Historic Houston

10 Trailblazing Houstonians Are Spotlighted in the Library's Newest Exhibit

We Serve Humanity: Stories of Hope and Commitment highlights the influential lives of past Bayou City dwellers.

By Greg Fails October 27, 2016

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center in the historic Julia Ideson Building has curated a gallery featuring 10 influential Houstonians who've helped chart the course of our city's history.

With a diverse selection of audio, visual and rare print memorabilia from the library's collection, the exhibit features movers and shakers of the 20th century who not only improved Houston, but the entire state of Texas.

Here, we highlight three featured Houstonians who brought their best to the Bayou City:

Joseph M. Heiser, Jr. (1897–1987)

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A WWI veteran and founder of Houston's Outdoor Nature Club, Heiser was an avid environmentalist, educating Houstonians about conservation and the Bayou City's natural landscape. 

On a 1930 club expedition to the Vingt-Et-Un Island on Galveston Bay, Heiser and the group discovered a rare nesting ground of the endangered roseate spoonbill, a beautiful wading bird which had been hunted to near extinction for its vivid pink feathers. Soon after, ONC had the area protected for conservation.

Heiser also purchased 454 acres near Coldspring in 1945 and established the Little Thicket Nature Preserve, which is still open today. Just 65 miles northeast of downtown Houston, the park has expanded to 655 acres, continuing Heiser’s legacy of preserving the natural landscape of Texas.

Annette Finnigan (1873–1940)

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Houston suffragist, philanthropist and business woman Annette Finnigan was instrumental in establishing the Houston Public Library, as her 1904 donation to the organization was both its first and largest ever received. Finnigan also served as president of the Women's Political Union, fighting for suffrage in Texas.

As a passionate collector of rare manuscripts, several of Finnigan’s contributions are on display, including 500-year-old books that are rarely available to the public for security reasons. See them now before they go back in the vault! 

Felix and Janie Tijerina (1905–1965; 1908–1997)

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Though best known as the founders of Houston's iconic Felix Mexican Restaurant, Felix and Janie Tijerina were also prolific philanthropists and activists for the Mexican-American community. As one of Houston's hallmark families, they became recognized for their charitable works with organizations like the Rotary Club, Houston Women's Club and founding the Little School of the 400, which taught English to Spanish-speaking preschoolers in Texas in the 1950s.

Some of the Tijerinas' photos are exhibited, including images with Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, who sent a condolence letter that's on display to Mrs. Tijerina regarding her husband's death, saying "Men with the courage, resourcefulness, leadership and, most important of all, feelings for others that he possessed are all too few in our times."


We Serve Humanity: Stories of Hope and Commitment

Thru Nov 12, free. Julia Ideson Building, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, 550 Mckinney St. 832-393-1662. houstonlibrary.org


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