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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

THE HOUSE THAT HOUSE BUILT

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Edward Mandell House of Galveston and Houston rose about as high as one can go in Texas or United States politics, yet he never held an elective or appointive office. Instead of wanting to be "king," House was content to be the "king maker."

E.M. House, or "Colonel" House, as he was called in later years, was born in 1858 to wealth and privilege as the scion of a coastal landowner and merchant of some significance. An indifferent student, House left Cornell after his third year to help his ailing father with family affairs, and took over their supervision after his fatherís death.

The familyís fortunes so increased that House could afford to semi-retire and indulge a passion for politics. He never quite gave up business affairs, and remained wealthy throughout his life, but there is no doubt that he enjoyed the "game" of politics most of all.

House became active in state politics with his friend and fellow East Texan James Stephen Hogg, who faced a tough reelection campaign in 1892. House liked Hoggís "progressive" policies, so he devoted great energy and financial support into organizing a majority faction of the Democratic Party filled with like minded folk.

House was so successful is getting what he called "our crowd" together that he reelected Hogg and the next three progressive governors ó Charles Allen Culberson, Joseph D. Sayers, and S.W.T. Lanham. There was no more powerful ó if unelected ó political figure in Texas than House from 1882 to 1904.

When House grew bored with Texas politics, he moved to New York to try his hand in the national game. He disliked the inflationary monetary policy of William Jennings Bryant, the perennial Democrat candidate then, but after he learned of Woodrow Wilsonís election as governor of New Jersey, House knew he had found his champion.

Wilson and House developed a close personal relationship that was cemented during Wilsonís campaign for the presidency in 1912. After an assassination attempt on the life of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was running again in 1912, House summoned Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald to become Wilsonís bodyguard.

House and Wilson became so close that the President called House his "alter ego." So synonymous was their thinking that he sent House on diplomatic missions without specific instructions, trusting him to "say what I would say."

Wilson and House grew apart after Wilsonís near-fatal stroke in 1919 and death in 1924. House lived until 1938, and is buried in Houston.
All Things Historical
Oct. 21, 2004
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Dr. Archie Mc Donald is the Associationís executive director and author of more than 20 books about Texas.)
 
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