Harris County ’s history is steeped uniquely in Texas history. Harris County is located on the upper Gulf Coast in Southeast Texas where the Texicans fought the San Jacinto battle to become an independent republic in 1836. The county comprises 1,778 square miles (1,729 in land) and is the largest Texas county east of the Nueces River. Harrisburg County was formed by the First Congress of the Texas Republic on December 22, 1836. The county encompassed the City of Houston plus Galveston Island (the mainland was attached to Brazoria County) until May 1838, when its modern boundaries were established. In December 1839, Congress changed the name to Harris County, in honor of John R. Harris.
The development of Harris County as an industrial power began in 1911, when voters approved the formation of the Harris County Ship Channel Navigation District. By 1918 petroleum refineries began locating along Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River, as did various other industries. Exports from the Port of Houston include rice, wheat, grain sorghums, cotton, caustic soda, cement, and petroleum products. Imports include crude oil, iron ore, molasses, coffee, gypsum, and automobiles.
Harris County infrastructure includes transportation systems that serve intrastate and interstate needs with six major railroads hauling freight to distribution centers and to the port; passenger rail service is limited to Amtrak. Buses, trucks, and passenger cars utilize a network of highways including Interstate 10 east and west and Interstate 45 north and south, U.S. Highway 59 crosses the county from northeast to southwest and goes to the Rio Grande valley, and U.S. 290 leads to West Texas via Austin. Loop 610 encircles the heart of Houston, and a second loop, Beltway 8, allows traffic to move around the perimeter of the urban sector. Both loops have high-rise bridges over the Houston Ship Channel, and a third new high-rise bridge spans the San Jacinto River and replaces the Baytown-La Porte tunnel. Two major airports, Houston Intercontinental and William P. Hobby, are within the city of Houston. The petrochemical industry in Harris County is connected to the rest of the United States by one of the nation’s most well developed pipeline corridors.
Harris County governance is presided over by County Judge Ed Emmett and 4 Commissioners; Precinct 1 is presided over by Commissioner El Franco Lee, Precinct 2 is presided over by Commissioner Sylvia R. Garcia, Precinct 3 is presided over by Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 is presided over by Commissioner Jerry Eversole .