes. They never amounted to anything. It was a bunch of fatheads—dreamers—that nobody took seriously. They had one or two prominent women—the majority were just the average rank and file. Nobody of any real importance was a Minute Woman—according to my recollection.

MI:       But it was never a subject—was it ever discussed among the men like Abercrombie or—

LM:      No, it was laughed at—

MI:       —Jesse Jones?

LM:      —laughed at. It was a—was a—not remotely as talked about as is equal rights movement of today—not remotely. They were—they were left wing for what amounted to nothing.

MI:       Was this true for Cullen?

LM:      Sir?

MI:       [55:30] How about Mr Cullen?

LM:      What about him?

MI:       Was he involved actively in it? I had heard that he was—active, I mean, in—

LM:      Support?

MI:       No, no, no. In fighting it—in fighting the threat of communism. He was very, very conservative.

LM:      He was very communist. (laughs) I think it’s laughable.

MI:       No, no—not that he was a communist—that he was opposed to it.

LM:      No, no, no. I don’t mean that either. He could be very excited about the subject of communism.

MI:       Oh, oh. Okay.

LM:      And if you were to ask me if he was more anti-communist minded than anybody I knew, I’d say yes.

MI:       Yeah, that’s—okay.

LM:      (laughs) I heard him talk about it many times—laughable.

MI:       How did the other men feel about his activities?

LM:      About who?

MI:       How did the other men feel—like Jess Jones and Abercrombie and Elkins—feel about Cullen’s concern?

LM:      Oh, I don’t think they took it seriously. I’m sure Cullen approached them all—shall we do this, that, or the other. It was never a—it was never very significant matter for public consideration among the big men—that I knew of.

MI:       [56:58] How did these men feel about the racial problems?

LM:      It was never a factor. In the early ‘20s, there was a Ku Klux Klan activity. It lasted a little while—actively. It was defeated by—almost single-handedly—by M.E. Foster—who at that time was editor of the Houston Press. He was a little man that weighed about 125 pounds sopping wet—and half of his weight was in brains. He fought them tooth and toenail and backed them off the boils. There is no argument about that because—he was known as Mefo—I mean he was referred to as Mefo. I think he signed Mefo to his column. I knew him very well. My sister and brother-in-law knew him very well. I’d say he was one of Houston’s great men while he lived—journalism-wise. There is no question about Mefo being Houston’s outstanding journalist—as of his time and as of now. He was remarkable—big head—I mean in size—not otherwise.

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      Likable. I knew his family well. I could say some other things I’m not going to say. What else you want to know?

MI:       Well, let’s talk about the construction of this apartment house and when you tore down the old house that used to be here.

LM:      Well, I’ll tell you why I tore down the old house. I was sick. I had just had a nervous breakdown a few years earlier and had not completely recovered. I could not live on Main Street. That was—in my recollection—in 1938 or ’39. You know, it’s a shame that a fellow has to tell the truth some times. He’d rather we’d be buried with the facts. For a man of reasonable intelligence—I didn’t say extraordinary—I said reasonable intelligence—which I have a right to claim—

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      —I was the biggest damn fool that walked in shoe leather. I was sold a bill by two ambitious nobodies. Here I was—the development of this property was first considered through the influence of a man from Dallas named Leo Corrigan. He was a big operator—perhaps as big as there was in the state of Texas at that time. He wanted to lease my property—and I said “my” which isn’t so—all the interest that I had in this property was inherited. My wife’s aunt owned the property—gave me—or loaned—the property originally, which I couldn’t accept as of morally—she was unhappy at that time with some family matter—which is nobody’s business. So I finally convinced her that if she didn’t want the property to go to everybody in the family, she should leave it to her daughter—her niece—which was my wife. Well, she said there was one stipulation—it couldn’t be used as a funeral home.

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      Well, in those days, most of the big homes were—sure, sure—funeral parlors. With all the hard luck she had, I don’t blame her. There was nothing left to do but tear it down. First of all, I couldn’t afford to live in it—17 rooms. I’d have had to have a corps of service. I think we had six while she lived including the governess and a white chauffeur. So Corrigan came to me saying he could lease a certain number of floors to Shell Oil if we would name it the Shell Building. Well, I didn’t give a damn what he named it. So I made an appointment with Judge Elkins—who was my nemesis all my life—and at the meeting—along with Corrigan and me—there was Herman Brown, George Brown, Jim Abercrombie, Bill Smith, and if there was anybody else, I don’t remember. I think I could have sold the bill if two things had happened—did not happen. If Corrigan hadn’t talked so much and if Judge Elkins hadn’t been contemplating building the First City National Bank Building. Elkins threw water—cold water—on the deal, and he had certain influence with the men that I’ve mentioned. So I therefore didn’t make the deal. Elkins didn’t want an office building to go here as Corrigan contemplated because it would interfere with his plan with the First City—
[1:03:46]

 

Leopold Meyer Oral History Interview
Oral History 227 02 D4

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Leopold Meyer
May 9, 1978
Houston, Texas

 

MI:       [00:07] Continuing interview.

LM:      Huh?

MI:       It’s fine.

LM:      All right. Now—

MI:       You were saying about the bank—the—

LM:      You mentioned—I stated Elkins threw water on the office building deal because he didn’t want any competition with his contemplated building of the First National Bank Building. Now, you may ask, “Why did you go to Elkins?” Because Corrigan wanted interim financing and needed a big bank. If had not been a fool years before and had left the Second National Bank—before it became the Bank of the Southwest—I would have been treated more cordially because the men at the head of the Southwest were simply more—more—I hate to use the work “honorable” because I have no right to say the judge was dishonorable. He was not charitable. I had been a friend of his since I was a boy, and I think he mistreated me like he did all the days of his life. I would—I would say in my whole lifetime, no man ever mistreated me as did Judge Elkins. You know you’ve often heard it said that the only people who can cheat you are the people you trust because people you don’t trust, you watch.

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      My faith in Judge Elkins was implicit. I did not conceive of a double-cross. Now, therefore, he refused to give Corrigan the interim financing that he required, and I lost the deal. Well, there was a man from Chicago who was the uncle of a fellow named Frye. Frye wanted to buy this property. It happened at a time when I was making a deal with two other men. I had given my word that I would go forward with the apartment house deal and felt morally obligated to do so. Both of the men put together didn’t have the brains of a flea. But the deal was—because of my being so busy and because of my age—I would not be obliged to give any attention to the apartment house. They would look after it. The whole danger—the whole difficulty—with the deal was that one of the partners was so small-minded that we never employed a capable manager—a man who knew the business. We were always dealing with cheap help and got results comparative in comparison to what we paid. There was nothing to be anticipated except failure. There was not the best equipment. For example, the refrigerators were antiquated when we put them into this new building. The building, as such, is built beautifully. I think the architecture was unsound because of two much of gingerbread. More investment because of balconies all through the building—which were not necessary—and no other apartment house had them. It was a terribly costive thing. I would say it was failure from the minute the foundation was laid. And as it wound up—in round figures—I guess it cost me $2,000,000—besides embarrassment. Why I didn’t seek partners—I was not financially able to handle it myself—but why—but I didn’t take any money as down payment from the two men that I went in business with—they didn’t pay a damn cent.

MI:       [05:40] Huh.

LM:      And one of them paid me back about—I’m guessing—a third of what he owed me. The other one paid back nothing. As I say, I think the loss approximated $2,000,000 and much grief and much heartache. That’s only one instance. I could repeat my circumstance a dozen times in my life. There was—I know the reason. It wasn’t that I was so aged, I did not have time to look after my own affairs. And if this don’t convince you of the fact—what you’ve seen in the last few visits—I don’t know what could convince you—that I worked for others and not for myself. And I’m not sorry. If you asked me today whether I would rather have, at my age, the money that I lost or the service that I have rendered, I would rather—I’d say I would rather have lived my life as I did than to have millions in the bank. There was one great source of unhappiness. I knew where my money was going to go when I died—my will—original will so reflected. With the exception of ten percent of my estate that was to go to one niece, the great bulk of my estate—which would have normally been in the millions—was going to Baylor, Retarded Children, Texas Children’s, Texas Heart Institute, and St Luke’s. At least
three-quarters of what I expected to have would have gone to those five institutions. Of course, I considered Rice and Tulane in my hopes. And that is the great disappointment—that I’m not in position to give them substantial amounts—not that I haven’t given them something.

LM:      [08:38] Be that as it may, I’m a happy man.

MI:       You should be.

LM:      I get along with my family. There may be strained relations periodically like there are in all large families. But my salvation is my sister, who spends as much time as possible. I know other men who have had lots of sisters. I swear to God, I can’t believe that any man had a sister like mine. She’s unselfish, does everything to make my life more comfortable, shops for me. I can’t explain it. She’s a marvelous woman and one of the great blessings of my life.

 

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MI:       Are there any areas that I neglected to ask you about that you would like to talk about?

LM:      Yes. There’s one thing that I am a crank about—

MI:       This is your chance.

LM:      —and I haven’t had a chance to tell you how I feel. You know, in a community, we talk about all the Jesse Joneses, all the Browns—and God knows they were blessed men—Abercrombie—blah, blah, blah. We forget the little fellows who do so much for the community and have but only a fancy—only a passing recognition. For example, I think of the Women’s Auxiliary of Children’s Hospital. I think of the Junior League. I think of Blue Bird Circle. I can think of one woman that I know of in Children’s Hospital has donated over 6,000 hours to service in the Auxiliary. A number of them have served 5,000 hours—
4,000 hours. I speak more particularly of Children’s Hospital because I know more about it. The same applies to the other institutions. We could not have paid for their services. But there are other men. I made a note of one or two. For example, you speak of Mr Abercrombie—and I’ve told you nothing I could say could possibly present the man fully—but Mr Allen—Mr Herbert Allen—was
Mr Abercrombie’s man at Cameron Iron Works, an institution that is perhaps most influential worldwide. I remember 25 years ago—maybe 30—a man from Milwaukee came to Houston—called on me—asked me to help him buy the Cameron Iron Works. I went to Jim’s office one day and says, “Chief—” I called him Chief—“Chief, I just made a million dollars, and I wanted you to be the first man to know it.” He said, “Fine.” He said, “It’s time you made some money.”

MI:       (laughs)

LM:      [12:34] “How’d you make the million dollars?” I said, “I just sold the Cameron Iron Works for $35,000,000.” He said, “Whoever bought it was damned smart.” (laughs) Of course, he wouldn’t sell it. Now, I mentioned Herbert Allen. I consider Herbert one of my good friends. In regard to what I say about Mr Abercrombie, Herbert Allen has to be given credit for the success of Cameron. He was an outstanding engineer. Now I think of another man—Ralph McCullough was the head man—well, I’ll call him Jim’s general manager—man of good character and an excellent man to carry out Jim’s thinking—faithful and loyal. And Jim loved him—I know that. His daughter, Josephine, has her father’s mind—as smart as hell—and I think has done well by the handling of his estate. And I call her one of the smartest women in Houston—businesswomen.

MI:       Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

LM:      I don’t know much about the other side of her—of her intellect. Back in—you don’t mind if I tell another little story about Mr Abercrombie?

MI:       Of course.

LM:      The Reed Roller Bit was a competitor—after a fashion—of Hughes Tool Company. I think it was Steve Farish who was the president of Reed Roller Bit. Harry Wiess—who was one of the presidents of Humble Oil—protested one of Farish’s deals that didn’t work out favorably, and at one of the meetings—meetings of the board, (phone rings) he made a motion. So Mr Wiess—who was a rather difficult man—offered a motion that (laughs) the president couldn’t enter any deal in which more than fifty thousand dollars was involved without the approval of the executive committee—of which Mr Wiess evidently was a member.

But before it was voted on, Mr Abercrombie made a motion that Mr Farish be fired. Well, there was an uproar, and they asked Jim Abercrombie, “What is the basis of your wanting to fire Farish?” Jim said, “If Farish doesn’t have the capacity for making a deal to suit his best judgement, he isn’t qualified for the job. I say either fire him or let him have full authority.” (laughs) And Abercrombie’s motion prevailed over Wiess’ motion. And although—now I got this story from Abercrombie. If I haven’t told it exactly right, forgive us. I’d understand that Mr Wiess—although he didn’t sever his connection with Reed Roller Bit—had very little interest in serving after that, and that’s very unusual for this reason—I would say that Reed Roller Bits’ big customer was Humble Oil, of which Wiess was an important man as long as he lived—besides being president.

[17:39] I knew all of the presidents of Humble Oil. According to my recollection, Mr Sterling, Farish—W.S. Farish—a brain—Wiess, Blaffer, Reistle—Carl Reistle—Morgan Davis, Mike Wright, and Strangely. I don’t know who the current man is because I haven’t been active lately and out about—don’t get about. I really have no interest in it anyhow. There is another interesting man. I don’t know if we’ve talked about him or not. His name was Sharp—W.B. Sharp.

MI:       We mentioned him briefly.

LM:      I didn’t mention him?

MI:       Briefly.

LM:      Well, although I’m not so positive how long it lasted, I know at one time he was in partners with Howard Hughes Sr. And (laughs) you know, I’ve told you about some of my blunders—I don’t mind mentioning his—his giving up his partnership in Hughes Tool was his great blunder—as you know the history of the company. But Mr Sharp was a genius in his own right. I may be—I may be wrong about it—remember I wasn’t anything but a very young man—I think Sharp was the first—the first active driller in our area. If I’m not mistaken, his first undertaking was the Spindletop, and he drilled only a few miles from where the great gusher—the Spindletop gusher—came in.

MI:       That’s right.

LM:      And with all of his accomplishments, God knows what would have happened. He only lived to be a man in his middle ‘40s. And I would call him a genius. I knew both of his boys very well—Bedford and Dudley. Mrs Sharp was a great woman. I served with the committee—I remember—with Mrs Sharp on the Child’s Guidance Center. Mrs Sharp and Ima Hogg were really the inspiration for the Child’s Guidance Center.

 

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MI:       Did you ever work with Oveta Hobby on any projects?

LM:      [21:08] I’ve known Oveta as long as—I’ve known her since she married the governor. I don’t think I knew either one of them before Hobby moved to Houston. I didn’t know him when he owned Beaumont Enterprise.

MI:       They were good friends with Jesse Jones, weren’t they?

LM:      Oh, my God, yes. Mrs Hobby—now if I don’t tell these things absolutely correct, remember, we’re talking many, many years ago.

MI:       I understand that.

LM:      My recollection is Oveta was—and I knew her well—a parliamentarian at Austin—the state legislature. And through that, she married the governor. Now, although I felt they were good friends of mine, she was perhaps a better friend of my sister and brother-in-law. I would say my acquaintance with her has always been favorable, and I’m happy—supremely happy—that young Bill has made such a successful lieutenant governor. I was sorry he didn’t run instead of Hill, but I’m glad Hill was elected.

There’s some other young men here in town. I would talk about Dr DeBakey. It is impossible for me to exaggerate his importance in the—in his field. I happen to like him very much, and for a good reason. I don’t know how long I’ve been on Baylor’s board, but I resigned when I became ill, and DeBakey saw fit with McCollum to make me still stay on the board as a—whatever I am—emeritus. I’m still on the board. But Dr DeBakey owes a good deal to Ted Bowen, the administrator of Methodist Hospital. Ted was an unusual man—and I think he might have been sick lately—but all through his career, he and DeBakey worked very closely, and I believe the growth of the Methodist hospital is a result of the core operation between Bowen and DeBakey. There is no doubt about Methodist being DeBakey’s favorite hunting ground.

Now, let’s talk about Baylor. I was on the committee—of which Newton Rayzor was the chairman—at the time of the divorcement of the medical college from the Baylor at Waco, where it became another state college instead of a denominational college. And I’m very pleased that I can say that I worked very closely with Mr Rayzor—more closely than maybe known by a whole lot of people—and was, not importantly but by association, favorable to Dr DeBakey’s being president of Baylor. And it was a brilliant decision. There was a question at the time in the minds of some of the committeemen whether Dr DeBakey could be president of Baylor, the head of Baylor’s department of surgery, and practice private—and remain in private practice. And it was a reasonable question. But those in favor of DeBakey properly voted for him at being capable and qualified for all three assignments—it was a blessing. Well, on top of that is McCollum—L.F. McCollum. I don’t think McCollum can be overrated as importance to Baylor’s growth. I don’t know how much money he raised altogether. I know at one time he raised $30,000,000.

[27:05] (laughs) Baylor ran into a situation with the state legislature. There was an arbitrary member of the legislature who was entirely too influential—too powerful. He had lots to back it up—experience and brains. His name was Schwartz, and I think Schwartz is a good man. But I don’t think he ever was entirely convinced that Baylor was really nondenominational. And I undertook (laughs) taking on Schwartz. It was quite a circumstance, and rather than be too explicit and go into too much detail—which your records there will reflect—I won the argument, and Baylor got state money—all of which made me very proud. I’m sure if I hadn’t done it somebody else would have, but that sticks out favorable in my mind because Schwartz was (laughs) a hot potato and hard to handle. I’m afraid there was—there was a religious factor involved, and Schwartz was all wrong. There was no question about it. He just simply was all wrong. And I undertook to acquaint him with the fact. Be that as it may, Baylor was finally given its due. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Baylor. DeBakey has laid such a fine foundation that any man of good qualifications can carry on—can carry on.

Now there’s some other men in town that ought to be given some reflection. We’ve had outstanding sheriffs. We had a man named Binford—God knows how long he was sheriff. We had a man named Kern, and we have a man today by the name of Heard. All three men capable and a credit to the community. There’s never been any scandal in the sheriff’s department—I’m not mindful of any. By virtue of a circumstance, I’ve been very close to the police department for the last 30 years. I’d say the police department was a little hard to handle than the sheriff’s department, and as a whole, we’ve had good men. They’ve had problems, and although a great deal has been made of the current upheaval, we reflect on 3,500 men in the department with maybe ten no-good. That isn’t much to apologize for. Incidentally, I got a letter from the chief yesterday, thanking me for a letter I wrote to the Chronicle defending the department.

Now, Cooley needs no defense from anybody. He’s a genius. Perhaps has cared for more children than any man in the world. I just can’t think of anything that I wouldn’t trust Cooley with. We happen to have been friends—I’ve known him since he was a boy. I helped him with the Institute—to get it established. Now, Cooley’s been fortunate to having good boards. Herring—I’m talking about Bob Herring—has been a fine president. Cooley has attracted relatively large sums of money for the Institute. He’s given liberally himself to the Institute. I know of one $5,000,000 gift he got. I know of several $1,000,000 gifts. And although I’m not happy with the present plans, as I understand them, for the enlargement of the Institute, I’m sure for another decade what’s being planned will serve.

 

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[33:07] There are other men in town relative—we’ll put them in a class we’ll call them the broad middle class—not middle class socially—the middle class worker—if you can refer to categories. I’m talking about Fred Niehaus. Fred’s not a man of means, but he’s a—he’s made quite a contribution to the community. There’s George Amantra—successful as a worker—civic worker. Those men should be recognized—not just the great big monsters that we know of. I’m thinking of Wesley West—can hold his own in any company—charity-wise or otherwise. If I had to say what men I loved most in the city of Houston—what ten men—I’d have to say one of those men is Wesley West. I was very fond of his brother. He was a character—Silver Dollar Jim. I very much misunderstood man.

MI:       In what way?

LM:      Underrated, smart as hell. All they know about Jim was his eccentricity. In other words, you’d go to call on Jim—by the time (laughs) you got downstairs, your car was washed, greased and oiled, and filled with gasoline. He had his own kitchen—his own cook. He had a fine supply of wine and whiskey—enough for a real, honest-to-God connoisseur—and never drank a drop. He smoked cigars. He was very kind to me. I remember one day—may I talk on?

MI:       Of course.

LM:      I remember one day, he phoned me, and he had to see might right away. I said, “Jim, can I see you this afternoon after work?” He said, “No, I have to see you right away.” Well, I thought a whole lot of Jim. If he had to see me right away, I met him at my apartment at the Lamar. I said, “Jim, what’s on your mind?” “Oh,” he said, “I’ve got to have some help.” He says (laughs), “The police officers organization—” whatever his name was “—in Austin had to have $50,000 right away.” “Well, Jim,” I said, “that’s not so much money.” Well, he said, “I only have to raise $10,000 for Houston.” “Jim, all you do is write 100 men a letter—100 friends a letter—ask for $100 each—nobody would turn you down.” He says, “I don’t know 100 people—” born and raised here—probably knew 1,000. He might not know there names. Nobody would have turned him down. “Oh,” he says, “I can’t wait. I have to have the money today.”

[37:09] Well, Jim could have put his hand in his vest pocket—and he was a liberal man—and paid it out of his own pocket. I said, “What do you want me to do, Jim?” He said, “I want you to get—” (laughs) “—get the money.” Well, I didn’t have to ask Abercrombie. I put him down for $2,500. I asked Herman Brown—told him about it. He says, “I don’t know what in the hell your talking about, but I’ll give you $2,500. And I gave $2,500. Bob Abercrombie gave me $1,250, and Bill Smith gave me $1,250. So I have his $10,000 in all. He said, “By God, I knew you could—” (laughs) “—you could do it.” And it’s really laughable now, but he was very serious—very serious. He loved the police department. And if the Hunter Club had been started by Jim instead of me, it would have been a natural. But he wasn’t that type of guy. He was a—he was a modest man. So was Wesley—almost introverts—almost.

By the way, I’ve wrote Wesley a note about a week ago. Wesley and I were having dinner one night together, and there was a little singer by the name of Constance Towers, and I invited her over to the table to have a drink. To make a long story short, I hired her to sing at what is known as a midnight breakfast for the horse show to be held in several months. First, I give—I told her we’d give her $1,000. She never heard of $1,000 in her life. She was making $300 a week. We were going to give her $1,000 to sing one night. Well, Wesley and I had a few drinks, and Wesley said, “You know, I think that’s kind of short. We ought to pay that girl more than $1,000.” But he and I were going to pay for it. I said, “What do you want to give her, Wesley? She’s only making $300 a week.” He said, “Oh, I don’t care. Let’s give her $1,500.” I said, “All right.” When the girl came back to the table, I said, “We changed our minds, we’re going to give you $1,500.” Well, we drank a little more, and finally—although I’m sure the girl was in a state of shock—

MI:       (laughs) I guess she was.

LM:      —we gave her $2,500 and expenses. So (laughs) about a week before the girl was to put in her appearance, I said to myself, “I wonder if Wesley remembers that he and I are responsible for this girl.” So I rang up Wesley’s secretary—told her what the circumstance was. She said, “Well, Mr West is in California—” (laughs) “—but he’ll likely phone tomorrow. He phones almost every day.” Well, she didn’t phone me the next day, but the following day, she did and sent me over a check for $2,500. She said, “Mr West decided to pay the whole bill himself.” Typical—that was typical. He was a very, very liberal, charitable man—a good human being. (papers shuffling) Let’s see if there’s anybody else here.

MI:       [41:22] Okay.

LM:      You know, I told you that there were little men that ought to be given recognition. I’m sure you agree with me, but there’s some big men that were overlooked. I think Jesse Jones was capable of anything, but the smartest thing in his whole career was his capacity for picking the right men for the right jobs. For instance, Mr Fred Heyne took care of Mr Jones’ business in general—unlimited capacity. Besides being a fine man, Heyne had capacity. Jones complimented Heyne by giving a building in the Medical Center in Heyne’s name. The head of his bank—National Bank of Commerce—was Sam Taub—all brains—ran a most successful—he was the boss. I don’t believe he had any office in the bank—officer. I didn’t mean physical office. I don’t believe he was an officer. He ran the bank. He was the boss. Now, you take the Browns—unlimited capacity. But you can’t overlook Herbert Frensley—brilliant. His word was law—as far as he wanted to use it. Incidentally, he’s still living—thank God. Well, I don’t know who else I want to talk about.

 

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MI:       When you say his word was law, what exactly do you mean?

LM:      Sir?

MI:       When you say his word was law, what exactly do you mean?

LM:      He’s really—he is really the president of the Brown Foundation, but when Herbert Frensley’s opinion is expressed on any factor in the Brown empire, it’s given attention. He’s a man of remarkable capacity and a fine citizen, and I may be wrong, I think Herbert is in line as successor to—to—DeBakey as the president of Baylor—very important board member. McAshan had been a fine contribution to Baylor. Young Taub—he’s a very fine young man—Henry Taub. The whole Taub family speaks well for itself. You take over at Children’s Hospital—I’m given a whole lot of credit for Children’s Hospital. I’ll admit I sweated blood, but—you know—all I produced was brick and mortar. The brains were produced by Dr Blattner. It’s personnel—talent—that developed the hospital, not brick and mortar. Mr French—I think now he’s been the administrator for 16—18—years—very capable. He followed Dr Martin, who did the marvelous ground work in putting the hospital where it is. It may not be generally known, it’s one of the ranking hospitals in the world for children. I think it’s more or less considered in the same class with Boston’s Children’s. If anybody has an edge, we do. Now, there’s a—I wonder if there’s a community as a whole that knows that we have one of the greatest medical centers in the world. Why, it’s just getting its first breath. It’s going to be fantastic. Now they’re worried about space—ground. I don’t know how far that thing will finally extend—all due, in my opinion, to DeBakey’s marvelous board plus his capacity for guidance. Now, I’ll tell you, I love Children’s Hospital. There was a time when I spent a lot of time on the floors with children. I can’t do that anymore—too emotional. I—Abercrombie couldn’t go above the first floor—couldn’t take it—did it once or twice—that’s all he could handle. I did it for many, many years, but in later years, I was not able to take it. Sick babies make me sick. I had to quit going to Retarded Children’s Center in the daytime—hard to take. I wish you’d go out there sometime.

MI:       [47:50] I may take the opportunity to do that.

LM:      You must—you must see that. Well, I’ve told you as much as I can think of. I’ve thought of a few names—I’m glad I’ve had. I know some good men that are not getting credit for all they do. Claud Hamill—fine man. Immanuel Olshan—call him Wrecker Olshan. He’s in the wrecking business.

MI:       Oh, yes. I know him.

LM:      And he’s a fine man. I’m very happy he comes to see me regularly—about every three or four weeks. Naurice Cummings—oh my God—

MI:       There’s just so many of them.

LM:      I know them all. I know them all. Houston is unbelievable. When I realized—when I came here, it had 150,000 people—1918. Today, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it was crowding 2,000,000. I know it’s at least 1,500,000. I think it may be growing a little faster than it should—I mean for it’s own good health. There has to be somewhere where they can overstep themselves. I’m not sure that the city fathers have been able to cope with the overall situation, but the younger generation will. I think some of the councilmen—some of the county commissioners—have served too long. We need younger men.

MI:       [49:50] Have you ever been actively involved in politics?

LM:      No, sir. Not at all. But when I’ve been called on—my mentor was always Herman Brown. Whatever Herman said was law to me. He was a political genius—no doubt about it. And although Elkins threw his weight around, he didn’t have Herman Brown’s brains.

MI:       Can you think of any particular example of that? Of any—I’m speaking now of the political area.

LM:      Of Brown?

MI:       Yeah. Where Brown showed himself?

LM:      Brown did all the thinking for Lyndon Johnson. He had him—well, he owned him—body and soul. And when Lyndon—I guess I knew Lyndon for 30 years before he died—maybe 35 years—Herman turned as white as a sheet—I was with him—when the news came that Lyndon was going to be vice president because he knew as vice president he wasn’t going to do a damn thing—whereas—remember he was a big shot with the senate, and that had power, and Herman recognized it. And through some circumstance, Lyndon became president. Otherwise, he’d have been nothing—like every other vice president.

MI:       He heavily supported him, huh?

LM:      Sir?

MI:       Herman Brown heavily—

LM:      Every way—every way, and I don’t think—when he was the president of the senate or the chairman of the senate—I don’t think he had a thought on a single subject that he didn’t discuss with Herman Brown.

MI:       (laughs) That’s interesting.

LM:      Sir?

MI:       [51:52] That’s very interesting.

LM:      There’s no doubt about it because when he got to thinking by himself, he played hell. And, really, although I thought a whole lot of Lyndon Johnson, I think he was a very mediocre president—mediocre. I think he knew was going to get the hell beat out of him and that’s why he didn’t run for reelection.

MI:       Did Herman Brown ever get disenchanted with him?

LM:      Yes. And although I don’t feel like expressing myself too freely, I kind of think George did, too.

MI:       Did he ever talk to you about it?

LM:      Who?

MI:       George or Herman?

LM:      Yeah. Well, yes, but I’d rather not be explicit. (doorbell rings) Well, what else you want? I talk too damned much, but I can’t help it. (laughs)

MI:       (laughs) It’s been very, very informative—very informative.

LM:      Well—

MI:       Very useful.

LM:      If you think it was something else—(laughs)—I don’t know why I’m presumptive enough to say this—ask me, if I know, I’ll tell you.

MI:       All right.

LM:      If I don’t know, I’ll say so.

MI:       Hello.

W:        How are you?

MI:       Fine, thank you.

LM:      Miss Bell, this is Dr— (tape cuts off and back on)

MI:       Mr Meyer, I want to thank you very much for giving so freely of your time, and I do appreciate it very much, and on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, thank you.

LM:      If I can serve you in any other capacity, I’m available.

MI:       Thank you.

[53:46]