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by Brandon Wolf

Author Royal Dixon and artist Chester Snowden were Houston's gay "power-couple" for over three decades, from 1929 to 1962. They were well known to those in Houston's art circles, and were regular dinner guests of Miss Ima Hogg at her Bayou Bend mansion.

Their involvement with Houston covers a period of at least 74 years. Dixon was a columnist for the Houston Chronicle from 1910 to 1927. Snowden is first known to have been a resident in 1926.

It's not clear when they began a relationship, but a 1929 Chronicle article mentions them participating together in activities at Camp Eagle Lake, in Kerrville. By 1934, they had built their own house at 1310 Truxillo. They played the rules of society's game and practiced polite discretion, but also exhibited a streak of independence that embraced their relationship.

Dixon was born in Huntsville in 1880. In 1914, he published his first book, The Human Side of Plants. He completed a 4-book series by 1918, and became a popular traveling lecturer. He continued to write, publishing 10 more books. He was an advocate for immigrants, women's suffrage, African-American equality and humane treatment of animals.

Snowden was born in Elgin in 1900. He furthered his talent at several art schools, and worked as an artist and book illustrator, throughout his life. Among the literary figures whose books he illustrated were Robert Frost, George Bernard Shaw and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The men nicknamed their home "Camellia Place". The grounds were lush with shrubs, trees and vines that crept up the walls of their home, and filled it with fragrance. A visitor in 1940 described their home as "a jungle of plants and birds in gilded cages".

The polite code of the times, to indicate gay partners was: "They share a studio together." But the men balked at allowing their relationship to be completely written off. Snowden legally changed his middle name to Dixon. They held a joint checking account, with both names printed at the top of their checks, and both signed at the bottom. During the holidays, they mailed out cards with their names printed one beside the other.

Dixon passed away in December 1962. Snowden continued to live at 1310 Truxillo. He made social appearances, taught art classes and judged exhibits, until his death in 1984.

Dixon is buried in Houston's Glenwood Cemetery. No record, however, has yet been found of Snowden's final resting place.

Much more on Dixon/Snowden