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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 550

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This is the grave of Jim Hogg.

Born in Cherokee County, Texas in 1851, Hogg spent the second half of his childhood without a father, as dad, a brigadier general, was luckily killed in 1862 after he committed treason in defense of slavery. After some time in Alabama as a teenager just after the war, Hogg returned to Texas in 1867 to work as a printer’s apprentice. He spent the next several years moving between working as a farmhand, studying the law, and running small Texas newspapers.

By 1873, Hogg was the Justice of the Peace in Quitman, Texas. He married the next year. This leads to what is most known about him today. He named his daughter…..wait for it….Ima! Ima Hogg! Evidently this was some character from a poem by his brother, but I mean c’mon! As it turns out, Ima is well worth a future post in this series herself, as she became a very wealthy modern art supporter, philanthropist, and Washington insider. That happened because her father discovered something some land he bought that had a lot of value–oil. This happened quite a long time later though.

Hogg’s rise in Texas politics in 1880s and 1890s was connected to the rise of the Populists. After holding some relatively minor elected offices, he was elected as the state attorney general in 1886, pledging to fight the railroads and push for regulating them, a core platform of the Populists against America’s most hated industry of the era. He sued the railroads in 1888, demanded new regulations that forced them all to establish offices in the state, got an antitrust law passed, and also took on the insurance industry.

Based on all this, in 1890, Hogg was elected governor. This was the same election that the state’s voters ratified his biggest platform plank–a constitutional amendment that created the Railroad Commission of Texas. The state’s newspaper elite hated him and his Populist followers. One guy owned major newspapers in Dallas and Galveston, where he had the papers run a story where he called Hogg’s followers, “Union Laborites, Anarchists, and Communists.” He won reelection in 1892, where he continued pushing for the Railroad Commission to have strong regulatory powers, which the Supreme Court surprisingly supported in Reagan v. Farmers Loan and Trust in 1894. That year, Hogg also had the state sue John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil for engaging in price-fixing, consolidation, and many other sketchy tactics that the Texas Constitution outlawed. Hogg tried to get Rockefeller extradited from New York, but the governor of that state refused. Nevertheless, many other Standard Oil employees were tried and some found guilty of their crimes.

On racial issues, Hogg was kind of weird. He signed the law the established Jim Crow in Texas. But he also pushed for another law that would have placed a bounty on anyone who led a lynching. That alone makes him very unusual in a period where lynching were on a rapid rise. For whatever it is worth, and it is not very much, Hogg did not particularly push for that Jim Crow law either, but obviously he signed the thing.

Given Hogg’s attacks on the oil industry, it was somewhat ironic that he later became rich off oil, but he engaged in a lot of land details that paid off big time after he left office in 1895. He was a big supporter of William Jennings Bryan’s presidential runs. But he did not have too long to live. He was in a railroad accident in 1905 which didn’t kill him immediately, but he never recovered from his injuries and died the next year, only 54 years old.

Jim Hogg is buried in Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas.

This grave visit was funded by LGM reader contributions. Thanks for keeping this series alive and I hope you will continue to support it in the future. I ran a grave post every single day last week and no one gave a cent, so this series may end relatively soon, once I run out of what I have already lined up. And that’s OK I guess, but I hope that’s not what is going to happen. If you would like this series to visit more Populists, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Charles Macune is in Fort Worth and James Weaver is in Des Moines. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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