Monday, February 18, 2013

Giboney Houck (1878-1960)


  A lifelong resident of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri (made famous by native son and radio commentator Rush Limbaugh), Giboney Houck was a highly regarded attorney and one term legislator who is also notable for being the first Spanish-American War veteran to be profiled here on the site.
  Born on January 15, 1878 in Cape Girardeau County, Giboney Houck was one of three children born to Louis Napoleon (1840-1925) and Mary Hunter Giboney (1848-1944). Louis Houck was a multifaceted man who made his name as a businessman, lawyer and journalist, and is referred to as the "Father of Southeast Missouri" due to his extensive involvement in laying hundreds of miles of railroad track through that region, thereby opening it up for industrialization. Louis Houck chose to bestow his wife Mary's maiden name upon his first born child, and the end result is one of the funniest named persons ever elected to the Missouri legislature!
  Giboney Houck received his schooling at the Cape Girardeau Normal School and later went on to enroll at St. Vincent's College in Cape Girardeau. Houck later joined the Missouri National Guard and after war was declared on Spain in April 1898, enlisted in the 6th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. Houck eventually deployed to Cuba for "occupation duty" and saw no part of any battles fought during the four month war. His regiment is recorded by the History of Southeast Missouri, Vol. I as remaining in Havana until May of 1899, whereafter it was "returned to Georgia and mustered out at Savannah." Houck is listed as being a First Lieutenant during his service and eventually rose to the position of Major. Many newspaper articles of the time denote him as "Major Giboney Houck", especially after he began his career as an attorney.
  After returning to civilian life Houck began attending the University of St. Louis Law School and graduated from this institution in 1901 with his law degree. Soon afterwards he returned to Cape Giradeau to open a law practice, and in the succeeding years built up a clientele that included numerous local businesses. Giboney also participated in his father's various business ventures and was responsible for executing his father's estate after Louis Houck's death in 1925.
  In 1918 Houck became a candidate for the Missouri State House of Representatives, and ran as a Democrat in a largely Republican district. A major part of his campaign platform (listed in an election notice in the November 1918 Cape Girardeau Weekly Tribune) was a drainage law then on the books that stated that the cost of bridges being erected in the Little River District of Cape Girardeau County would be fielded by the counties themselves, and not the Little River Drainage Corporation. Sources of the time estimated that this would cost Cape Girardeau (and other counties in the area) hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Houck's platform notes that if elected he would try and have the "law amended in the new legislature so as to take the cost of the building of the bridges across the Little River Diversion Channel from the people of Cape Girardeau County, thus saving the county from $300,000 to $500,000."

From the November 1, 1918 Cape Girardeau Weekly Tribune.

  On election day 1918, Giboney Houck emerged the victor, besting the Republican nominee George F. Siemers. The Missouri Herald later noted that Houck was "the only Democrat elected in that county to any important office in 20 years." After taking his seat in January 1919, Houck was named to the House committee on Swamp Lands, Drainage and Levees, the committee on Immigration, and the committee on Schools.
  While serving in the legislature, Houck found a kindred spirit in another oddly named representative, Dr. Asier Jacob Speer (1874-1948), elected from the neighboring county of Bollinger. Speer's constituency was faced with same problem as those in Cape Girardeau, and together the two representatives introduced a bill that would try and alleviate the concerns of both counties. The bill they introduced faced substantial opposition from the Little River Drainage District and its various supporters, and although Houck managed to guide the bill through the House successfully, the May 30, 1919 edition of the Southeast Missourian notes that the "owner of the St. Louis Times, a very rich man and also owner of 15,000 acres of land in the Little River Drainage District, persuaded the Republicans to stand by him and they did. Thus the bill failed." 
  Giboney Houck's short tenure in the house ended in 1921 when he wasn't a candidate for reelection. In 1922 he mounted a candidacy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri, and a write-up on his run appeared in a 1922 edition of the Southeast Missourian and is posted below.


  Houck was unsuccessful in his candidacy and spent the remainder of his life involved in the affairs of his native county of Cape Girardeau, and is remarked by the Southeast Missouri State University as being the founder of a local telephone company as well as helping to establish the People's Theatre of Cape Girardeau. In 1958 Houck was named as Senior Counselor of the Missouri State Bar Association, noted by the Southeast Missourian as being "an honor reserved for members of long standing." He died two years later on September 16, 1960 at age 82 at a local hospital. Sources list him as being a lifelong bachelor and he was later interred in the Houck family plot at the Old Lorimer Cemetery in Cape Girardeau.
  The rare portrait of Giboney Houck shown above (and in all likelihood the only one to be found online) was located in the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1919-1920.

Houck's death notice from the 1960 Southeast Missourian.

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