Temple Lea Houston

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Not to be confused with Temple Houston (TV series). ‹See Tfd›
Temple Lea Houston
Texas State Senator from District 19 (based in Mobeetie in Wheeler County)
In office
Preceded by Avery Matlock
Succeeded by John Hall Stephens
Personal details
Born (1860-08-12)August 12, 1860
Austin, Travis County
Texas, USA
Died August 15, 1905(1905-08-15) (aged 45)
Woodward, Oklahoma
Resting place Elmwood Cemetery in Woodward, Oklahoma
Nationality USA
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Laura Cross Houston
Alma mater Baylor University
Occupation Lawyer

Temple Lea Houston (August 12, 1860 – August 15, 1905) was an attorney and politician, and a State Senator (1885–1889) in Texas. He was the last-born child of Margaret Lea Houston and Sam Houston.


Temple Lea Houston was the only one of the Houstons' eight children to be born in the Texas governor's residence. By the time he was seven, both his parents had died, and he lived with an older sister and her family in Georgetown, Texas. At age 13, he joined a cattle drive and later worked on a riverboat on the Mississippi River.

Aided by a friend of his father's, he gained an appointment as a page in the US Senate and worked in Washington, D.C. for three years. He returned to Texas in 1877 to attend the Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Texas A&M). He transferred to Baylor University, where he graduated in 1880 with honors in law and philosophy. He "read the law" with an established firm and was admitted to the bar. He was the youngest attorney in Texas when he opened his practice.[1] That year he was appointed as the Brazoria County attorney.[1]

In 1882, Houston was appointed as the district attorney of the 35th Judicial District of Texas, which then covered a large part of the Texas Panhandle, based in Mobeetie, Wheeler County. Houston was elected to serve in the Texas State Senate from District 19 from 1885 to 1889.

He concentrated his law practice on the Santa Fe railroad (the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway).[1] He spoke French and Spanish, as well as seven Indian languages. In 1888, he gave the dedication address for the opening of the current Texas Capitol.[2]

In 1894 Houston moved his family to the cattle town of Woodward in the Oklahoma Territory. He was legal counsel of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway; its Woodward depot became one of the most important points in the Territory for cattle shipping to the East. Houston became widely known and popular for his courtroom dramatics. He was charged with murder in the shooting of a brother of the outlaw Al Jennings, after an argument in the Cabinet Saloon, and was acquitted.

Houston won a reputation as a brilliant trial lawyer known for his courtroom dramatics. In 1899 he delivered his "Soiled Dove Plea" in a makeshift courtroom in Woodward's opera house. The argument on behalf of Minnie Stacey, a prostitute who worked at the Dew Drop Inn, became famous for winning her acquittal after ten minutes' consideration by the jury.[1]


Temple Lea Houston Grave, Elmwood Cemetery, Woodward, Oklahoma

Temple Lea Houston died on August 15, 1905. His wife Laura Cross Houston died April 17, 1938. They are buried together at Elmwood Cemetery in Woodward, Oklahoma.

Representation in other media[edit]

Marriage and family[edit]

Established in his career, on February 14, 1883, Houston married Laura Cross, the daughter of a planter. They lived near Fort Elliott, which protected the border against American Indians, as well as the important cattle drives. The couple had seven children, only four of whom lived past infancy.[1]

Houston family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anderson, H. Allen. "Temple Lea Houston". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Texas Capitol Building Dedication, Texas Bob website
  3. ^ ""The Reluctant Gun", Death Valley Days, December 26, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Temple Houston: The Story Behind a Forgotten Television Western", Wildest Westerns website

Further reading[edit]

  • Grace Hunter Adams, Jack Love: Eighty Niner, Traditional, 1988.
  • James D. Hamlin, The Flamboyant Judge: As Told to J. Evetts Haley and William Curry Holden' (Canyon, Texas: Palo Duro, 1972).
  • Sallie B. Harris, Cowmen and Ladies: A History of Hemphill County (Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1977).
  • Louise B. James, Below Devil's Gap: The Story of Woodward County, Perkins, Okla.: Evans Publications, 1984
  • Seale, William (orig. 1970; reprint 1992). Sam Houston's Wife: A Biography of Margaret Lea Houston. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2436-0. 
  • Glenn Shirley, Temple Houston: Lawyer with a Gun (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).
  • Bernice Tune, Golden Heritage and Silver Tongue of Temple Lea Houston (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981).

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Avery Matlock
Texas State Senator from District 19 (then 26 unorganized counties in the Panhandle based in Mobeetie)

Temple Lea Houston

Succeeded by
John Hall Stephens