Thomas L. L. Temple.
The real test of a man's character seldom comes in his times of prosperity, but rather it is when adversity overtakes an individual that his true worth is shown. A man who has passed through a period of financial stress and come out of it with integrity unshaken and with no surrendering to adversity, but who pays his debts and reestablishes himself on a foundation built deeper and firmer than before, has the highest reward in respect and confidence. A man who so proved himself is Thomas Lewis Latane Temple, of Texarkana, Arkansas.
From a lowly position he made his way up in the world by sheer force of ability and energy. No helping hand was extended to guide and encourage him at the beginning of his commercial life, but he fought his battle out single-handed until his ability to lead had been demonstrated; and when reverses came he did not surrender any of the principles with which he started, nor ask to be released of one penny of his liability. Today he occupies a position of prominence in the lumber industry of the Southwest with, as far as human judgment can determine, his fortune assured.
In Mr. Temple's arteries flows the blood of the Huguenot on his father's side and that of the cavalier on the maternal side. This mixture of blood produces a soldierly instinct a determination to do things manfully, fearlessly and, above all, honestly. He has fought well and bravely for all that he has accomplished in things material and, apparently, his life's battle is by no means near an end. He has marshaled his forces, a loyal band of business associates and friends, and whither he leads they are willing to follow under his standard. He has been a conservative, far-seeing leader whose plans and campaigns have justified the results.
It was under the flag of the Old Dominion State that Mr. Temple was born less than a half century ago. Henry W. L. Temple, his father, was a clergyman and his mother was Susan (Jones) Temple. The father served the Episcopal Church in historic Essex County, Virginia. The son was born March 18, 1859, and reared in an atmosphere of Christianity, whose teachings he has never forgotten. Four years after his birth the good mother was claimed by death, to be followed in 1870, when the boy was but eleven years old, by her husband.
Of all the professions that of the teacher of the Gospel is doubtless the poorest paid, and Henry W. L. Temple had been able to provide nothing for his heir. Left an orphan with but little means, the boy's life was not of the happiest. For six years he remained near the scene of his birth in Essex County, getting the basis of an education in this time at the Aberdeen Academy. At the age of sixteen he secured a position as clerk in the Essex County Clerk's office at Tappahannock, Virginia, where he worked for his board and laundry.
On the plantation of his brother, on the Red River, in Little River County, Arkansas, Thomas Temple began, in 1876, to secure a living. It was hard work on the farm, a rough, unprofitable life at the most, and foreign to the ambitions of the youth. He had been brought up to appreciate the niceties of living and this coarse labor was beyond anything he had ever dreamed of. Relief came temporarily when he secured a position as deputy clerk of the Little River County and Circuit Court.
Another year, 1877, saw young Temple in Texarkana, where he laid the foundation of his successes. He sought employment as bookkeeper, and his ability to adapt himself to almost any sort of work enabled him to secure a situation. For four years he kept books, watched for an opportunity to better himself and maintained his name above reproach.
Texarkana in those days was looming up as a center of the lumber industry of the State. A large amount of yellow pine in the adjacent territory had attracted lumbermen to the place and such men as the Buchanans, Frosts, Fergusons, Rands, Woodworths and others had begun operations. The mills in the section were adjacent to the Texas & Pacific Railway, between Texarkana and Marshall, Texas, the principal operations being at Atlanta, Jefferson, Sulphur and Redwater. As compared with the big plants of today the mills at that time were insignificant in size and volume of production.
To Mr. Temple there appeared to be an opening in the lumber business equaled in no other line. He cast about for an opportunity to engage in the business. His capital consisted mainly of energy and brains rather than money. He found the sought-for opportunity at Wayne, Cass County, Texas. But his first enterprise of magnitude was when, at twenty-eight years of age, he became interested in the Atlanta Lumber Mills, in which concern were associated with him Messrs. Grigsby and Scott. The firm was one of the largest producers of lumber in Cass County at the time 1887. More than l00 men were employed in the operation of which Mr. Temple was manager. His business education stood him in good stead in conducting the affairs of the concern and its success was in large part due to his efforts.
The next venture to engage the attention of Mr. Temple was the Southern Pine Lumber Company. Interested in this concern with him were Ben Whitaker and C. M. Putman. A planing mill was operated at Kingsland, Arkansas, and contracts were held with several mills. On account of the limited capital available Mr. Temple had more or less difficulty in conducting the operations for the first few years. He added largely to his reputation for upright dealing and the courage of the man asserted itself more than once.
In 1893 the company was reorganized under the old title of the Southern Pine Lumber Company. Mr. Temple was made president and manager. He assumed charge of the operations with all the force and ability that he possessed and it was not long before results began to show. A mill with a daily capacity of 75,000 feet of yellow pine was erected at Diboll, Texas, though the executive offices were not moved from Texarkana.
It was not long before the treasury of the company grew strong and in the years that have elapsed handsome profits have been reaped from the enterprise.
At present the company has a paid-in capital and surplus of more than $1,000,000 and its fair name is known throughout the Southwest and wherever its product is distributed. The officers are T. L. L. Temple, president; William Temple, vice president, and L. D. Gilbert, secretary and treasurer. The Southern Pine Lumber Company handles, in addition to the output of the Diboll mill, the stocks of several mills.
At one time Mr. Temple was heavily interested in the Lufkin Land & Lumber Company, of Lufkin, Texas, but in recent years his investments have been more in timber lands. He is a director in the Texas & Louisiana Railroad Company, which was incorporated a few years ago with a capital of $200,000.
Mr. Temple married, in 1880, Miss Georgia D. Fowlkes, a descendant of one of the oldest families of Virginia. Five children, three girls and two boys, comprise the family. They are Gertrude Temple, now the wife of George Webber, of Texarkana; Thomas L. L., Junior, Marguerita, Georgie D., and Arthur Temple. The family occupies a beautiful home in Texarkana, where Mr. Temple is one of the leading citizens.