His lust for the excitement of new frontiers to conquer was what brought Temple Lea Houston to Oklahoma on the day of the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16, 1893. The stimulus of the occasion was the very essence of his life. He was a son of destiny, the first child born in the Texas Governor's mansion and the youngest son of General Sam Houston, he inherited an over abundance of sensationalism, adventure and intelligence.
Early in life, he showed his intellect and knack of leadership when he served as president of the debating team when he was nine years of age. When he was thirteen the adventurous spirit won out and he left home to see the world. His father had died when he was three and his mother when Temple was only seven.
At seventeen, he returned home to complete his education and passed the bar examination at the age of nineteen, two years before he was old enough to practice. His friends came to his rescue and secured an exemption for him. By the time he was thirty, he had served as County Attorney, District Attorney and Texas Senator. He was being primed for Governor but one of his backers said the wrong thing.
"You already have a platform" he said, "Just tell them you are Sam Houston's son and you have it made."
"A man who cannot stand on his own merits does not deserve to win" Temple thundered and walked out on the caucus. Temple never leaned on his fathers name to win fame.
This and his unfavorable brush with the Texas Court of Appeals together brought him to Woodward, Oklahoma, where he spent the remainder of his life, in time, being considered for Governor of Oklahoma when it became a state, a project Temple worked unceasingly for.
On the day of the Run, Temple Lea Houston felt the excitement of each man, woman and child as he stood on the rear platform of the Santa Fe Train with the wind blowing his hair away from his face. At this moment he truly became an Oklahoman.
He settled in Woodward and opened a law office. A year later when he had suitable living quarters, he moved his wife, Laura, and two sons, Temple Jr. and Sam, from Canadian, Texas. Later, two more children, Richard C. and Mary Lea were born to them. His wife, Laura, still a beautiful woman, also felt the excitement of her new life and became a living part of the growth of Woodward. Temple's love for his wife and children was the top priority in his life.
Temple defended many people charged with crimes, using his great repertoire of drama, classics and the Bible whenever the occasion seemed to demand it. He would sometimes delve into jokes and pranks to distract the jury, most of which were aimed at Judge Burford and Sidney Laune, two of his closest friends.
He became nationally famous for his personality and speeches as well as his ability. He was called on many cases out of state.
Temple Houston was also noted for his caustic remarks, which at times caused great merriment and at others tempers flared. One of his most caustic remarks was directed at the opposing attorney, a man from Oklahoma City that felt his importance and acted as if he had the case won.
"Your Honor," Temple said, "This is the only man I have ever seen that could strut while sitting down."
About 1902, Temple became plagued with severe headaches. Sometimes, they would hit him so suddenly and fiercely that he would have to brace himself on the railing of the jury box or anything else nearby until the worst of the pain passed. These headaches became more frequent and one night a blood vessel burst in his brain. For over a year, his doctors tried in vain to relieve his suffering. The pain worsened and he was sent to the Santa Fe Hospital in Topeka, Kansas for treatment. There was nothing that could be done but ease the pain and wait for the end. He asked to be sent home to die with his beloved family and in his beloved Woodward.
On August 15, 1905, when he was forty-five years and three days old, he quietly went to sleep, never to waken again. His brilliant brain was stilled, the love, laughter and practical jokes Woodwardites had loved so well was gone. One of his true friends said, "Temple Lea Houston now belongs to history."
Source: Woodward Pioneer Families Before 1915, reprinted with permission.
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