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empire. Over his lifetime Elkins served as a director of many banks, railroads, oil companies, and insurance firms. Like his associates in “the Suite 8F crowd” Elkins participated in the system of interlocking directorates by which individual capitalists bind together the corporate institutions of modern capitalism. ELKINS was reputed to be very powerful in local and Texas politics. Take the case of Mayor Oscar Holcombe, who in the 1930s came to be linked to the Suite 8F crowd. Working with the core elite, Holcombe was aggressive in sponsoring major infrastructure improvements such as roads and sewage systems. However, in 1952 the Suite 8F crowd interviewed County Judge Roy Hofheinz and decided that he should be the next mayor of the city. Even though he had already printed up campaign literature, Holcombe was asked to retire, which he did. Reportedly, James Elkins was a key figure in removing Holcombe. However, when Hofheinz became too progressive, Elkins and others supported Holcombe again in his successful 1955 campaign to defeat Hofheinz. Herman and George Brown were among the most powerful Houstonians during their adult lifetimes, which spanned the decades from the 1920s to the 1980s. In the 1920s Herman created the small construction firm which became Brown and Root, later one the of the world’s largest construction and development firms. The company headquarters were moved from Austin to Houston in the mid-1920s, and the company grew steadily from the late 1930s to the 1960s, depending heavily on federally subsidized, large-scale construction projects. During this period George made his Suite 8F in the Lamar Hotel famous as a gathering place for men like Jesse Jones and Judge Elkins as well as prominent politicians like Lyndon B. Johnson and Sam Rayburn. George and Herman Brown were particularly effective in building bridges to politicians at the national level. Indeed, New Deal contracts helped establish Brown and Root as a principal construction firm and saved the company from bankruptcy in the 1930s. During the 1960s George Brown’s corporation, Texas Eastern, became the major developer of a 32-block project in downtown Houston called Houston Center. Brown got the city government’s permission to build the planned megastructure over city streets, gaining millions of square feet at a small cost. The structure, initially planned to be twice the size of the World Trade Center in New York, was called by some the largest urban development project in world history. Moreover, unlike other members of Houston’s postwar elite, the omnipresent Brown was the target of overt protests against his activities. For example, Rice University students would occasionally protest his presence on their campus, because Brown and Root had done much construction during the Vietnam War. Another important figure in the Suite 8F crowd was Gus Wortham. Founder of the American General Insurance Co., one of the 20 largest in the United States, Wortham was an outside activist for the Suite 8F clique. The young Wortham had served on the Texas Fire Rating Board; he subsequently used the knowledge gained to set up his own insurance company. By the mid1920s Wortham had the legal authority to create a major insurance company in Houston, which he accomplished with the financial backing of James Elkins, Sr., and Jesse Jones. During the 1930s Wortham also began investing in Houston real estate, investments which buttressed his substantial wealth. Wortham played a central role in linking the Suite 8F crowd to the larger business and civic communities in Houston. He was a public figure; he chaired fund drives for charities, served on the board of trustees for Rice University, and worked on behalf of art institutions, including the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony, and the Society for the Performing Arts. Explicitly recognizing the importance of local cultural institutions in attracting outside investors to the city, the Suite 8F elite fostered local colleges and art facilities. Between the 1930s and the 1960s, independent oil capitalists were not as prominent in running Houston as one might expect. But one oil entrepreneur who was a member of the 8F crowd was James Abercrombie. Abercrombie had gone into the oil drilling business in the late 1910s; in 1920 he created the Cameron Iron Works, which eventually became one of the world’s leading oil tool manufacturing firms with 7,000 employees and 16 plants scattered METROPOLITAN RESEARCH CENTER Houston mayor Oscar Holcombe from the United States to Europe and Asia before the mid-1980s recession. Abercrombie was a major figure, together with the reclusive Howard Hughes, in putting Houston at the center of the world’s oil tools and services industry. And he also played an important role in local philanthropic activities, including building up the Texas Medical Center. From time to time a number of business and civic leaders have been mentioned by various writers as members of the Suite 8F crowd, including Leon Jaworski of Watergate fame, R. E. “Bob” Smith, a prominent oil entrepreneur, Walter Mischer, a real estate developer and banker, and former governor William P. Hobby and his wife Oveta Culp Hobby. The Hobbys were influential because they controlled certain communications media in the city, including a principal newspaper and a major TV station. Oveta Culp Hobby was one of few women ever to exert much power in Houston. One of the most influential of Houston’s oil entrepreneurs was Bob Smith, who played a central role in real estate and politics for three decades; he invested in thousands of acres of land on the suburban edge of the city. A later addition to the group, Walter Mischer built a banking empire called Allied Bancshares and was important as a local developer. Most members of the 8F crowd had become known to ordinary Houstonians by the 1950s. Indeed, by the 1950s the city sometimes seemed to be bragging about its successful elite. A visitor to the Houston International Airport in 1955 would have found 15 portraits of Houston’s prominent leaders proudly displayed on a restaurant wall. These included members of the Suite 8F crowd \(Elkins, George Brown, maverick Hugh R. Cullen, the leading partners in two major law firms, as well as less influential civic and religious leaders. City officials installing the portraits included the most powerful members of the local elite but may have added less powerful people to play down the power of the core elite. OUTSIDE THE SUITE 8F CROWD: OTHER BUSINESS LEADERS Several important capitalists largely remained outside the local Suite 8F establishment in this period. Two of these had roots in the Anderson, Clayton firm, a major Houston trading corporation. Monroe D. Anderson, one of the founders, became wealthy in the 1920s and translated some of his wealth into philanthropic contributions to university and medical center developments in Houston. Will Clayton played an especially important part in tying the Houston business community to the world market system and to the federal government. Clayton was often the “public man” for Anderson, Clayton; the firm became nationally visible when it was THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15