WILLIAM M. RICE, philanthropist, capitalist, one of Houston's premier citizens and member of a distinguished pioneer family, is widely known as a successful Lumber man and Banker, and one of the most helpful and respected citizens of Houston and South Texas. Mr. Rice maintains an office at 1015 Union National Bank Building -, and looks after his varied Houston interests, and spends much of his time in the interest of the Rice Institute of which he is vice president of the board of trustees. He is a director of the Union National Bank, of which bank he was one of the founders under the name of the Union Bank and Trust Company, which was later changed to the Union National Bank. He is also a director in the Guardian Trust Company and the Houston Land and Trust Company, and is president of the Merchants and Planters Oil Company.
A native Texan, Mr. Rice was born in Houston in 1857. His father, F. A. Rice (deceased since 1901) was one of the early settlers of Texas, coming to this state from Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1850. He was a pioneer merchant and planter in the Brazos River valley. Later, he was for many years treasurer of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, and still later was engaged in the banking business and was one of the original trustees of the Rice Institute. His mother was Miss Charlotte M. Baldwin, a daughter of Horace Baldwin, who was Mayor of Houston during the days of the republic, and was a brother-in-law of A. C. Allen, one of the founders of Houston. Her paternal ancestors were the founders of Baldwinsville, New York. Mr. Rice's family is of the old revolutionary stock, sprung from the sturdy Scotch-Irish and English pioneers of colonial days in America. His great-grandfather, Hall, was among the wounded at the Battle of Lexington, in 1776, but despite the fact of this wound, he lived to be one hundred and one years old. Dying in Massachusetts at that age. Mr. Rice's four brothers, J. S., H. B., David, and B. B. Rice, are prominent business men of Houston, another brother, F. A., resides in the Rio Grande Valley. H. B. Rice served the city with distinction as mayor for several years. The foundation of Mr. Rice's education was obtained in private schools and an Academy of Houston. He later attended Princeton University, where he was a class-mate of the late President Woodrow Wilson, graduating from that institution in the class of 1879. During the year of his graduation, Mr. Rice entered railroad work as a civil engineer, and continued in this line until 1882 when he engaged in the Lumber business in Tyler County with a saw mill located at Hyatt in that county, there being at that time, no other buildings or industries at Hyatt but the plant of his lumber concern. Associated with Mr. Rice in the lumber business was his brother, J. S., and they continued this business untill 1906. In 1907 they established a mill at Ward, Louisiana, and operated there for eleven years. At the end of this period, the timber was practically cut in that immediate vicinity. He was engaged in the lumber business for thirty-five years.
Mr. Rice's uncle, William Marsh Rice, provided in his will that Mr. Rice be a trustee of the William M. Rice Institute, and was put on the board of trustees before his uncle's death in 1900. The Rice Institute grounds comprise three hundred acres, and about $3,000,000.00 is represented in the land, buildings and equipment; making this institution, by far, the largest endowed school in the entire South. In round numbers, there is about $13,000,000.00 invested in or provided for the Rice Institute; there is about $10,000,000.00 working capital and valuable lands besides. Grouping of buildings has been planned for fifty years in the future. Under this plan the new Chemical Laboratory has recently been completed. About eighty people, each one a specialist in his line, are employed on the teaching staff of the Rice Institute.
In Mr. Rice's opinion, the big thing needed now for Houston is the drainage of the Harris County lands.. This county is composed of very fine agricultural lands, and drainage is now being arranged. He thinks Houston has the greatest future of any city in the Southwest. The bulk of the territory in the Rio Grande Valley is tributary to Houston, and less than 10 per cent of that country is developed, but is just now in line for development. In social organizations Mr. Rice is a member of the Houston Country Club, the Houston Club the University Club and the Episcopal Church. With the exception of the period between 1875 and 1901 Mr. Rice has spent all his life in Houston and vicinity. He has seen it grow from a village to the busy, thriving city with the world's commerce brought to its very doors by the big ocean liners, and the end is not yet in sight as to the possibilities for continued growth. Mr. Rice has always been active in the business, social and general community life of Houston.