As Bearkats across the nation travel to Huntsville this week to celebrate Sam Houston State spirit and pride, a man bearing the exact mark of our school’s namesake is working to break political barriers in Texas.
Never mind that he has no biological connection to the late General Sam Houston; this week is, after all, about celebrating the spirit of Sam Houston, and the campaign of this Democrat trial lawyer carries many similarities to the trials and tribulations of one of the more-famous founders of Texas.
Much like the original Sam Houston, the lawyer from small-town West Texas, who is running for a position on the state Supreme Court, is encountering his fair share of political opposition. Despite being twice elected as President of the Republic of Texas, and once each as U.S. senator and governor, General Sam Houston was eventually forced out of office for his opposition to the decision to secede from the Union in 1861.
While he may not be faced with secessionist idealists, the 21st century has brought its fair share of obstacles for the aspiring justice.
“I believe it’s important since we have a two-party system, that both parties be represented,” Houston said. “Republicans have dominated Texas politics for the past 14 years, to the point that particularly in the post I am running for, Democrats weren’t even running. I believe it’s important to have qualified candidates setup and run and that’s why I really wanted to run, win or lose, so that incumbents are pushed and we make a change.”
As a Democrat running for an office in Texas, Houston says that he hopes to bring some change to the Texas Supreme Court — change that he feels has been coming for a long time.
“The main thing I would hope to accomplish would be to bring the court back to center,” he said. “It’s like the old clich; the scales of justice need to be balanced. I would also hope to move the court’s docket forward quickly. When they have a backlog of cases that have been argued one and two years ago, that leaves litigants wondering what the law is going to be because the Supreme Court in Texas basically interprets the law.”
A rebellious spirit and stoic decisions to do what he believed was right are trademark ideologies of the man our school was named for. Carrying out those beliefs cost him friends, led him into battles and eventually lost him his office as governor. It is these traits that we celebrate and honor about our namesake today, and the very traits that Houston said he hopes to embody if he is elected into office this fall.
“Democrats haven’t won a statewide [race] in fourteen years,” he said. “Everybody told me that it couldn’t be done, and my response was, ‘If we don’t try, of course it can’t be done.'”
While the name coincidence was just that, Houston said he does feel some obligation to live up the image set by the original Sam Houston. Schools aren’t named for ordinary people and Houston admits that living up to the standards that the two-term Texas president set will be next to impossible. Yet he doesn’t intend to let that stop him from trying.
“I’ve read a lot about [Sam Houston] my whole life, because of the name, and he’s one of the most interesting characters in history,” Houston said. “There were very few like him; a lot of good and bad things, but he always tried to do right and he had the courage of his convictions, even when people stood against him on some things. I certainly hope that as a judge and what I’m doing now carries at least some semblance of what he stood for.”