Roy Hofheinz
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Roy Hofheinz
Roy Hofheinz
Roy Mark Hofheinz (c 1965).jpg
Roy Hofheinz in front of Astrodome, circa 1965
52nd Mayor of Houston

Oscar F. Holcombe
Oscar F. Holcombe
County Judge of Harris County, Texas

Member of the Texas House of Representatives

Personal details
Roy Mark Hofheinz

(1912-04-10)April 10, 1912
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 1982(1982-11-22) (aged 70)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeGlenwood Cemetery in Houston
Political partyDemocratic
Irene (née Cafcalas)
(m. 1933; died 1966)

Mary Frances (née Gougenheim)
(m. 1969⁠–⁠1982)
Children3: Roy Jr., Fred, and Dene
Alma materRice University
University of Houston
Known forPioneering modern stadiums

Roy Mark Hofheinz (April 10, 1912 – November 22, 1982), popularly known as Judge Hofheinz or "The Judge", was a Texas state representative from 1934 to 1936, county judge of Harris County, Texas from 1936 to 1944, and mayor of the city of Houston from 1953 to 1955.

Early and personal life

Hofheinz was born on April 10, 1912, in Beaumont, Texas. The Hofheinz family moved to Houston in 1924.[1] He graduated from San Jacinto High School with highest honors as a champion debater and started work in 1928 at age 16 after his father died.[1][2] In the summer of 1928, Hofheinz was an aide at the Democratic National Convention held in Houston; he befriended future U.S. senator and president Lyndon B. Johnson at the convention.[2] Hofheinz matriculated at Rice University and Houston Junior College before graduating from the now-defunct Houston Law School in 1931 at age 19.[3][4]

He married Irene ("Dene", née Cafcalas; 1912-1966) in 1933, a fellow law student;[5] together they had three children: Roy Jr. (1935-), Fred (1938-), and Dene (1942-).[6] After the death of his first wife, Hofheinz married his divorced executive assistant, Mary Frances (née Gougenheim) on April 10, 1969.[7] Hofheinz survived a stroke in 1970 that left him in a wheelchair; he eventually died in 1982 from an apparent heart attack.[8]

Judge Hofheinz was known for his cigar habit; in a 1969 profile for Sports Illustrated he gently chided the author, Tex Maule: "Don't say 'smoke.' 'Consume' is the word. I chew a lot of them and give some away." He preferred the Sans Souci Perfecto cigar, approximately 7 in (180 mm) long, consuming 25 per day.[7]



After his father, a laundry truck driver, died when he was 16, Hofheinz became the breadwinner for his family. He opened a private law practice shortly after his graduation in 1931, then served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1934 to 1936 as the youngest person ever elected to the state legislature.[1] After his one term, he ran for and was elected a judge for Harris County, Texas from 1936 to 1944, again setting a record for the youngest judge, at age 24.[1] Known in his youth as the "Boy Mayor", at 23 he was the youngest county administrator in the state. He acted as campaign manager for Lyndon B. Johnson during Johnson's rise to the position of Congressman and then two Senatorial campaigns in 1941 and 1948.[7]

He lost an election for a third term as judge in 1944 and returned to private law practice.[9] After World War II, Hofheinz pioneered FM radio and built a network of radio and television stations (including 790 KTHT Houston, now KBME; 1530 KSOX Harlingen TX, now KGBT; 680 KBAT San Antonio, now KKYX) in the Texas Gulf Coast area,[1] and made a business of salvaging the slag from steelmaking, crushing it, and selling it as roadbuilding aggregate.

In 1952, Hofheinz was elected to the first of two terms as Mayor of Houston.[9] Hofheinz claimed credit for integrating the Harris County buses and golf courses as a judge, and as mayor, for quietly integrating rest rooms in City Hall and public libraries. He recounted an encounter with a "socially prominent [white] female" as mayor: "'I won't let my children sit by black children in the library; I don't know what they would catch!'" to which he retorted "Maybe tolerance".[7] His often-contentious relationship with the Houston City Council led to the Council voting to impeach him in 1955 over a dispute involving higher taxes; as a compromise, a special election was held for the mayor and council members, and he was defeated.[1] He lived in a home on Galveston Bay which he named "Huckster House" (also known as the Gribble-Hofheinz House, Texas Historical Marker no. 10683); he had acquired it in 1950 and decorated the interior with a circus theme.[10][11][12] In 1956, he purchased the Cochran-Hofheinz House; the house had originally been built for banker Owen L. Cochran around 1912.[1]

Sports and entertainment

The Houston Sports Association (HSA) executive committee was formed in 1957 as a syndicate of local businessmen dedicated to bringing a Major League Baseball franchise to Houston with three founding members: George Kirksey, William Kirkland, and Craig Cullinan.[13][14] Cullinan, chair of the HSA, previously had been involved with the failed "Continental League". Local landowner R. E. "Bob" Smith and Hofheinz joined HSA in 1959.[14][1] Previously, Bob Smith had helped Hofheinz win a second term as mayor in 1954.[7] HSA took advantage of Hofheinz's skills as a flamboyant and successful orator, broadcaster, developer, and sportsman. On October 17, 1960, Houston was awarded the Colt .45 franchise in the ten-team National League. They played their inaugural game on April 10, 1962, the Judge's 50th birthday, beating the Chicago Cubs 11-2 at the temporary outdoor Colt Stadium.[14]

Initially, Hofheinz and Smith each retained a 13 interest in HSA, with the remainder divided between Cullinan (15%), Kirksey (2%), and other investors, including Bud Adams. At the end of the inaugural 1962 season, Cullinan withdrew and sold his shares to Smith, who was already beginning to feud with Hofheinz.[15] Smith and Hofheinz were the principal shareholders in HSA by 1965, and Smith assumed chairman of the board.[16]

Houston Astrodome
Exterior (c.1965)
Exterior, photographed by Carol M. Highsmith (c.1999)
Interior (Football configuration, 2004)

HSA also was responsible for the development of the Astrodome, initially known as the Harris County Domed Stadium, the first large covered baseball and football facility in the world; the earliest discussions of a domed stadium in Houston were held at Hofheinz's house.[1] Hofheinz later recounted the genesis for the Astrodome came from a 1962 visit to Rome with his wife Dene: "Mama and I were standing there looking at the Colosseum. It was a large, round facility and most of the stadiums in the United States had been built to conform to the shape of the playing fields. Rectangular. I studied the history of the Colosseum and I found out that on hot days they used to have the slaves pull a cover over the top made out of papyrus or whatever they used in those days. I guess they didn't want to spoil the lions' appetite with too much heat. And I found out, too, that the emperor and the bigwigs all sat at the top of the stadium. Standing there, thinking back on those days, I figured that a round facility with a cover was what we needed in the United States and that Houston would be the perfect spot for it."[7]

Together, Hofheinz and Smith acquired 497 acres (201 ha) in the South Loop region of Houston, which was then a swamp, from the owners of the Shamrock Hilton Hotel and resold 254 acres (103 ha) to Harris County for the site of the Astrodome; to finance its construction, the county issued $31 million in two separate bond votes.[7] HSA leased the Astrodome from the county (at $750,000 per year) and the Colt .45s were renamed the Houston Astros in 1965 when they moved into the their new domed stadium.[17] Hofheinz and Smith held 98% of the shares in HSA,[7] with Smith owning the controlling interest of 88%.[16] According to Hofheinz, Smith grew tired of Hofheinz's unilateral decisions affecting the construction of the stadium and demanded that he be bought out for $7.5 million, which Hofheinz paid in August 1965, putting him in control of HSA;[18] as a concession, Hofheinz allowed Smith to retain a 10% interest.[7] The Astrodome initially used clear plexiglass panes to cover the roof and admit light for the special "Tifway 419" Bermuda grass, but several games were lost when fielders would lose sight of the ball from the glare, and the panels were painted white. Later, after the "Dome" was built, he worked with engineers at Monsanto Corporation to develop Astroturf, an imitation grass now widely used where natural grass does not flourish.

In 1967, he purchased, along with Israel and Irvin Feld, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,[19] later selling his interest to Mattel, Inc. His giant southwest Houston development project, the Astrodomain, included the first major theme park in coastal Texas, Astroworld. Hofheinz had two separate residences in the development: the Judge's Quarters, a 24-room suite on the sixth floor of the Astrodome, where he moved after the death of his first wife;[20][21][22] and the Celestial Suites on the ninth floor of the Astroworld Hotel, with interiors designed by Harper Goff, which Elvis Presley reportedly found too gaudy.[11][20][23] The Astrodomain came at hard times just before the recession during the early 1970s. His son, Fred Hofheinz, served as mayor of Houston in the 1970s.

In the late 1960s, Hofheinz became involved with a Buffalo, New York, developer, Edward H. Cottrell, in an effort to have Erie County, New York build what would have been the world's second domed stadium in Lancaster, just outside Buffalo. Hofheinz formed a corporation, The Dome Stadium, Inc., for this purpose, and when the county refused to build the facility, Cottrell and he began what became a 20-year breach of contract litigation seeking hundreds of millions of dollars of lost profits and damages. After an initial favorable jury verdict,[24] Dome Stadium, Inc.'s claims ultimately were dismissed following one of the longest jury trials in New York history.[25]

He also owned the Houston Stars professional soccer team, which was actually the imported Bangu Atlético Clube from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Hofheinz purchased the historic River Oaks mansion (also known as the T.J. and Ruth Bettes House, originally completed in 1928) in 1980 and lived there until his death in 1982.[26] The city of Houston designated the Bettes House a historic landmark in 2009;[9] Hofheinz's earlier house was so designated in 2005.[1]


In 2006, Roy Hofheinz was inducted in the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hofheinz Pavilion, a multi-purpose arena on the University of Houston campus, is named in his honor. In 2016, the Hofheinz family filed suit to require the University of Houston to keep Hofheinz's name on the school's basketball arena, where the Houston Cougars play. The university has asked the Harris County Probate Court to end the 47-year agreement on Hofheinz Pavilion so that the institution can negotiate a naming-rights deal in a $60 million renovation project set to begin in the spring of 2017.[27] The university and Hofheinz family settled the dispute, and as part of the agreement a plaza with a bronze statue of Hofheinz was built near the new arena.[28]

It was announced at FanFest that Hofheinz would be inducted into the 2020 Houston Astros's Hall of Fame.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Landmark Designation Report: Cochran-Hofheinz House (PDF) (Report). City of Houston, Archaeological & Historical Commission, Planning and Development Department. July 20, 2005. Retrieved 2021.
  2. ^ a b Rogers, Brian (July 4, 2016). "Hofheinz built Astrodome, legacy in Houston". Retrieved 2021.
  3. ^ Roy Mark Hofheinz from the Handbook of Texas Online
  4. ^ Sutton, Jeff (November 26, 2012). "The People's University: UH Alumni Memories Through the Decades". Houston History. Retrieved 2021.
  5. ^ Trumpbour, Robert C.; Womack, Kenneth (November 2018). The Eight Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-1496211781.
  6. ^ Dene Hofheinz Anton. "A life in pictures: Dene Hofheinz Anton on the Astrodome and growing up in Houston" (Interview). Interviewed by J.R. Gonzales. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Maule, Tex (April 21, 1969). "The Greatest Showman on Earth, and he's the first to admit it". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2021.
  8. ^ "Obituary: Roy Mark Hofheinz". UPI Archives. November 22, 1982. Retrieved 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Landmark Designation Report: T.J. and Ruth Bettes House (PDF) (Report). City of Houston, Archaeological & Historical Commission, Planning and Development Department. May 28, 2009. Retrieved 2021.
  10. ^ "CITIES: The Man in Huckster House". TIME. August 15, 1955. Retrieved 2021.
  11. ^ a b Anspon, Catherine. "Inside Roy Hofheinz's Lavish Private Penthouse Suite". Paper City. Retrieved 2021.
  12. ^ "Gribble-Hofheinz House". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 2021.
  13. ^ "The Vision and the Visionaries". Astrodome Memories. Retrieved 2021.
  14. ^ a b c Valley, Tony. "April 10, 1962: Expansion Colt .45s win first game in franchise history". Society for American Baseball Research.
  15. ^ Herskowitz, Mickey (February 15, 2001). "Cullinan's place in city's sports history secure". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2021.
  16. ^ a b "R. E. Smith, Multimillionaire Who Aided in Astrodome, Dies". The New York Times. December 1, 1973. Retrieved 2021.
  17. ^ "Our History". 2021-08-15. Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Roy Hofheinz buys R.E. "Bob" Smith's remaining shares of the Houston Sports Association to take control of the Astros. Due to a rift between them, the former co-owner had made the offer thinking the 'Judge' couldn't put the funds together". This Day in Baseball. August 4, 1965. Retrieved 2021.
  19. ^ "Greatest Show on Earth Bought: To be located in Houston permanently". The Times. Brookshire and Katy, Texas. December 21, 1967. Retrieved 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Home in the Dome". Sports Illustrated. August 16, 1994. Retrieved 2021.
  21. ^ "Former Astrodome czar dead at 70". The Times. Shreveport, Louisiana. AP. November 23, 1982. Retrieved 2021.
  22. ^ Reynolds, Brian (April 7, 2015). "Astrodome once featured Houston's gaudiest apartment". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2021.
  23. ^ Hlavaty, Craig (September 28, 2017). "Revisiting the dazzling, hidden suites at the top of the Crowne Plaza next to the Astrodome". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2021.
  24. ^ "Erie County Loses Dome Suit". The New York Times. UPI. August 5, 1984.
  25. ^ Kenford Company, Inc., and Dome Stadium, Inc., Appellants, v. County of Erie, et al., Respondents, 67 N.Y.2d 257 (N.Y. May 6, 1986).
  26. ^ Hodge, Shelby (February 20, 2018). "Landmark River Oaks Mansion Deemed One of America's Most Beautiful Homes Hits the Market". Paper City. Retrieved 2021.
  27. ^ "Hofheinz family sues to keep name on Houston Cougars' arena". Laredo Morning Times. May 4, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  28. ^ "UH, Hofheinz family settle dispute over renaming arena". Houston Chronicle. June 14, 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ "2020 Astros Hall of Fame class announced". January 18, 2020. Retrieved 2020.


  • Cartwright, Gary (July 21, 1968). "A Barnum Named Hofheinz, A Big Top Called Astrodome". New York Times Magazine.
  • Ray, Edgar W. (January 1980). The Grand Huckster: Houston's Judge Roy Hofheinz, Genius of the Astrodome. Memphis State University Press. ISBN 978-0878701957.
  • Reed, Robert (May 1999). A Six-Gun Salute: An Illustrated History of the Houston Colt .45s. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0884152835.
  • Trumpbour, Robert C.; Womack, Kenneth (November 2018). The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston's Iconic Astrodome. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-1496211781.
Preceded by
Oscar F. Holcombe
Mayor of Houston, Texas
Succeeded by
Oscar F. Holcombe

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