Thursday, January 16, 2014

Geanie Philander Houston (1897-1968)

From the Shrader Photography collection on

   The following profile highlights the life and public career of one Geanie Philander Houston, an unusually named Arkansas state representative and senator whose name could bring to mind, well, a philandering genie! I'll admit that when I first stumbled across today's subject in an Arkansas state legislative manual (where his name is abbreviated as "Gean P. Houston"), I was under the assumption that it belonged to a female state representative! After finding the name of "Geanie P. Houston"  via the WorldCat archive grid website I was even more certain that the name belonged to a woman, but to my surprise after clicking on the above link (which led to the discovery of the above portrait) I was greeted by the smiling face of the above-pictured gentleman gazing back at me.....Geanie Philander Houston of Cleburne County!
   A resident of the county of Cleburne in Arkansas for nearly his entire life, Geanie Philander Houston was born in the settlement of Heber Springs on January 23, 1897, one of several children born to Joseph Green (1874-1933) and Cora Leiah Cousins Houston (1877-1964.) His early education took place in the public schools of Heber Springs and at the dawn of American involvement in the First World War signed on for service, and is mentioned in the first volume of Carl Barger's 2008 history of Cleburne County and Its People as being  "secretary of a regimental headquarters from 1918-1919."
   Prior to his service in state government, Houston worked at a number of different vocations, being a school teacher and farmer, and while engaged in farming also raised cattle and dealt in cotton sales. In the late 1920s, Houston recommenced with his education, beginning the study of law at the Cumberland University Law School located in Lebanon, Tennessee. He graduated from this school with his Bachelor of Laws Degree in the class of 1930 and shortly afterward was admitted to practice in both the Tennessee and Arkansas court systems.

Geanie P. Houston's 1930 Cumberland University "Phoenix" Yearbook portrait.

    Geanie P. Houston married in Arkansas on April 20, 1935 to Lorene Gladys Smith (1912-2006) with whom he would later have one daughter, Loredia Gean Houston, who died in infancy in August of 1937. 
   In November 1934 Houston was elected to his first term in the Arkansas State House of Representatives and served in this body during the 1935-37 term. In 1939 he won a seat in the state senate and served a total of three terms here, 1939-41, 1941-43 and 1943-45. In 1951 he was returned to the state house (serving until 1953) and was again elected in 1959, serving two more terms. Houston's extensive service in state government was chronicled in Cleburne County and Its People, which notes that he was a co-author of an Arkansas state welfare bill, as well as being a firm believer in the abolition of the death penalty in the state.
   Active in civic affairs in addition to politics, Geanie P. Houston served as a member of the Tuberculosis Sanitorium Board and in the latter portion of his life was named by then-Governor Orval Faubus to the Arkansas State History Commission, serving here until his death. An active Mason, Houston was also a founding member of the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the Methodist Church of Heber Springs, and was a past state commander of the Disabled American Veterans organization.

Houston's 1950 legislative portrait,  from the Shrader photograph collection on

   Geanie Philander Houston died three days after celebrating his 71st birthday on January 26, 1968. He was later interred at the Heber Springs City Cemetery and was survived by his wife Lorene, who died in February 2006 at age 94, and after her death was interred at the same cemetery as her husband.

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