Texas History: Temple Houston
Minnie Stacey was a clandestine prostitute at the Dew Drop Inn in Woodward, Oklahoma. When she was brought before the court on obvious charges, no local attorney would defend her. So the judge appointed the young lawyer who had just arrived in town. With only10 minutes to prepare for the case, Temple Lea Houston had to think fast.
Born in 1860, Temple was the eighth and last child of Texas hero Sam and Margaret Lea Houston. His father died when he was 3 years old, and his mother died when he was 7. So, Temple was raised by his older, less patient sisters. It is rumored that when the bothersome Temple turned 12, he was encouraged to take a horse and become a cowboy in West Texas.
In an amazing set of circumstances, Temple drove cattle to the Dakotas, worked his way back to Texas on a steamboat, served four years as a page in the U.S. Senate, graduated from Baylor University, and was admitted to the Texas Bar, all by the age of 19! He was elected Brazoria County attorney by the age of 20, and was appointed district attorney for 27 Panhandle counties by the age of 21. That’s when he met and married Laura Cross. Their marriage lasted until Temple’s death at the age of 45 in 1905.
Temple did not like being called “Old Sam’s youngest boy,” because he did not want to live off the name of his famous father. Even though he served two terms as a state senator, and almost won the election for governor, Temple decided that he would leave Texas to achieve success where his father was less known. And that’s when he moved to Oklahoma.
Houston did not know Minnie Stacey. But because he was also a brilliant student of the Bible, Temple stood before the all-male jury and pronounced that Ms. Stacey was a tragic victim of immoral male dominance. He cited the woman caught in adultery in John 7, and that Jesus had mercy upon her. As he talked, the jury became visibly uncomfortable, and quickly judged Minnie innocent. Temple’s defense has since been referred to as the “Soiled Dove Plea.”
Once, while defending a daft, inept gunfighter, Houston pulled out a handgun and began shooting wildly. Though the bullets were blanks, everyone, including the judge, thought they were real. Chaos and panic ensued as people frantically exited out of doors and windows!
On another occasion, when it appeared that no one was listening to him, Temple strode over to the opposing lawyer and glared at him while addressing the judge and said, “Your honor, the prosecutor is the first man that I've ever seen that can strut while sitting down."
With his love for God, and his knowledge of the Word, Temple left the legacy of being an astute attorney who was guided by Scripture. We need more of this in the world today.