William Marsh Rice on Findagrave
Birth: Mar. 14, 1816
Death: Sep. 23, 1900
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
Businessman, Educator. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Little is known about his childhood. He moved to Texas in 1838. In 1840 he started one of many businesses of which he would become involved. Houston and Galveston Navigation Company was established in 1851 and in 1858 Rice was the owner of a brig called the William M. Rice. It carried ice from Boston to Galveston. Rice also served as a director of the Houston Insurance Company, which insured carriers and freight. He incorporated the Houston Cotton Compress Company, several railroads and a stage line from Houston to Austin. He was the alderman from the Second Ward from 1855 to 1857 and he served on the petit jury and the grand jury in Harris County. He was a member of Liberty Company No. 2, an early formation of a volunteer fire department for the City of Houston, which was organized in 1852. Rice and T. W. House purchased a Hunneman Hand Fire Engine from Boston. The price was $2000.00 and would be the first fire truck that the volunteers acquired. It arrived in Houston in 1852. Serving in many capacities such as, Odd Fellow, director of the Houston Academy, trustee of the Houston Educational Society, the Second Ward School, and the Texas Medical College, Rice was among the wealthiest men in Texas. Rice married Margaret Bremond on June 29, 1850. She passed away on August 13, 1863. For the next two years he stayed in Monterrey, Mexico. He returned to Houston in 1866. On June 26, 1867 he married Julia Elizabeth Baldwin Brown, daughter of an early mayor of Houston. They moved to New Jersey but split their time between New Jersey and New York and took occasional trips to Houston for business. On one of the business trips Cesar Maurice Lombardi who was interested in building a high school in Houston approached him. Having changed his will previously to include a fund for a school for needy boys, Rice was interested. It was decided that he would fund an institute of higher learning. The charter for the William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art was incorporated in Austin, Texas on May 19, 1891. Due to his wife's health he moved to Houston in April 1896 with hope that the weather would improve her condition. After her death on July 24, 1896 a dispute ensued over her will. During the years of court proceedings, Rice's valet, Charlie Jones, to gain control of his estate, hatched a plan. He began drugging Rice with cyanide pills. Jones eventually murdered Rice with a lethal dose of chloroform. Jones was released although he did commit the murder. When the estate was settled in 1904 there was approximately three million dollars in an endowment for the university. On October 12, 1912, the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Art and Science held its inaugural festival. At that time the endowment held a sum of about nine million dollars and all students were able to attend the university without charge. This privilege did not end until 1965.
Cause of death: Murder by chloroform
(bio by: Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson)