Oscar Holcombe: The Plastic Man of Houston Politics.

Oscar F. Holcombe was an absolutely amazing Houston politician. Had he lived to celebrate the December 31st birthday that he shares with me and God knows how many others, he would need 121 candles to torch each of his

Houston Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe, Pakistani Prime Minister Ali Khan, & Houston Power Mogul Jesse Jones, 1950.

earthly years. Born in in Mobile, Alabama on December 31, 1888, Holcombe’s family moved to San Antonio when he was very young. After growing up in the Alamo City, Holcombe moved to Houston at age 18 and started making a living in construction. Holcombe married Mary Grey Miller on May 3, 1912. They had one daughter.

By age 26, he had formed the O.F. Holcombe Company as his own construction business. He was on his way to using his business savvy and political contacts as a pathway to riches as one of Houston’s new millionaires.

In 1921, Holcombe entered politics and was elected for his first term as Houston’s mayor. He would end up serving as Houston’s mayor for 22 years, but over 11 non-consecutive terms across four decades. He was the most resilient politican in Houston’s history, adapting to changes in the times and rarely losing his broad appeal in the face of fast growing and changing Houston voter demographics. Holcombe was a soft spoken business-oriented conservative who advocated and believed strongly in the city’s physical expansion of its georgraphic boundaries and in the growth and maintenance  of public services like libraries, adequate sewage, and the development of a superior municipal auditorium for special shows and functions downtown.

Holcombe’s mayoral terms extended from 1921 to 1929; from 1933 to 1937; from 1929 to 1941; from 1947 to 1953; and from 1956 to 1958.

During the early 1960s, Houston renamed the section of Bellaire Boulevard east of Southside Place which runs through the Texas Medical Center, as Holcombe Boulevard. In the late 1980s, the municipality of West University Place also renamed Bellaire Boulevard as Holcombe Boulevard within the space of its jurisdiction.It was a fitting tribute to a man who had personified the Houston boomtown spirit as clearly as it had been drafted by local mover and shaker Jesse Jones. Holcombe was the man to have in office whenever Houston leaders wanted to get some new development deal done and under construction. His actions invited a hoarde of reform candidates along the way, including the late Roy Hofheinz, but people always seemed to come back to Holcombe, even after they threw him out for a term or two.

Was Holcombe dishonest? I can’t say. All I can tell you from what I recall and have since read more about is that he was a superlative politician. Does that help answer the question?

As for sports, Holcombe was was mayor during the time that Buff Stadium was built and opened four miles to the east of downtown Houston in 1928. He fell time-short of being in office when Houston won their battles for major league baseball and football, but I think he supported those goals in general, even if he did not support the personal gain that passed to his old rival Roy Hofheinz through baseball. During the great “bigger is better” era of  Houston shaker thought, Holcombe favored “bigger and wider” as goals that were good for Houston – and quietly profitable for those that did the actual financing and building of growth and expansion.

Oscar F. Holcombe passed away in Houston on June 18, 1968 at the age of 79.

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4 Responses to “Oscar Holcombe: The Plastic Man of Houston Politics.”

  1. Ken Dupuy Says:

    An impressive bio!

  2. houston virtual office Says:

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  3. jerry holcombe Says:

    My grandfather is Oscar F Holcombe.. I am Jerry W Holcombe. I can tell all your readers my grandfather was a fantastic politicians and bled the City of Houston. Houston needed a businessman during this time and all the 22 years he was mayor; guess what ? Houston grew and would have grown more if major sports would have come along during his tenure. Those who wonder if he was dishonest,,,all I can say is I have talked to many people and none had a bad word to say. He was much better than Plastic !

    • Katherine Walters Says:

      For what it is worth, he took on the Klan, which was powerful in Houston. He belonged to the order for a short period of time, early in the Sam Houston Klan No. 1’s start. According to him, he never paid dues and never went to meetings. When the attacks began in February of 1921 and he realized how many policemen belonged to the Klan, he pushed back. Then, the Klan tapped phones and had people in the post offices and telegraph offices so they could spy on people. Holcombe and the city attorney tried to get the Klan out of the police force, knowing full well that the order in Houston was huge. He also testified against them.

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