LOCAL Houston | The City Guide December 2016 - Page 48

“WHO WAS...?” Gus Sessions Wortham Photography courtesy of houstonhistory.com Photography of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course GUS WORTHAM Gus Wortham Park Golf Course By Tim Moloney If you’ve ever played a round at Texas’ oldest 18-hole municipal golf course or taken in a performance of the Houston Grand Opera or Houston Ballet, then you know the name Gus Wortham. But how much do you know about the man behind it? GUS SESSIONS WORTHAM (February 18,1891–September1,1976), was a successful local businessman and civic leader. Born in Mexia, he attended Tarleton State University and The University of Texas at Austin, and served in World War I as an aerial gunnery instructor and commander of the 800th Aerial Squadron of the United States army. Wortham’s career in the insurance industry started in 1912, when he was hired by the Texas Fire Rating Board in Austin. In 1915 he and his father moved to Houston and cofounded an insurance agency, John L. Wortham and Son. Transmission Company, Longhorn Portland Cement Company, the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He and his wife, Lyndall Finley Wortham, created the Wortham Foundation, which supports cultural activities and development of parks in the Houston area. Named in honor of the Worthams are Wortham IMAX Theater at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Wortham World of Primates at the Houston Zoo, Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre at the University of Houston, among many others. Eleven years later, he founded the American General Insurance Company with Jesse H. Jones, James A. Elkins and John W. Link. (Maybe you’ve also been to the American General Center on Allen Parkway, which is directly across from the Wortham Fountain.) OH, AND BACK TO THAT GOLF COURSE: Gus Wortham Park Golf Course is Texas’ oldest 18-hole municipal golf course, and the oldest 18-hole golf course west of the Mississippi. Built back in 1908 as the Houston Country Club, it became the Houston Executive Club in 1957, and the City bought it and renamed it in 1972. The course winds through a wooded green space along Brays Bayou only a few miles south of Downtown. Wortham served two terms as president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and was a director of Texas Commerce Bank, Texas Eastern Gus Wortham died in 1976, leaving Houston a lasting legacy of cultural and natural beauty for generations. 48 L O C A L | december 16