Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Post Rice Lofts & the Deaths of Two Presidents

Two ghosts from Houston’s past haunt the Post Rice Lofts at the corner of Main and Texas: Anson Jones (1798-1858), physician, congressman, and the fourth and last president of the Republic of Texas, and John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States who was assassinated a little over fifty years ago in Dallas.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, on January 9, 1858, "Anson Jones, the last man to serve as President of the Republic of Texas, shot and killed himself in the old Capitol Hotel. He had stated the day before that his political career had started at the corner of Main and Texas and should also end there."

Never one to let history get in the way of making a point, this is how I like to tell the story.

"Anson Jones, last president of the Republic of Texas, stood on the Main Street steps leading into the Capitol Hotel and shouted to anyone who passed by, "Here I began my career in Texas and," pulling his pistol from its holster and pointing it at his head, "here I end it." 

Then I encourage my tour group to walk over to the imaginary bloody spot where Jones lay dying. Very effective, but . . . . t
he Handbook of Texas Online, has the REAL story:

JONES, ANSON (1798–1858). Anson Jones [was a] doctor, congressman, and the last president of the Republic of Texas. . . . On February 19, 1846, at the ceremony setting up the government of Texas as a state in the Union, Jones declared, 'The Republic of Texas is no more.' Then he retired to Barrington, his plantation near Washington-on-the-Brazos. Jones hoped to be elected to the United States Senate, but [Sam] Houston and Thomas Jefferson Rusk were chosen. For twelve years Jones brooded over his neglect while he became a prosperous planter and accumulated a vast estate. After an injury that disabled his left arm in 1849, he became increasingly moody and introspective, and his dislike for Houston turned into hatred. . . . In 1857 Jones believed that the legislature would send him to Washington as senator, but he received no votes. He committed suicide at Houston on January 9, 1858, and was buried in [Houston’s Masonic Cemetery, now part of Sam Houston Park, and later moved to] Glenwood Cemetery at Houston. . . . Barrington, his plantation home, is preserved in Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site as part of the Barrington Living History Farm.Source: Herbert Gambrell, "JONES, ANSON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 09, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Bottom line: Jones committed suicide at the Capitol Hotel.

That brings to mind the myth that John F. Kennedy spent the last night of his life at Houston's Rice Hotel, the third building to stand at the corner of Main and Texas, before he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas. This myth is often quoted to me by tourists and I have to decide whether to smile and let it go or correct them. Those of you who know me well, know I usually correct them.

Here are the facts: 

President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, did stay at the Rice Hotel the day before he died. They checked into the fifth-floor International Suite at about 5 p.m. after flying from San Antonio and landing at what is now Hobby Airport. They had dinner in their room  ̶  Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup, Harris County quail with foie gras, and Black Angus beef garnished with artichokes  ̶  and Mrs. Kennedy took a nap. But they did not sleep overnight. After resting in their Rice suite, the Kennedys went downstairs to a meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The First Lady addressed the group in fluent Spanish. It was her first and last official visit to Texas. 

At about 9 p.m., the Kennedys went to a dinner honoring U.S. Rep. Albert Thomas at the Sam Houston Coliseum, site of today’s Hobby Center. Then they returned to Air Force One and flew to Fort Worth, where they spent the night at the Hotel Texas (today, the Hilton Fort Worth).

The next morning, Friday, November 22, 1963, President and Mrs. Kennedy attended a breakfast meeting of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Texas before flying to Love Field and riding in a motorcade through Dallas.