Prominent political figure
By Dr. Tommy Stringer May 24, 2008
The Navarro County community of Emhouse, located 8 miles northwest of Corsicana,
like many Texas towns, owes its beginnings to the railroad. The town was laid
out in 1906 to take advantage of a rail line being constructed between
Waxahachie and Teague by the Trinity and Brazos Railroad. Residents of the
nearby communities of Kelm and King Willow relocated in the new settlement
because of the advantages of being near the rail line. Town leaders first
proposed the name Lyford for their settlement, but there was already a Texas
post office by that name. They then selected the name Emhouse in honor of Edward
M. House, a prominent political figure of the day, as well as an official with
House was born in Houston in 1858 into an affluent family. As a young man, he
settled in Austin and developed an interest in politics. His first involvement
in the political arena came in 1892 when he helped manage the successful
gubernatorial campaign of James Hogg. He was also a key figure in the election
of governors Charles Culbertson in 1894, Joseph Sayers in 1898, and Samuel
Lanham in 1902, but he refused to accept an official position in any of their
A turning point in House’s political career came in 1911 when he met Woodrow
Wilson, a rising star in the national Democratic Party. A former professor and
president of Princeton University, Wilson left the academic world to run
successfully for Governor of New Jersey. In 1912 House helped secured the
Democratic presidential nomination for Wilson, and he also directed Wilson’s
successful campaign, as he defeated incumbent William Howard Taft and former
President Theodore Roosevelt.
Once again, House refused an official post in the Wilson administration but in
effect was the President’s chief of staff. Over the next seven years, Wilson
consulted with House regarding every significant issue that arose. House was
involved in drafting the famous 14 Points Peace Plan to end World War I, and he
accompanied Wilson to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of the War. The
relationship between the two men became somewhat strained as they disagreed over
specific issues that should be included in the peace agreement.
In the fall of 1919 President Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke. The two men
who had worked so closely for so many years never met again. Wilson died in
1924. For the next 18 years leaders of both national political parties as well
as influential European statesmen sought counsel from House. He was a key figure
in the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, but made no effort to resume the
powerful role he had played in the Wilson White House. He died in New York in
1938 and is buried in Houston.
The Navarro County community that bears his name has remained a typical rural
settlement in North Central Texas. By 1915 it had three churches, a bank, two
restaurants, three blacksmith shops and a weekly newspaper to serve its 500
residents. But like many small towns, the impact of the Great Depression caused
the population to dwindle, a trend that continued in the era following World War
II. The 2000 census listed the population as 195.
But it does perpetuate the memory of a powerful political figure of a century
ago, E. M. House.
Dr. Tommy Stringer is Executive Director of the Navarro College Foundation.
Diplomat, Politician, Political Advisor. He was born in
Houston, Texas, attended New England prep schools, followed by studying at
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1877. When his father died in 1880, he
dropped out of school and returned to Texas to manage the family's business.
During the 1890's he established a reputation as a notable behind-the-scenes
Democrat political operator, helping to elect four men to the position of
Governor of Texas: James S. Hogg (1892), Charles A. Culberson (1894, Joseph D.
Sayers (1898) and S. W. T. Lanham (1902). After the election House acted as
unofficial advisor to each governor. Hogg gave House the title "Colonel" by
promoting House to his staff even though he had no military experience. He moved
back to New York after selling the cotton plantation he had inherited and
invested in banking. An ambitious man, House sought to exert influence at the
national level, an aim he achieved with his alliance with Wilson, whom he first
met in November 1911 and whom he backed in the following year's presidential
election. In 1912, House published anonymously a novel called "Philip Dru:
Administrator", in which the title character leads the democratic western U.S.
in a civil war against the plutocratic East, becoming the dictator of America.
Dru as dictator imposes a series of reforms which resemble the Bull Moose
platform of 1912 and then vanishes. In 1913, House helped to pick the charter
members of the original Federal Reserve Board. House became a close friend and
supporter of New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson in 1911, and helped him win the
Democratic presidential nomination in 1912. He became an intimate of Wilson and
helped set up his administration. House was offered the cabinet position of his
choice (except for Secretary of State which was already pledged to William
Jennings Bryan) but declined, choosing instead "to serve wherever and whenever
possible." House was even provided living quarters within the White House. His
position was weakened, however, when Wilson remarried because the new Mrs.
Wilson didn't like him. He spent much of 1915 and 1916 in Europe, trying to
negotiate peace through diplomacy, attempting to promote Wilson's goal of
brokering a peace to end World War I. He visited most European capitals in 1915
and 1916 but his attempts at achieving a negotiated peace ended in failure.
After the United States entered the war in 1917, House was responsible for
working with Allied nations in order to organize manpower and supplies. House
worked closely with Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann in drafting the Fourteen
Points Peace Program; was a member of the delegation from the United States to
the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and helped draw up the covenant of the League
of Nations. He also worked closely with Wilson in drawing up the Treaty of
Versailles. Due to disagreements in ideas and ideals, and personality, Wilson
dismissed House in mid-March 1919. In the 1920's, House strongly supported
membership of the United States in the League of Nations and the World Court,
the Permanent Court of International Justice. He published four volumes of "The
Intimate Papers of Colonel House" between 1926 and 1928, In 1932, House
supported Franklin D. Roosevelt but did not attain the position in his inner
circle that he had enjoyed with Wilson. Although he became disillusioned with
the New Deal, he did not express his feelings of reservation in public. He died
in New York in 1938. His body was returned to Houston and he is buried in
Glenwood Cemetery, Houston, Harris Co., TX