It was with considerable sadness that I learned of the passing of Arthur “Buddy” Temple III, a former Democratic state representative from Lufkin during the speakership of Billy Clayton and a onetime candidate for governor. The Temple family is one of the great Texas dynasties, and one that has contributed immeasurably to the East Texas region where the Temple timber empire thrived. In 1982, I wrote a cover story about the history of the Temples (“The King of the Forest”) and their contribution to East Texas.
Buddy’s father, Arthur Jr., was one of the great visionaries of his day. When his fellow timber barons were fighting the effort to develop the Big Thicket as a natural area, the Temples supported the federal government’s efforts to turn it into a park. Arthur Junior also fought his fellow timber barons’ over developing lakes in East Texas to provide a source of recreation for the region. Undoubtedly, Arthur Junior’s greatest contribution to East Texas was to end the “company store” days in East Texas. During my research for the story, I came across letters from Arthur Junior to his employees, dated 1948, in which he gave them a deed to their homes, when other timber companies were still housing their employees in shacks.
Buddy continued to correspond with me during his illness and lamented the turn that Texas politics had taken, as do I. The Temple Foundation continues to be a force in Lufkin and throughout East Texas for its philanthropy. During the eighties, Temple-Inland, as the company was known, built public housing for the poor and an upscale subdivision, Crown Colony, for its executives. In due course, Temple’s timber company merged with AOL Time Warner, in one of the shrewdest deals in Texas business history. Buddy never wanted to go into the timber business. He spent much of his time managing another family business, Exeter Investment. His passing is a great loss to Texas.