ROSS S. STERLING was born in Anahuac, Texas, where he attended public school. An independent oil operator, he founded Humble Oil and Refining Company in 1910. He was also a real estate developer and became owner of the Houston Dispatch and the Houston Post in the mid-1920s. Prior to being elected governor, he served as Chairman of the Texas Highway Commission. As governor during the Great Depression, he called the state legislature into special session to enact legislation to decrease the acreage of cotton in an effort to increase prices. However, the legislation was declared unconstitutional before it could be implemented. In addition, the Texas Railroad Commission-which was responsible for regulating the petroleum industry-was unable to enforce its rules to limit the production of crude oil, a problem that Sterling sought to correct by placing four counties in eastern Texas under martial law and shutting down all oil production temporarily. Although the action did ease overproduction of crude oil, it was later ruled unconstitutional, as had been the legislation to reduce cotton acreage. Sterling failed to win the Democratic nomination for a second term and retired from politics. He went on to become president of the Sterling Oil and Refining Company from 1933 to 1946 and was at one time president of the American Maid Flour Mills and the Ross Sterling Investment Company as well as chairman of the board of the Houston National Bank and the Houston-Harris County Channel Navigation Board. He died in Fort Worth and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 38. New York: James T. White & Company.