Hofheinz, Roy Mark (1912–1982)

By: Jill S. Seeber

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: March 3, 2017

Roy Mark Hofheinz, Houston politician and developer, was born in Beaumont, Texas, on April 10, 1912. His father, a laundry-truck driver, died when Hofheinz was fifteen, and he soon began working to support his mother. He furthered his education at Rice University and the University of Houston and then graduated from the Houston Law School at age nineteen. Hofheinz married Irene Cafcalas in 1933; they had three children. He served from 1934 to 1936 in the Texas House of Representatives and from 1936 to 1944 as a Harris County judge. After losing the election for his third term as county judge, Hofheinz turned to advancing his career in private-sector law and business. He returned to public life in 1952, when he was elected to the first of two terms as mayor of Houston. His years as mayor were marked by controversy. For example, in 1954 Hofheinz had four city council members arrested for boycotting a special meeting he had called to contemplate a proposed bond issue. Contention among the council members increased, and in 1955 the council voted to impeach him. Hofheinz, however, publicly announced his refusal to recognize the impeachment, and the council backed down. In an attempt to parade his public support, Hofheinz initiated a city charter amendment to recall all city officials a year early and hold a new election. The public passed the amendment referendum, but Hofheinz's victory was temporary, as Oscar F. Holcombe won the mayoral election. Hofheinz returned to law and business. He and his partner, Robert (Bob) Everett Smith, created the Houston Sports Association, which evolved into several lucrative business ventures. Hofheinz was heavily criticized for his plan to build a gigantic sports stadium under a roof, but the Houston Sports Association received a major-league franchise on the promise of building a new stadium, and in 1965 the world's first domed stadium was completed. Hofheinz claimed the Astrodome was "the Eighth Wonder of the World." Though several Harris County bond issues had funded most of the $31.6 million for the stadium, the Houston Sports Association had a long-term lease on the building. The Astrodome soon became the home of the Houston Colt 45s (renamed the Houston Astros) and the Houston Oilers. Building on the success of the Astrodome, Hofheinz developed the South Loop by adding Astroworld, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the four "Astrodomain" hotels. Hofheinz's empire, however, soon began to decline. In 1970 he suffered a stroke that left him confined to a wheelchair, and in 1975 his empire, burdened by high interest rates, came to an end. The Astrodomain had accumulated a $38 million debt, and control passed from Hofheinz to two credit companies. Later Hofheinz sold his remaining stock to the companies; its worth was estimated at as much as $5 million. Eventually John J. McMullen and Dave LeFevre purchased the Astros; Servico Incorporated bought the hotels; and Six Flags Over Texas took over management of Astroworld. Hofheinz's first wife had died in 1966, and he married Mary Frances Gougenheim in 1969. He died of a heart attack at his home in Houston on November 22, 1982, and was survived by his wife Mary Frances and three children.

Austin American-Statesman, November 23, 1982. Houston Chronicle, November 23, 1982. Dene Hofheinz Mann, You Be the Judge (Houston: Premier, 1965). Edgar W. Ray, The Grand Huckster: Houston's Judge Roy Hofheinz (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1980). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Baseball)
  • Forty-fourth Legislature (1935-1936)
  • House
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • 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.

Jill S. Seeber, “Hofheinz, Roy Mark,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hofheinz-roy-mark.

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September 1, 1995
March 3, 2017

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