Legend in the Making
At the age of 10, when other kids were playing stickball or learning how to make knots in Scouts, historian Hank Moore took his first job as a disc jockey in Austin, working alongside some guy named Lyndon B. Johnson. Six years later, when Johnson became president, Moore became the youngest White House advisor. He would later serve on a committee that wrote the Civil Rights Act and after LBJ’s presidency, he helped form the University of Texas System Board of Regents. He moved to Houston to help the University of Houston make a similar system and was thrown into the sprawling world of Houston business. After, he spent his years advising some of the biggest industrial names in Houston, Ima Hogg and Lyndall Wortham among them, most of whom were entrenched in business and philanthropy.
Moore collected the prominent names in Houston business for his new book, Houston Legends. Before heading to Brazos Bookstore this Saturday for a reading, the writer chatted with us about his work.
Houstonia: What made you want to write this book?
Moore: Because I was working for the Johnsons, I used to go to the elaborate parties at the ranch. When you’re around the power structure, you became familiar with the power structure. That’s where I met a lot of the legends. That’s why years later, I finally wrote a book. People had been telling me, if you don’t do it, no one’s going to.
How did you select the subjects that appear in the book?
When I was doing my research, I learned there were more people with ties to research than I even knew. I was aghast that some of the great names were not in history books, like Ben Love, George R. Brown, NASA astronauts and medical people. [There are] about 2,000 profiles in the book; I’m darn proud of it. I literally met almost half of the legends in the book and some of them are modern young people. Most of it was through charitable endeavors.
In short, what makes Houston’s business sector different from any other cities’ in the U.S.?
Houston has its can-do spirit. The legends never took no for an answer, they founded big, big, big, big companies, and gave away most of their money to charity.
You were so young when you first met these legends. What was that like?
These are all real people and the thing about them is they trusted you. They would let you do anything you wanted; they trusted you. Particularly, some of those people were so forceful you couldn’t say no to them. When Ima Hogg invites you over for tea, well, you go. And by the time you leave, you’re on her committee.
What was your writing process like? How did you compile all of this information?
I’ve got people that say, “How long does this take to write?" [It took] 42 years. It’s all about thanking a bunch of older people who were nice to a 25-year-old person once upon a time.
Hank Moore reads from his newest book, Houston Legends, Aug. 15, at 7 at Brazos Bookstore.
Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701. brazosbookstore.com