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Texas Highway Commission. Also included were Captain James A. Baker, “a power in politics and business and general affairs extending from Houston to Washington,” and Will Clayton of the Anderson, Clayton company. These men led the city in the prosperous 1920s, and several would continue as principal figures for the next decade and beyond. Another important figure in this period was real estate developer and business leader Oscar Holcombe, who served, off and on, as mayor for more than 20 years. An entrepreneur with political ambition, Holcombe was elected mayor for 11 terms between 1921 and 1958. The Ku Klux Klan was a major force in Midwestern and Southern politics in the 1920s and Houston was the first Texas city to see the organization of a chapter of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Holcombe himself had joined the Klan, but he quit after one meeting. In the 1922 election he was strongly opposed by the Klan, which at the time controlled the Harris County government. The Klan pressured him to fire Catholics serving in city positions, but Holcombe refused. Although the Houston business elite at first flirted with the Klan, key members of the local elite men like Kirby, Jones, and Holcombe soon discovered that the violent Klan was bad for business and a stable political and economic situation. FROM THE 19305 TO THE 1960S: THE BACKGROUND AND EMERGENCE OF THE SUITE 8F CROWD Houston’s business community from the late 1930s to the 1960s was primarily centered in the Suite 8F crowd, a loose coalition of business leaders who called themselves the “builders” of modern Houston. The Suite 8F group was frequently referred to as the “unofficial capital of Texas” or the “Establishment.” These top leaders had a threefold power base: substantial wealth founded on corporate development, general support of the local business community, and intimate ties to major officials in local and national politics. From the 1930s to the 1960s the entrepreneurs, who met regularly in such places as George Brown’s Suite 8F in the Lamar Hotel, dominated the important business and political decisions in Houston and, in many cases, the rest of Texas. Although this Suite 8F crowd did not coalesce until the 1930s, several members were powerful figures in Houston by the 1910s and 1920s and they provided the bridging links between the business elite of the early 1900s and that of the later period. While the actual membership fluctuated, the core of the Suite 8F crowd included Jesse H. Jones, Herman and George Brown, James A. Elkins, Sr., Gus Wortham, and James Abercrombie. Of all the influential business leaders who have dominated the city and to some degree the state of Texas and the nation since the 1920s, the single most powerful was Jesse H. Jones. In 1939 Fortune magazine called Jones the man “who runs Houston” and the most powerful capitalist on the Gulf Coast. Making his home in Houston from 1898 to 1956, Jones was termed “Mr. Houston” for more than 40 years. Well over six feet tall, Jones was aggressive and took himself seriously, so much so that President Franklin Roosevelt, among others, reportedly referred to him on occasion as “Jesus H. Jones.” As did other Houston leaders, the perspicacious Jones saw Chicago as a model for Houston: Chicago, the miracle in growth of modern cities, has not become what it is because of any unusual and natural advantages, but because it was in the lines of travel and progress by land and water. . . . There is now a decided movement of business and population southward. .. . Capital has begun to flow in and population has begun to flow in, both seeking new opportunities. Our ship channel and the great transcontinental railway systems, meeting deep water here, make Houston the inevitable gateway through which the products of this growing southern and western empire can best reach the market of the world. We pride ourselves that, by the expenditure of a few million dollars of public funds, we have provided navigable waters up to our city for ocean-going vessels. The capital flowing into Houston from the North, he noted with accuracy, was stimulated by public investments in Houston’s transport infrastructure. Business-centered growth was a central emphasis in Jones’s perspective. Jesse H. Jones was a capitalist with many talents; during his long life he was a lumber entrepreneur, a developer, a banker, an oil investor, a newspaper owner, and a leading federal government official. Jones came to Houston from Dallas to become general manager of his uncle’s lumber company, where he worked under the auspices of T. W. House, a banker who was president of that lumber company and a member of one of Houston’s oldest families. Jones invested in a large section of timber, borrowing the money from a Dallas bank; that investment was the foundation of his fortune. Perhaps as a consequence of his lumber operations, Jones became a builder and developer. Charles G. Dawes, who served as chair before Jones, once portrayed Jones as an empire builder like the famous Briton Cecil Rhodes who helped to colonize Africa. However, Jones preferred his “empire” in the form of major buildings in U.S. cities. Between 1908 and 1956, operating as a developer, he averaged one major building a year in cities such as Houston, Fort Worth, and New York. By 1912 Jones had built three large office buildings and a hotel in downtown Houston. In 1912 he tore down the old Rice Hotel and constructed a large edifice in its place; the top floor of that new hotel became the site of the first Petroleum Club, a place where early oil and other business deals were made. A few years later Jones built a ten-story building for the new Texas Company, which had moved its oil headquarters from Beaumont to Houston. A decade later, in 1928, he completed construction of a skyscraper for Gulf Oil Company; indeed, Jones had played an important role in convincing the new Gulf Oil Company to leave Beaumont. By the mid-1920s this developer had constructed 30 important commercial buildings in the city. Jones was the first of Houston’s major property developers, first in a long line of large-scale developer-investors moving money into Houston’s secondary circuit of capital. Jones had a number of “leg men” working under him. From the mid-1920s to the late 1950s Alfred C. Finn was Houston’s principal architect, working on numerous development projects for Jones. When Jones became the chair of President Roosevelt’s RFC, Finn became the first architectural supervisor for the Federal Housing Administration: Finn’s firm received many federal projects. Finn designed many of Houston’s monumental landmarks, including the federally subsidized San Jacinto monument and Jones’s Gulf building. Finn was the prototype of a business architect. Jones’s real estate activities led to his newspaper ownership. In 1908 he constructed a building for the publisher of the Houston Chronicle and received halfinterest in the paper as a down payment on the building. After buying the other halfinterest in 1926, Jones became sole owner of the Chronicle. At one time he owned Houston’s other major paper as well; in 1931 he purchased the Houston PostDispatch from the then-bankrupt oil entrepreneur Ross Sterling. He quickly sold that paper to then ex-governor W. P. Hobby, whose family controlled the paper into the 1980s. Jones was briefly in the oil business. An original stockholder in the Humble Oil and Refining company, with Ross Sterling and W. S. Farish, Jones soon sold his stock; as he said, he had bought the stock to insure Humble’s headquarters in Houston. It is significant that Jesse Jones not only sought to expand his own capitalistic enterprises but that he also worked to center the emerging oil industry in the city of Houston. His role in influencing Gulf Oil to move its early headquarters to the city and in helping capitalize Humble Oil is evident. The agents of capital are as important as the institutions of capital in urban development. Li 16 AUGUST 19, 1988