William Pettus Hobby (1878-1964), editor, publisher, and governor of Texas, was born in Moscow, Texas, on March 26, 1878, the son of Eudora Adeline (Pettus) and Edwin E. Hobby. One of six children, Hobby moved in 1893 with his family from Livingston to Houston, where he entered Houston High School. In 1895 he began working for the Houston Post as a circulation clerk. Hobby became a business writer for the Post in August 1901. He began to take an active interest in politics, was a founder of the Young Men's Democratic Club of Houston and in 1904 was secretary of the party's state executive committee. He became city editor, then managing editor of the Post, and participated in the covering of some of the most spectacular stories of the time. In 1907 he left the Post to become manager and part owner of the Beaumont Enterprise, which he soon acquired. Hobby was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 and was reelected in 1916. He was married in 1915 to Willie Cooper, daughter of former United States Representative Samuel Bronson Cooper. She died in 1929.
When Governor James Edward Ferguson was removed from office in 1917, Hobby became the twenty-sixth governor of Texas and the youngest man, at thirty-nine, to hold the office. Hobby served during an eventful period. During World War I he set up an effective military draft system for Texas, a state in which half of the country's military camps and most of its airfields were located. In 1918 Hobby defeated Ferguson by the largest majority ever received in a Democratic primary. Hobby's administration saw the passage of measures for drought relief, runoff requirements in party primaries, and state aid for schools and highways. He appointed the first Highway Commission in 1917. Laws included measures for oil conservation, the establishment of the oil and gas division of the Railroad Commission and of the Board of Control, and provision for free school textbooks. After completing his term, he returned to the Beaumont Enterprise and purchased the Beaumont Journal. He retained control of both papers for more than a decade.
In 1924 he became president of the Houston Post-Dispatch. When J. E. Josey acquired the newspaper in 1931 from Ross S. Sterling, Hobby continued in the presidency and maintained executive control. In 1939 he acquired the paper, again called the Post. In February 1931 Hobby married Oveta Culp of Killeen and Houston, a former parliamentarian of the Texas House, who became a Post staff member, served in World War II as commander of the Women's Army Corps, and served in the Dwight David Eisenhower administration as the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The Hobbys had a son and a daughter. Under Hobby, the Post grew in circulation and prestige. The Houston Post Company also included the radio station, KPRC, and the television station, KPRC-TV. In August 1955 Hobby became chairman of the board of the company, with Mrs. Hobby as president and editor. Hobby died in Houston on June 7, 1964. A state historical marker at his birthplace was dedicated at Moscow in 1964. Hobby Field and Hobby Elementary School in Houston were named for him.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: James Anthony Clark and Weldon Hart, The Tactful Texan: A Biography of Governor Will Hobby (New York: Random House, 1958). Lewis L. Gould, Progressives and Prohibitionists: Texas Democrats in the Wilson Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1992).
William P. Hobby, Jr.
Reprinted with permission from the Handbook of Texas Online, a joint project of the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. © 2003, The Texas State Historical Association.