Paul Pressler (Texas)

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Herman Paul Pressler, III
Texas State Representative from Harris County
In office
January 8, 1957 – January 13, 1959
Preceded by James Watson Yancy, Jr.
Succeeded by Roger Daily
Judge of the 133rd Judicial District in Harris County
In office
1970–1978
Judge of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals
In office
1978–1992
Personal details
Born 1930
Houston, Texas, USA
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy Avery Pressler (married 1959)
Children Jean Pressler Visy

Anne Pressler Csorba
H. Paul Pressler, IV

Residence Houston, Texas

Hidden Hills Ranch in Washington County, Texas

Alma mater Princeton University

University of Texas School of Law
National College of State Trial Judges

Occupation Lawyer; retired judge

Leader of Southern Baptist Convention Conservative resurgence

Religion Southern Baptist:

First Baptist Church of Houston

Herman Paul Pressler, III (born 1930), is a former state representative and retired state district and appellate court judge in his native Houston, Texas, who was a key figure in the Conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, which began in Houston in 1979.

Background[edit]

Pressler is descended from a line of lawyers. His maternal great-grandfather was Judge C. C. Garrett, the first Chief Justice of the Texas 1st Court of Civil Appeals. The Garrett-Townes auditorium at the South Texas College of Law in Houston is named of his two great-grandfathers.[1]

Pressler's father, Paul Pressler, II (1902-1995), a native of Austin, Texas,[2] relocated to Houston in 1925. He was a University of Texas School of Law graduate who also did graduate work at Harvard University. He was a vice-president and director of Exxon until 1967. He was a trustee of Texas Children's Hospital, the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross, and a trustee of the Baylor College of Medicine. He was a recipient of the Leon Jaworski Award for Houston community service.[3]

Pressler's mother, the former Elsie Townes (1905-2008), was the daughter of Edgar E. Townes, who practiced law in Beaumont at the time of Spindletop but moved his family to Houston in 1917, where he became counsel to and a founder of Humble Oil and Refining Company. Elsie and Herman Pressler married in 1928. In 1949, Herman and Elsie Pressler were among the founding members of the large River Oaks Baptist Church in Houston. She was active in such civic causes as the Houston Municipal Arts Committee, the Harris County Heritage Society, the River Oaks Garden Club, and the National Society of Colonial Dames. Pressler's younger brother is Townes Garrett Pressler, Sr.[1] Herman and Elsie Pressler are interred at Forest Park Cemetery in Houston.[2]

Pressler was educated at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, where as a student he confronted theological liberalism head-on, having never wavered in the faith acquired in his youth.[4] Like his father, he received his law degree from the University of Texas. He also attended the National College of State Trial Judges, now known as the National Judicial College, a creation of the American Bar Association.[5]

Pressler is married to the former Nancy Avery, originally from Illinois, the daughter of the attorney William H. Avery and the former Eugenie "Jean" Petrequin (1910-2013), a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a graduate of Smith College, and an active Presbyterian, who spent much of her adulthood in Winnetka in Cook County north of Chicago.[6] The Presslers have two daughters, Jean I. Pressler Visy and husband, Joe, of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Anne L. Pressler Csorba and her husband, Les, and a son, Paul Pressler, IV, all of Houston.[1] The Presslers are active members of the First Baptist Church of Houston.

Political career[edit]

Pressler served in the Texas House from Harris County as a Democrat for one two-year term from 1957 to 1959,[7] having been elected in 1956, when Price Daniel left the United States Senate to win the first of his three terms as governor of Texas.

He worked for the law firm of Vinson and Elkins. Thereafter, in 1970, Democratic Governor Preston Smith appointed Pressler to the 133rd District Court in Harris County, a position to which he was subsequently elected and held until 1978. Pressler was from 1978 until 1992 a judge of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals in Houston. At some point in the late 1970s, he switched his affiliation to Republican and served on that party's Texas Republican State Executive Committee. He supported Ronald W. Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and George W. Bush for U.S. President.[5] He was initially a supporter of U.S. Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.[8] After Thompson left the race, Pressler served as an elector for U.S. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona.[9]

In January 2012, Pressler called a meeting of national conservative figures held at his Hidden Hills Ranch north of Houston near Brenham in Washington County to select a consensus challenger to the front-running Moderate Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.[10] Though Pressler voted on the first three ballots for Texas Governor Rick Perry, he switched to former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who won 70 percent of the vote on the fourth round of balloting. Critics of the "Stop-Romney" conclave claimed that the outcome had been rigged in Santorum's favor because many supporters of Perry and former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich of Georgia had already left the meeting prior to the fourth ballot.[11] By the time the Texas primary was held on May 29, Santorum had withdrawn, and only Romney and then U.S. Representative Ron Paul were still declared candidates.

In 1989, the first President Bush proposed to nominate Judge Pressler as the director of the Office of Government Ethics, but opposition from theologically liberal opponents in the Southern Baptist Convention persuaded Pressler not to pursue the appointment. Since 2000, Pressler has been a senior partner with the Houston firm Woodfill and Pressler, where he is engaged in the practice of mediation law and has international clients. He has served as a director for the National Association of Religious Broadcasters, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, the Free Market Foundation,[5] the Council for National Policy,[12] and the Philosophical Society of Texas.[13]

SBC Conservative resurgence[edit]

As a Baptist layman, Pressler in the early 1960s surveyed his denomination and its commitment to Bible teachings. He particularly objected to a commentary on the Book of Genesis by Ralph Elliott, a then professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, who in the 1961 book, The Message of Genesis published by the SBC's Broadman Press (now LifeWay Christian Resources) challenged the historic Christian teaching on Genesis, particularly the first eleven chapters.[14] Pressler was contacted by conservative students at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, who questioned the textbooks being used in their classes. "The books were just liberal garbage. We worked it through with these young people ... to try [to] keep them from going down the tubes," Pressler recalled years later.[14]

In 1978, Pressler met at the Café Dumond in New Orleans, Louisiana, with Paige Patterson,[5] then president of Criswell College of Dallas, to outline the political strategy to elect like-minded "conservative/fundamentalist" convention presidents, who in turn appointed conservatives to Southern Baptist Convention boards.[15]

Pressler and Patterson were accused by their SBC opponents, who usually called themselves "moderate/conservatives," of having directed the affairs of the 1979 convention held in Houston from sky boxes high above the hall at Lakewood Church Central Campus, then called "The Summit". Pressler denies those allegations.[4] The election on the first ballot in Houston of the more conservative pastor, Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tennessee, began the ten-year process of the conservative resurgence. Since that meeting there has been an unbroken succession of conservative-fundamentalist presidents, one of whom was Charles Stanley of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia. Each SBC president in turn appointed conservative individuals who in turn nominated the trustees, who elected the agency heads and institutional presidents, including those of the seminaries.[16]

On March 23, 2004, at a symposium to mark the 25th anniversary of the Conservative resurgence held at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Pressler said in an interview with Albert Mohler, the SBTS president since 1993 and Gregory A. Wills, an associate professor of church history, that he, Patterson, Rogers, and other leaders covered by the media had much less to do with the conservative resurgence than did the SBC laypersons who attended the convention in record numbers.[14]

As Pressler recalls:

I remember one family from South Bend, Indiana. They had five children and drove non-stop to Los Angeles to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1981. They voted and [then] drove non-stop back [home] eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They didn’t spend a night in a motel because they didn’t have the money. That's the type of sacrifice that won back the convention from liberalism. ...

The heroes of the conservative movement are not those whose names were in the press. They were the grassroots people who loved the Lord and loved the convention and loved God's Word and wanted to make sure that Southern Baptists returned to what [the Bible] teaches.[14]

Mohler said that without the Conservative resurgence, the SBC would have become as liberal as the Episcopal or the Methodist churches. Because members of local churches are the ultimate decision makers, concerned laypeople were able to reverse the trend of the denomination, Mohler explained.[14]

At the Louisville symposium, Pressler expressed satisfaction and gratitude at what Southern Seminary became in the more than two decades since the Conservative resurgence began:

To come here [today] and to see this room filled, there is no way I can express my gratitude fully. ... We have 15,000 students in our seminaries. Every single one of our seminary presidents is a godly man who believes the Word and has a burden for souls. I literally weep for joy at what God has done and the future we have as Southern Baptists because of the victory that has been won.[14]

In 1999, Pressler authored a book with his version of the resurgence, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey.[4][14]

In 2002, Pressler was nominated without opposition to the position of the SBC first vice-president. He served alongside president Jack Graham of the large Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano in North Texas. Pressler was nominated by his friend Richard Land, then director of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who first met the retired judge when Land was a teenager.[17]

The Nancy and Paul Pressler Foundation, a charitable organization, has assets of under $1 million.[18]

Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, under president Joe W. Aguillard, has named its forthcoming law school to be constructed in Shreveport in Judge Pressler's honor.[5][19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Elsie Townes Pressler". Austin American Statesman, February 13, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Herman Paul Pressler, Jr.". findagrave.com. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Herman P. Pressler, Jr.". pstx.org. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Paul Pressler, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist's Journey, 362 pages. B&H Publishing Group; 1999, revised May 2002, ISBN=978-0805426342. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, p. 455. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-8108-5622-6. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Eugenie Avery". legacy.pioneerlocal.com. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Paul Pressler". Legislative Research Library of Texas. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Fred Thompson Receives Endorsement of Judge Paul Pressler, December 7, 2007". standardnewswire.com. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Duly Appointed Presidential Electors, December 15, 2008". thegreenpapers.com. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Romney Tries to Win Over Evangelical Conservatives, January 11, 2012". thetakeaway.org. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Bob Allen, Pressler denies Santorum endorsement was rigged, January 18, 2012". Christian Century. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Council for National Policy Member Directory". publiceye.org. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Members of the Society for the Year 2005". pstx.org. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "Jeff Robinson, Pressler: Conservative resurgence was grassroots movement, March 30, 2004". Baptist Press News. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  15. ^ Rob B. James, The Fundamentalist Takeover in the Southern Baptist Convention, 4th ed., Wilkes Publishing Co., Inc., Washington, Georgia. Available at August 19, 2009.
  16. ^ Albert Mohler, "The Southern Baptist Reformation—A First-Hand Account
  17. ^ "Marv Knox, Graham, Pressler, McCall top SBC leadership". Baptist Standard, June 10, 2002. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Nancy and Paul Pressler Foundation". faqs.org. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Judge Paul Pressler School of Law", Columns: The Magazine for Louisiana College Alumni and Friends, Winter 2010, p. 16
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Watson Yancy, Jr.
Texas State Representative from former District 22-6 (Harris County)

Herman Paul Pressler, III
1957–1959

Succeeded by
Roger Daily