Paul Pressler (Texas)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Paul Pressler
Texas State Representative for Harris County
In office
January 8, 1957 – January 13, 1959
Preceded byJames Watson Yancy Jr.
Succeeded byRoger Daily
Judge of the 133rd Judicial District in Harris County
In office
Judge of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals
In office
Personal details
Herman Paul Pressler III

(1930-06-04) June 4, 1930 (age 89)
Houston, Texas, USA
Political partyDemocrat-turned-Republican
Spouse(s)Nancy Avery Pressler (married 1959)
ResidenceHouston, Texas
Hidden Hills Ranch in Washington County, Texas
Alma materPrinceton University

University of Texas School of Law

National College of State Trial Judges
OccupationLawyer; retired judge
Leader of Southern Baptist Convention Conservative resurgence

Herman Paul Pressler, III (born June 4, 1930), is a retired justice of the Texas 14th Circuit Court of Appeals in his native Houston, Texas. Pressler was a key figure in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, which he initiated in 1979.


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, Herman 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] Pressler was involved with Princeton Evangelical Fellowship during his undergraduate days at Princeton University. 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's current law firm is Woodfill & Pressler in Houston, with his senior partner Jared Woodfill, who was the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party from 2002 to 2014.[6]

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.[7] 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]

Political career[edit]

Pressler served in the Texas House from Harris County as a Democrat for one two-year term from 1957 to 1959,[8] 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 justice 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.[9] After Thompson left the race, Pressler served as an elector for U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona.[10]

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. One of his former law partners is incoming state Representative Briscoe Cain of Deer Park. He has served as a director for the National Association of Religious Broadcasters, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, the Free Market Foundation,[5] and the Philosophical Society of Texas.[11]

Judge Pressler is a past president of the Council for National Policy, which in 2009 presented him with its Ronald Reagan Award for Lifetime Achievement.[12] In his 1999 memoir, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist's Journey, Pressler recounts how he first met Reagan at a meeting in Dallas in 1980 of Ed McAteer's Religious Roundtable, a part of the newly organized Christian right groups:

At the urging of some friends, I decided to go [to the briefing in Dallas]. I did not expect much, but when I arrived, I found a packed arena, full of enthusiastic individuals hearing great speakers. I went to the phone after the first few hours, called Nancy [his wife], and said, 'Get a baby-sitter for the children. You must come up here and hear what is going on.' She flew to Dallas, and we had the opportunity to attend together. This was the first time either of us had met Ronald Reagan. [Dallas businesswoman] Mary Crowley invited us to a reception for him at the Hyatt. Jimmy Carter had been invited to speak but did not attend.[13]

In 2011, Pressler received the William Wilberforce Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, which also named him to its Board of Advisors in 2014.[14]

In January 2012, Pressler called a meeting of national conservative figures held at his Hidden Hills Ranch north of Houston near Brenham in Austin County to select a consensus challenger to the front-running Moderate Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.[15] 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.[16] 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.

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.[17] 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.[17]

In 1978, Pressler met at the Café Du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana, with Paige Patterson,[5] then president of Criswell College of Dallas, to outline the political strategy to elect like-minded convention presidents committed to the conservative resurgence, who in turn appointed conservatives to Southern Baptist Convention boards.[18]

Pressler and Patterson were accused by their SBC opponents, who usually called themselves "moderates," 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 evangelical 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.[19]

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.[17]

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.[17]

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.[17]

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.[17]

In 1999, Pressler authored A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist's Journey, which examines his view of the convention resurgence.[4][17]

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.[20]

The Nancy and Paul Pressler Foundation, a charitable organization, has assets of under $1 million.[21]

Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, under former president Joe W. Aguillard, named its forthcoming law school to be constructed in the former Joe D. Waggonner Federal building in Shreveport in Judge Pressler's honor.[5][22] However, in November 2014, Aguillard's interim successor as president, Argile Smith, disclosed that the college has a $1 million shortfall for the 2014-2015 academic year. The 2014 enrollment of 1,265 is 141 fewer than in the fall of 2013. A decrease of 141 students, according to Smith, represents a loss of $2.1 million in revenues from tuition and fees paid by students, double the overall budgetary shortfall. Smith said that the institution will attempt to control expenditures but not cut jobs or contracts. Major projects under former President Aguillard will be suspended, including a school in Tanzania, Africa and the Pressler school, on which nearly $5.5 million has already been disbursed without the enrollment of a single student.[23] Among those involved in developing the law school is the constitutional attorney Mike Johnson, who in 2015 became a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, but the future of the project remains unclear.[24]


In April 2018, the Houston Chronicle reported that Paul Pressler was accused by Toby Twining and Brooks Schott of sexual misconduct in separate court affidavits.[25] Both men said Pressler molested or solicited them for sex. The accusations were filed as part of a lawsuit filed in 2017 by Gareld Duane Rollins Jr. claiming he was regularly raped by the Conservative leader. Rollins met Pressler in high school and was part of a Bible study Pressler led. Rollins claims he was raped two to three times a month while at Pressler's home.[26] According to the Chronicle, Pressler agreed in 2004 to pay $450,000 to Rollins for physical assault. Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson is also named in the suit, for helping Pressler cover up the abuse.[27]

In the 2018 Chronicle report, Toby Twining was a teenager in 1977 when Pressler grabbed his penis in a sauna at Houston's River Oaks Country Club. Pressler was a youth pastor at Bethel Church in Houston but was ousted in 1978 after church officials received information about "an alleged incident." Attorney Brooks Schott also stated in an affidavit that he resigned his position at Pressler's former law firm after Pressler invited hime to get into a hot tub with him naked. Brooks also accused Jared Woodfill, Pressler's longtime law partner who from 2002 to 2014 was chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, of failing to prevent Pressler's sexual advances toward him and others claiming his indiscretions were well-known at the firm.


Paul Pressler holds or has held the previous positions:



  1. ^ a b c "Elsie Townes Pressler". Austin American Statesman, February 13, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Herman Paul Pressler, Jr". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  3. ^ "Herman P. Pressler, Jr". 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 Brackney,, William H. (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Baptists. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-8108-5622-6.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. ^ "Jared Woodfill Biography". Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  7. ^ "Eugenie Avery". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  8. ^ "Paul Pressler". Legislative Research Library of Texas. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  9. ^ "Fred Thompson Receives Endorsement of Judge Paul Pressler, December 7, 2007". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Duly Appointed Presidential Electors, December 15, 2008". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  11. ^ "Members of the Society for the Year 2005". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  12. ^ "Council for National Policy Member Directory". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  13. ^ Art Toalston (October 7, 2004). "Ed McAteer, pioneer for faith in public policy, dies at 78". Baptist Press News. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  14. ^ "NFRA Announces National Advisory Board". National Federation of Republican Assemblies. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Romney Tries to Win Over Evangelical Conservatives, January 11, 2012". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  16. ^ "Bob Allen, Pressler denies Santorum endorsement was rigged, January 18, 2012". Christian Century. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g "Jeff Robinson, Pressler: Conservative resurgence was grassroots movement, March 30, 2004". Baptist Press News. Archived from the original on September 14, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  18. ^ Rob B. James, The Fundamentalist Takeover in the Southern Baptist Convention, 4th ed., Wilkes Publishing Co., Inc., Washington, Georgia. Available at August 19, 2009.
  19. ^ Albert Mohler, "The Southern Baptist Reformation—A First-Hand Account
  20. ^ "Marv Knox, Graham, Pressler, McCall top SBC leadership". Baptist Standard, June 10, 2002. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  21. ^ "Nancy and Paul Pressler Foundation". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  22. ^ "Judge Paul Pressler School of Law", Columns: The Magazine for Louisiana College Alumni and Friends, Winter 2010, p. 16
  23. ^ Leigh Guidry (November 15, 2014). "La. College faces $1 million budget shortfall". Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  24. ^ "Mike Johnson State Representative". Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  25. ^ "More men accuse former Texas judge, Baptist leader of sexual misconduct". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  26. ^ "Houston man's lawsuit alleges retired judge sexually assaulted him". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  27. ^ Merritt, Jonathan (May 3, 2018). "The Scandal Tearing Apart America's Largest Protestant Denomination". The Atlantic. Retrieved Feb 11, 2019.
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Watson Yancy Jr.
Texas State Representative for former District 22-6 (Harris County)

Herman Paul Pressler, III

Succeeded by
Roger Daily