Joe Lee Jameson, around 1900. (We have a better copy of this photo but I haven’t scanned it yet.)
I really should call this “Things you can find out about Joe Lee Jameson using the Google Books search feature.” Google Books is pretty handy for identifying books that briefly mention people. Some of the books allow only a few pages or snippets to be viewed online, but at least it gives me a sense of books that may be worth tracking down at the library. There’s also some full-access content as well, much of it older ephemera, and there’s a fun feature where you can embed selections on a web page (like this blog) that allow you to click back through to Google Books to see the source.
And thus I am able to bring you this informative and somewhat grandiose profile of Joe Lee Jameson, taken from the Year Book For Texas, 1901, a sort of state annual report and Who’s Who of Texas officials:
It’s a helpful overview of his professional career, from deputy county clerk to bookkeeper of Southwestern Insane Asylum, secretary for Joseph Sayer’s gubernatorial campaign and then the Texas Democratic Committee, and then, by 1899, state revenue agent.
(That bit about his ancestry, on the other hand, is pretty hilarious. I’m fairly certain the claim about Jehu Reece Jameson being the lone survivor of the 1835 Dade Massacre is bullshit, since his name doesn’t come up in any historical accounts of the battle and he would have been 41 at the time. But this is for another post.)
What the Year Book profile doesn’t mention is Joe Lee’s relationship to Edward M. House, a wealthy Texas businessman turned political kingmaker who was instrumental in the election of several Texas governors, including Sayers, and who became a diplomat and highly influential advisor to President Wilson. The 2006 book Woodrow Wilson’s Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House, by Godfrey Hodgson, has a couple of brief mentions of Joe Lee as an aide to Colonel House, including this bit in the footnotes:
Jameson worked as an aide for Governors Sayers and Lanham. More completely than the other members of “our crowd” he was a creature of House; in a letter to [former Texas governor] Culberson after Jameson’s death, House wrote: “He was my political right hand. I had him trained for so many years that he knew exactly what I wanted without telling him and he had the political instinct which made him absolutely invaluable.”
It certainly makes sense, then, that when Joe Lee’s youngest son was born in 1902, he named the child House Jameson in honor of his mentor—or, as Hodgson believes, his maker.
The letter referenced above was written in May 1904, shortly after Joe Lee died of typhoid fever at the age of thirty-four. Considering who he knew and how he was regarded (both on and off the record), it’s fascinating to think about what kind of career he could have had, and how the family’s life might have been different if he’d lived.
You’ll notice that the Year Book profile ends with a citation number. Here is the footnote:
Mr. Jameson resigned March 1 1902 to accept the position of general sales agent of the Beaumont Confederated Oil and Pipe Line Company, and was succeeded on that day by Judge J.D. Cunningham, of Kaufman county, appointed by Governor Sayers to fill the vacancy. Mr. Jameson’s resignation was tendered a month or more prior to March 1 but at the request of the Governor he continued to discharge the duties of State Revenue Agent until work in hand was completed His headquarters are in Austin.
So, with his “step by step” rise well under way, Joe Lee left his government job to work for an oil company. Interesting, yes? I wonder how his political involvement related to his move to the private sector—was he moving towards politics, or away?