From the living room of Dr. John Hogg’s home in the Westlake Hills, you can see a panoramic view of downtown Austin.
From the century-old Capitol building to the modern new Austonian tower rising on Congress Avenue, one can take in all the iconic images of Texas ’ Capital City in one glance. It’s a view that’s changed a great deal through the decades as extended members of Hogg’s family have made their mark on the city. Now, this soft-spoken doctor with a flair for life is taking the lead of a family name, determined to leave his own imprint on Austin and Texas .
If there’s one overarching theme across the causes that Hogg and his partner David Garza support, perhaps it’s fighting for the underdog. “We’re really about helping out those who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance,” Hogg says. And in truth it’s his rural Texas roots and the examples set for him by his family that have molded Hogg into the person he is today – grounded yet playful, generous but unpretentious – a man making a difference in the lives of those he encounters.
A Small Town Start
Hogg recalls an idyllic childhood growing up in the community of Gilmer in northeast Texas. It was a conservative, small town that had just two red lights and two Dairy Queens by the time he graduated high school. But unlike other kids who impatiently await the day they can leave rural America, Hogg says he enjoyed the town and its quaintness. He recalls days water skiing on the lake and judging livestock.
“I had a lot of fun growing up,” he says. “But we also always had a strong sense of civic responsibility.”
His grandmother, Allie Marie Hogg, was the most important figure in his early life. “She was really interested in historical things and I remember going out with her to the local cemeteries, helping her uncover old tombstones and recording the names and the dates,” he says. “She wanted there to be a record of the history of Upshur County and the people who lived, worked and died there. She felt that was extremely important.”
His grandmother, “had a hard work ethic, strong moral values, and that all influenced me a lot,” says Hogg. “She encouraged me academically, and always pushed me to question things and appreciate people.”
Like in many small Texas towns, there was poverty in Gilmer. Hogg’s father, a pharmacist, felt a responsibility to serve the poorer residents of the town, regardless of race. “People knew they could count on my dad, no matter when it was, he was there for them,” Hogg recalls. “Racism was still very strong but he didn’t see a barrier.”
Hogg says seeing his father’s dedication had a strong effect on him. The desire to help others, particularly in rural settings, would resurface for him years later in a similar way.
His parents were thrifty, traveling frequently but frugally with he and his brother in the family station wagon pulling a pop-up camper. “My parents were really good about the family vacations. Education always factored in, and we stopped at every single national monument and read about it. I don’t think kids nowadays get a lot of education on their trips.”
Hogg says he learned the value of a dollar early in life, running lemonade stands and mowing yards. Just before his 18th birthday, he boarded a plane for Europe. It was an educational trip his grandmother made sure each of her grandchildren took. “Education was very important to her, and all my family,” he says. “I did a lot of growing up that summer. …It opened my eyes to different cultures and people. I realized that the way I had grown up and lived was not the only way and it gave me respect for other ways of life.”
Hogg says he had no idea what he wanted to when he grew up, let alone major in when he returned from Europe and went to college at Baylor University in Waco. Coming from Gilmer, Waco was about all the culture shock that he could take.
“I drove my truck down there and I remember when I got to the dorm, a friend who was also from Gilmer and I drove around in growing circles. We wanted to explore but we also didn’t want to get lost.”
Baylor was a wonderful experience for Hogg. He immediately set out making friends and even pledged a fraternity to expand his social circle. “I didn’t meet a stranger,” he says. “I really enjoyed college, the social part and the academic challenge.”
Always good at math, Hogg decided to major in business and ended up with a degree in accounting and finance. But after he graduated and moved to Dallas, the reality of life as an accountant set in. “I was working for, what was at the time, one of the big accounting firms, in their audit division,” he says. “Maybe for a different personality it would have been fine. But I didn’t like that people didn’t want to see me coming. I wanted to make them happy – to fix things.”
Struggling with the realization that accounting wasn’t for him, Hogg had an epiphany of sorts on a trip out to California to do an audit. On the plane he found himself eagerly flipping to the medical sections of the magazines. When he got back to Dallas, he took the time to talk to some friends who were in medical school and do some volunteering at a local hospital. It wasn’t long before he decided to switch gears completely.
“I had a roommate at the time, he was a fraternity brother, and when I told him he said ‘You’re an accountant, you can’t do medicine.’ We were pretty competitive, so that did it. I knew right then I was going to medical school.”
It was the solving the mysteries of human ailments that most intrigued Hogg. “I knew that I liked figuring out what made people sick, and more importantly how to make them well.”
Life In Georgia
Hogg completed his pre-med work at Southern Methodist University and then went on Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. His next big choice was deciding which field to specialize in. He enjoyed the science behind psychiatry but didn’t like the fact that once the mystery was figured out, patients didn’t always get better with meds. Rather, he settled on radiology.
“I view radiology like figuring out a puzzle,” he says. “Everything is a mystery and it’s up to me to unravel it.” Hogg went to Emory University in Atlanta to complete his residency. He also landed a gig moonlighting in a small town in rural Georgia called Sandersville. “For me, it was sort of like returning to my small town roots,” he says of his work in Sandersville. “I understand people at a very basic level because of where I’m from and I was drawn to this place.”
Situated about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, Sandersville is a town built largely around the mining of kaolin, a natural white clay used in ceramics and paper-making. The money made off the kaolin meant that while limited in population, Sandersville had money and resources – enough to lure a specialist like Hogg there full-time once he finished his residency.
But the hospital needed significant equipment upgrades to do the kind of work he was trained to do. Using his business savvy, Hogg was able to show the chairman of the hospital’s board exactly how investing in a CT scanner and other equipment would lead to new revenue over the long term.
Hogg says he enjoyed the nine years he spent in Sandersville. It was a different atmosphere from Texas, one he readily embraced. Though at times, customs were quirky. “This was the old South,” he says. “I’d introduce myself to some of the older ladies and it was ‘Dr. Hogg, so nice to meet you. And tell me what was your mutha’s name?’ People were always trying to figure you out, to put you in a strata.”
While in Georgia, Hogg started a real estate business, restoring old homes in a historic part of Atlanta. “There’s something about the purity of the original style of an old home that’s appealing. Maybe someone threw up aluminum siding or put in different windows or doors. Getting the home back to its beautiful correct style – there’s something rewarding in that.”
One of his favorite projects was the restoration of a huge antebellum mansion in the former Georgia capital of Milledgeville.
In his last few years in Georgia, Hogg also opened a first-class dog boarding facility in Atlanta called Barking Hound Village – a business he would later expand to Texas.
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hogg traveled to Manhattan to run the New York City Marathon. Seeing a city struggling to overcome a devastating blow made him take stock of his own life.
“I always knew that I would eventually move back to Texas,” he says. “After that trip, I knew it was time. So I called my mom and said I’m moving back home.”
But instead of going back to Dallas or Gilmer, Hogg had a different plan.
“Austin is the heart of Texas, so as a native Texan that really appealed to me,” he says. “We had always come down here to visit when I was a kid. I was raised a Longhorn. It just made sense to move here.”
Soon after his return to Texas, Hogg met with the partners of Austin Radiological Associates and showed them what he could do for their practice.
“I’m a hard worker, real productive and kind of a workaholic,” he admits. “I think they could see my dedication.”
Hogg’s experience doing medicine in a rural area appealed to the doctors. ARA was on the verge of expanding its practice into the outlying parts of Central Texas. Today, the group covers hospitals throughout Central Texas, from Smithville to Marble Falls. Hogg’s easy-going way of relating to patients on a basic level helped ARA with its push into new territory.
“All it takes is being nice to people and walking them through the procedure,” says Hogg. “You need to reassure them. That’s what I did. I could read people in a way that others who came from more urban backgrounds didn’t.”
Hogg says he knew from an early age that he was gay, but he struggled with his sexuality through high school. It wasn’t until he went away to college that he began to come to terms with being gay.
“I decided that I was ok with it,” he says. “My parents, it took them some time. I think they didn’t want me to struggle and they thought that this was going to be a life of struggle.” eventually his parents came around.
“It’s interesting, when I first came to terms with being gay in college, I stayed a bit closeted,” says Hogg. “When I started practicing medicine, I just didn’t discuss it at work. I never pretended there was a woman in my life or anything like that. I just never allowed that discussion. That’s sort of how I lived my life in the 90s: don’t ask, don’t tell.”
But when he finally moved back to Texas, Hogg decided it was time to stop hiding. “It was so nice to just be open,” he says.
Hogg met his partner of five years David Garza at Genie Car Wash in South Austin. He remembers pulling up to the business one spring day and seeing a white Ford pickup truck identical to his own. When he went inside, he noticed Garza standing off to the side reading and decided to approach and talk to him. He assumed Garza was straight.
“We talked and learned we had a lot of things in common,” says Hogg.
Garza says he quickly realized this guy was not just interesting, but had incredible depth and compassion. “Yes he was handsome, yes he was driven, but what really spoke to me was his heart,” says Garza.
“We exchanged numbers but I figured I had just met a friend,” Hogg says. “Then he called and said ‘It was nice to meet an interesting guy like you, who is also handsome.’ So I thought ‘well there’s some interest there!’”
The two began dating and have been inseparable ever since.
“We both opened our hearts to one another right away,” says Garza. “We didn’t play any games. We both had built very complete lives and we knew who we were. So it wasn’t as though we were looking for someone else to complete us. But out of two whole people we made another whole.”
Hogg says he and Garza are calming forces in one another’s lives. “We always reassure each other. When we’re doing a project we encourage one another. He’s a constant friend, always supportive. We share our problems.”
An Austin native, Garza’s family goes back generations in Texas. His parents both graduated from UT; his mother is a retired microbiologist and his father was a businessman who worked in the oil industry and lobbied in Washington D.C. for his own part, Garza has owned a sizable local concrete company for 18 years and together with Hogg, the two invest in real estate in and around Austin.
The home Hogg shares with partner David Garza is a modern masterpiece that took four years to build and was just completed last year. “We’ve put a lot into our home and I see it sort of as an artistic expression. We wanted a home for entertaining and in this we brought together our tastes, contemporary and traditional. We both love this amazing outcome.”
Interestingly, one of the smallest rooms in the house – a 10×10 foot glass-enclosed breakfast nook overlooking a small koi pond – is the couple’s favorite place to “hang out” at home.
“We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to do all that we do, but there’s a lot to running it all,” Garza says. “If we’re home together on an odd night, we’re sitting and discussing plans and what we’re doing, almost like a business meeting.”
The Family Name
Having the last name Hogg in Austin, Texas carries a bit of prestige and responsibility. Members of the Hogg family moved from Georgia to northeast Texas in the 1800s. John Hogg’s immediate ancestors landed in Gilmer. His grandmother was a cousin of former Gov. James S. Hogg, an imposing, feisty figure in the annals of Texas politics who helped establish the state railroad commission and expanded anti-trust laws.
The governor’s only daughter Ima, often affectionately called “the first Lady of Texas,” was a major philanthropist and patron of the arts. One of the most respected women in 20th Century Texas, Ima Hogg helped restore and refurbish several historic properties in the state and donated them to preservation groups. She also founded the Houston Child Guidance Center, which provides counseling for disturbed children and their families and established the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at UT.
“When I was young, Miss Ima would help dedicate restored buildings and attend other ceremonies and I was often the flag bearer, so I would see her regularly,” he says. “Again, we always had a sense of civic responsibility and there was this model in Miss Ima of incredible generosity. She gave all her wealth away, something she started doing before I was even born.
“When I moved to Georgia, no one knew who I was. I could play the small town doctor. When I came back to Texas, and particularly to Austin, I did feel a sense of responsibility. I’ve tried to make myself worthy of the family name and to give back.”
But Hogg says while he does feel a duty to the family name, he also feels the need to make his own place and support causes that are of particular importance to him. “I want to do as much as I’m capable of doing and set my own example, and part of that is honoring who I am as a gay person,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that some people still have only seen negative examples of what it means to be gay. Hopefully, when they see a normal, functional gay man, it gives them a new perspective.”
Despite his career as a physician and the financial success he’s had, Hogg may just be one of the least pretentious people in Austin. Through the years, both he and Garza have given to many organizations, ranging from the Human Rights Campaign to educational nonprofits. They are also highly engaged politically, raising money and awareness for local candidates they believe in.
“HRC has educated me a lot on the strength and importance of supporting people for office.” Hogg says he’s witnessed in his lifetime the impact of court cases, like those over the Texas sodomy law that was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. “It makes you realize that you have to work through the system to realize real change. Backing those candidates who have the capacity to make positive changes is a good thing. …We have great strength as a gay community, but we have to show it. It’s so important that we not be invisible.”
He says together with Garza he’s convinced several politicians to reconsider their stance on key LGBT issues.
Outrunning The Pack
It’s really a gross understatement to call Hogg “active.” On many mornings he wakes well before the sun comes up, meeting up with friends down at the Lady Bird Lake trail for a run. And while his workout buddies are 20 years his junior, this 50-year-old outruns them many a time. “Some days I push them, other days they push me. I just think it’s so important to have that.”
Whether it’s running on the lake or mountain biking at the couple’s second home in Santa Fe, staying energized is a Central component in Hogg’s life.
“I think to myself, ‘I can’t really be 50! I’m in my early 30s!’ that’s how I feel. It’s all state of mind. I just enjoy life. That’s what it’s really about, having fun.”
With two people so busy, fun time often has to be scheduled. But this power couple are often found at events supporting some of the biggest causes and nonprofits in Central Texas.
Fun isn’t just parties. Hogg is more than content on the grounds of his home, planting, watering or just fooling around in the gardens. “I have to tell you, the chain saw is one of my favorite things,” he says laughing.
Patrons Of Education
“We both believe that education is so important to people’s happiness and fulfillment,” says Hogg. “We try to help those who are not able to get there.”
Hogg and Garza are both on the board of the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, a group which pools that money from different scholarship funds to benefit Hispanic youth from poor families who are excelling in school to go on to college.
“The consortium touches my heart more than just about anything we do,” says Hogg. “It’s taking people who want to go to college but do not have the opportunity and giving them that chance. But it’s not easy and there’s a lot of screening that happens to make sure these individuals are committed. The people that end up being selected truly are the best of the best.”
And it’s not just money. The consortium also hosts mentoring events where students are taught everything from how to develop their resume to proper business etiquette. Hogg says the first group of students has just recently graduated and so far, roughly 80 kids have benefited from the program.
“These kids are rock stars of educational achievement,” says Garza. “We see this as a way to change lives. It’s not giving them a fish, it’s teaching them how to fish. And these individuals will help others in the future.”
One thing of immense concern to Hogg at the moment is how the downturn in the economy will affect the nonprofits and charities that are so important to he and Garza. “From a personal point of view, I know I’ll be fine. But we do worry about those who are dependent on the foundations and the charities,” he says. “These groups are having to be more clever and resourceful about their finances. Stretching their dollar like never before. But it’s hard when you have so many more people in need of your services.”
On the arts front, Hogg is about to take over as board president of the Mexic-Arte Museum downtown. Founded by a group of artists including current CEO Sylvia Orozco in 1984, the museum features traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latin American and Latino art and culture exhibitions. With a major remodeling project beginning soon, this is a critical time for Mexic-Arte. “These are huge footsteps for me to follow in from our great previous leader- ship,” Hogg says. “it is certainly both a scary and exciting prospect as we face all sorts of challenges as well as incredible opportunities.”
So what does Hogg see five years down the road? “Texas is home for us, and now so is Austin. We’ll be here, and hopefully we’ll see progress in a lot of the causes and things we’ve been involved with.”