Biographical or Historical Note
Maurice Hirsch, lawyer, philanthropist and native Houstonian, was born on January 13th, 1890 to Jules and Theresa Hirsch. Jules Hirsch was an Alsatian immigrant who built a successful career in oil and real estate investment. He also served on the city council from 1892-1896, as tax assessor and collector from 1898-1900 and several terms as a county commissioner. Theresa Hirsch was a singer and one of the original organizers of the Houston Symphony Society. After graduating as president and valedictorian from Central High School, Maurice Hirsch entered Virginia University at age 16. From there he graduated with a degree from Harvard Law, where he was elected as case editor to the Harvard Law Review. Next, Hirsch attended the University of Texas Law School obtaining a Masters degree. In 1913 he returned to Houston and by 1914 had opened his first law practice focusing on cases in the oil and gas industry and later in civil law. During WWI he volunteered to serve as chairman of Houston´s Civil Service Commission and as secretary of the Priorities committee of the War Industries Board. He again volunteered his services in WWII and rose to the ranks of Brigadier General as Chairman of the War Contracts Price Adjustment Board, the Joint Price Adjustment Board, the War Department Price adjustment Board and Director the Renegotiation Division. He saved the government over 11 billion dollars and, in 1945, received the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1947, he was released from the US Army and married Winifred Buby on January 25th. They returned to Houston where he continued his law practice and civil service activities until his death on August 5th, 1983.
Winifred Busby Hirsch, wife of General Hirsch, was born on January 2, 1908 in Arkansas to Robert Wesley and Margaret Fuller Busby. For a year in 1933 she worked in Houston where she first became acquainted with Mr. Hirsch. She then moved to New York to attend Columbia University and study voice. She became assistant to the editor of Young National, a children´s magazine. She then worked in radio and publicity and eventually moved to Washington D.C. becoming the representative for the General Railway Signal Company. There she was reacquainted with Maurice Hirsch leading to their eventual marriage and move to Houston in 1947. She died aboard her Yacht, the Athena, in 1990.
In Houston, the Hirsches devoted their lives to philanthropic service. Maurice Hirsch served as president of the Houston Symphony Society for 14 years from 1956-1970. General Hirsch was also the founding head of the Japan-America Society and the Society for Performing Arts of Houston. They were both lifetime board members and trustees at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston providing generous financial support as well as time. Winifred served as the inaugural chair of the Art Cart program, which brought works from the collection to veteran hospitals. Much of their financial support to the MFAH went to what is now known as the Hirsch Library. In 1981 the couple established a generous endowment with financial support continuing until Winifred´s death in 1990. She bequeathed her 288 item jewelry collection to be auctioned creating a large endowment. The Hirsches were involved in many other civic organizations. General Hirsch was a member of The Houston Grand Opera Association, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Congregation Beth Israel, Texas Art Alliance, Arabia Temple Shrine, International Council of the Museum of Modern Art and the National Council of the Metropolitan Opera Association to name a few. Winifred was member of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Grand Opera, the Garden Club, The Northwood Institute, Chi Omega, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Friends of Bayou Bend, Houston Ballet Foundation and Rice University Associates to name a few.
With their free time, The Hirsches were avid socialites and incessant world travelers. As a married couple they embarked on 27 world tours. On each trip they collected art and artifacts and ultimately donated many of these items to the MFAH including several Egyptian objects. Maurice Hirsch was awarded the Italian Star of Solidarity in 1957 and the Japanese Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1981 for strengthening ties between the US and these respective countries.