Freeman, John Henry (1886–1980)

By: Newton Gresham and James A. Tinsley

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: July 26, 2017

John Henry Freeman, attorney, the son of James D. and Rose (Phelps) Freeman, was born on October 23, 1886, in San Antonio, Texas, and grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward, where his father was shop foreman for the Southern Pacific. He went to public schools in Houston and worked five years for a title company before graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, which he attended from 1908 to 1910. He then returned to Houston, resumed title-office work, and secured a law license in 1913. Freeman practiced law from 1916 through 1923 with the firm of Campbell, Myer, and Freeman before becoming a partner in Fulbright, Crooker, and Freeman on January 1, 1924. As Fulbright and Jaworski (see FULBRIGHT, RUFUS CLARENCE, and JAWORSKI, LEON), the firm developed into one of the nation's largest law partnerships. Freeman's contribution to the firm was primarily in banking, real estate, and corporate practice. In addition he was Houston city attorney in 1928–29, president of the Houston Bar Association in 1933, a member of the board of directors of the First City National Bank of Houston, and general counsel for the cotton firm of Anderson, Clayton and Company, whose partners included Monroe D. Anderson and his brother, Frank.

In 1936 Freeman prepared the legal documents establishing the M. D. Anderson Foundation, and along with his law partner William B. Bates joined Monroe Anderson as an original trustee of the foundation. Anderson died in 1939, leaving the foundation, with assets worth over $19 million, the first of Houston's large general-purpose foundations. In 1942 Freeman, Bates, and new trustee Horace M. Wilkins contributed foundation funds to the University of Texas cancer hospital in Houston. This was the start of the Texas Medical Center, which the Anderson Foundation has continued to support ever since. Freeman remained one of the trustees of the foundation until his death. He also administered the $500,000 Max Krost Charitable Trust, established in 1946, which made contributions to the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children and the University of Houston Law School before the school was terminated and its assets given to Texas Lutheran College in 1978. Freeman was a Democrat, a member of Holland Masonic Lodge, and an Episcopalian. He married Edna Stewart on December 5, 1912, and they had two children. Freeman died in Houston on July 13, 1980, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston.

N. Don Macon, Mr. John H. Freeman and Friends: A Story of the Texas Medical Center and How It Began (Houston: Texas Medical Center, 1973).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Commercial and Corporate Law
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Newton Gresham and James A. Tinsley, “Freeman, John Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

January 1, 1995
July 26, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: