HOUSTON: SON OF SAM
Even with his father's fame;
he made a hefty name for himself.
by John Troesser
he was the first child born in the Governor's Mansion, Temple found out (upon
reaching adulthood) that fact and a two-cent piece would buy him a cup of coffee.
He lived with his sister after the death of his parents and by the time he was
thirteen he either signed up or his sister signed him up to go on a cattle drive
where the coffee was free. Our sources tell us he later took a job as a night
clerk on a Mississippi riverboat. That was a pretty impressive entry on a 19th
Century resume, although it doesn't mean as much now.|
In New Orleans,
a Senator Winwright, a friend of Temple's father arranged to have Temple serve
as a congressional page in Washington-on-the-Potomac. Apples, they say don't fall
far from the tree, and so it was in Temple's case. While Sam had been adopted
into the Cherokee clan, Temple was adopted into the tribe of lawyers and became
The truth is that Temple earned his law degree by returning
to Texas and entering the brand new Agricultural
and Mechanical College. It was so new that they hadn't even started telling Aggie
jokes yet. They did start telling them in Temple's freshman year, but they didn't
learn about punch lines until after Temple transferred to Baylor University (back
when it was still in Independence,
Texas). He graduated with honors in 1880 and passed the bar to become the
youngest practicing lawyer in the state.
Photo courtesy Texas State Library
| He was the Brazoria
County Attorney in 1881 when the Governor offered him the job of DA for the entire
Panhandle region. The 35th
Judicial District was comprised of 26 unincorporated counties, and accommodations
were at the best dismal. Not wanting to be alone on the high lonesome, Temple
got married on St. Valentine's Day 1883 to Laura Cross of Brazoria and they moved
to the town of Mobeetie, which
had been known as Hidetown only a few years before. |
They weren't there
long, when Temple got elected state senator. He spent a few years in Austin
making lots of friends and some enemies. He gave the dedication speech in 1888
for Texas ' new Capitol building, stating that
the capitol building would some day be of interest to archeologists.
He ran for Texas Attorney General, but lost, and returned to the Panhandle
to do legal work for the railroad.
He and his family then moved to Oklahoma
and Temple added to his flamboyant reputation by taking on controversial cases.
One case involved defending a woman named Minnie Stacy - a woman with
a soiled reputation. He had all of ten minutes to prepare a defense. Since everyone
in town knew her - or perhaps we should say everyone in town was aware of her
reputation, Temple knew that a defense was hopeless. So he attacked men in general
for creating women like her and was so forceful in his condemnation that there
wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom - excepting the lawyers.
his hair shoulder-length and would walk down the street holding hands with his
wife. He liked to wear Prince Albert coats and rattlesnake-skin neckties (a popular
tourist item in San Antonio).
It is said that Edna Ferber in her book Cimmaron modeled her character Yancy Cravat
on Temple Lea. Cimmaron was made into a movie - twice.
an assassination by somehow managing to be shot in his law book. The book and
bullet were recently on loan to The Bob Bulluck State History Museum in Austin.
He is famous for his defense of Minnie Stacy - but also for a remark made to a
judge about a prosecutor: "Your honor, the prosecutor is the first man that I've
ever seen that can strut while sitting down."
He unsuccessfully ran
for Governor of Oklahoma, and died of a brain hemorrhage in 1905. One of the most
elaborate floral arrangements was from Minnie Stacy. While the rest of his family
rests in Texas , Temple is buried beside his wife
in Woodward, Oklahoma.
© John Troesser
First published October
The Golden Heritage and Silver Tongue of Temple Lea Houston by Bernice Tune, Eakin
An Informal History of Texas from Cabeza de Vaca to Temple
Houston, Frank X. Tolbert, Harper, 1961