By Bob Jamison

          The old west was known for famous shootouts at high noon. The unusual and virtually unknown fact that most gun battles that resulted in the demise of a gunman with a feared reputation that preceded him, was a result of an ambush.

          Reports of the most successful gunslingers indicate that if two showed up in the same town or especially in the same bar, each tended to be rather social or both made an attempt to avoid the other. Some say that even in the bar room gun battles resulted in many misses because they were both too drunk to shoot straight.

          King Fisher, John Wesley Hardin, Ben Thompson, Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickock all died from an ambush. Gunmen Kid Curry, Jim Courtright, Dallas Stoudenmire and Dave Rudabaugh were killed in raging gun battles against more than one opponent.

          Texas’ straight shooting lawyer spent some of his early years in Brazoria County and likely here in Liberty County. His name was Temple Lee Houston, the youngest son of General Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas. Temple Houston was a smart, quick to get into a fight and could shoot roaches off the wall in his hotel room with his Colt .45 (which he often did after a bout with the bottle).

          If an argument began with one of his drinking companions, Houston was known to whip out his gun, cock the hammer and press the muzzle against his former buddy’s chest. This usually would level out the conversation to a more moderate tone.

          But Temple Houston’s rowdy reputation did not detract from his ardent desire to read the law. His intelligence led him to graduate from Baylor University Law School with honors. Only one problem exists at the time. Houston was not twenty one years of age; the requirement to become a licensed lawyer.
He appealed his situation to the bar examiner while obviously using his amazing ability of persuasion. The examiner studied the circumstances and called in the three candidates. One was twenty one, one was twenty three and Houston was twenty. So, the examiner averaged the three and granted Temple Houston his licensed which led to an exemplarity reputation as a prosecutor and subsequently a defense lawyer.

          During his practice as a defense attorney, he was directed by the court to defend a penniless person accused of stealing a horse. That was a serious crime in those days. He told the court, “Your honor, I shall give this gentleman the best advice I can possibly muster.” But he did ask the court to allow him a private room to discuss his case with his client. After a considerable time, the court bailiff checked on Houston to find him sitting in the room alone by an open window. His comment: “That’s the best advice I could give him under the circumstances, your honor”.

Another famous case was to defend a well known and quite popular lady of the night, Miss Minnie Stacey. His brilliant plea for the “Soiled Dove” made a historical acquittal.

Temple Houston was an excellent student but much of his knowledge was self taught. He spoke fluent French, Spanish and seven Indian languages. In 1888, he was selected to give the dedication address for the opening of the Texas Capitol. He served in the Texas Legislature until he moved his practice to Woodward, Oklahoma where he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at age forty five.

Temple Lee Houston was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Woodward. A most elaborate funeral arrangement at his funeral was from Miss Minnie Stacey.