Joe Lee Jameson
The "Right Hand Man" of Edward M. House Texas State Revenue Agent Early Gulf Oil Executive
Joe Lee Jameson was born October 9, 1869 on a farm near Marshfield, Missouri. The family moved to Waco in 1877 and as soon as he was old enough, Joe Lee established a title office before being elected as the Deputy County Clerk.
He moved to San Antonio in 1891 where he became the steward and bookkeeper for the Southwestern Insane Asylum, a role which found him living with his new wife and family on the grounds of the asylum. While there, he hired Will Hogg, son of Governor Jim Hogg, to work at the asylum and became the younger Hogg’s mentor. Also during Jameson’s time at the asylum, he took a trip to attend the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Jameson spent seven years leading the asylum until early 1898 when he was tapped by the legendary Edward M. House to work as the secretary for Joseph Sayers’ gubernatorial campaign. Later that year, Jameson was elected as the secretary of the State Democratic Executive Committee at the party’s convention in Galveston.
When the Sayers campaigned resulted in success in 1899, Jameson was appointed as the State Revenue Agent and the family moved into the famous Haynie-Cook House just across from the Governor’s Mansion. He was also made a member of the Tax Commission, the members of which elected him to serve as their secretary.
House referred to Joe Lee as his “right hand man” and it was generally well known that Jameson was used by House to survey the political landscape of Texas as something of a troubleshooter before making major decisions about who to prop up as candidates or which policies to pursue and how to pursue them.
In 1902, Jameson left his political position to work for a new oil company which was capitalizing on the major Spindletop oil discovery in Beaumont. His new capacity found him putting his social and professional talents to use for the Guffey Oil Company and his efforts proved fruitful. The company grew quickly and is known today as Gulf Oil.
Jameson tragically died in 1904 due to typhoid. He was only thirty-four years old at the time and his ally Edward House was still growing his influence politically. It was generally thought that Jameson would have at least been a promising candidate in statewide politics if not for a more national role such as president had he only lived long enough to benefit from House’s political stature and his own natural tendency to rise quickly from one important role to the next. House of course did become a major driving force behind Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and served as President Wilson’s foreign policy advisor during World War I. He also later put his support behind another promising young politician with a masonic background, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is no small sign of what could have been, then, to read House’s response to the death of Joe Lee Jameson, “No one shall ever know how much I shall miss him.”
Having become a mason in Waco in 1891, Brother Jameson was also a member of Anchor Masonic Lodge #424 in San Antonio and a very active leader, past exalted ruler, of the Austin Elks Lodge 201. He served as a director for the Southwestern Society of Accountants and was a devoted participant in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.