Fall of the Largest Tree by
largest tree in the forest fell last month.|
The passing of Arthur Temple
-- the man some newspapers called the last of the East Texas timber barons --
ended a link with a history reaching back more than a century.
But to call
Temple a timber baron is not really appropriate.
While he and his family
shaped an empire in the era of barons John Henry Kirby, Ernest L. Kurth and W.T.
Carter, Temple was different in his philosophy and business practices.
best example is the town of Diboll.
Arthur Temple came to Diboll in the late l940s to run Southern Pine Lumber Company,
inherited from his father and grandfather, the community was a small sawmill town
in the fashion of Kirby's Bessmay, Kurth's Keltys and Carter's Camden.
But in the ensuing years, Temple helped Dibollians shape their town into one of
the most progressive small towns in Texas while other sawmill towns withered from
the loss of their sawmills.
One of Temple's first steps was sell at bargain
prices hundreds of company houses to his employees, creating a pride of ownership
He also closed Southern Pine's commissary store --
the grocer, clothier, druggist and hardware dealer to Dibollians. Proprietorships
soon blossomed like daisies.
School buildings built by Southern Pine were
replaced with modern buildings funded by a bond issue and the schools were among
the first to be integrated in Texas.
Diboll was incorporated and a city
council was elected to run the town. A new library and other community institutions
were established and, in time, Diboll even built a golf course and a civic center
-- both rarities for small towns.
A similar metamorphosis took place at
Pineland, another one-time company town owned by Southern Pine.
built a timber empire that reached across America, he was always quick to give
the credit for his successes to the men and women who worked in his plants. "They're
out there doing the hard work," he once told an interviewer.
benevolence was legend. He gave large sums of money to Alzhiemer's disease research,
cancer treatments, colleges, libraries, youth groups and other worthwhile causes.
But quieter causes touched his heart, too. He was often moved to tears by the
plight of a poor family or a child with a debilitating disease.
loved the forests of East Texas as much as Temple. When other timber companies
implemented clearcutting in the 1960s, he abhorred the practice. "If you take
care of the trees, they'll take care of you," he said.
Temple also retained
his fervency for the land which grew the trees, keeping alive the traditions of
his grandfather, Thomas Lewis Latane Temple, who came to Angelina County in the
1890s and purchased from J.C. Diboll the lands along the Neches River which would
become the nucleus of Southern Pine, Diboll and Temple-Inland.
Beaumont river authority
revived the decades-old idea of building a new lake and dam on the Neches
River -- the last and longest wild river stretch in East Texas -- Temple helped
establish a conservation area along the river.
In the end, Temple remained
close to the land and the river.
He was lain to rest in a small, hillside
family cemetery shaded by tall pines overlooking the river that has always been
a part of his family's legacy.
May 1, 2006 Column
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman
of Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of
more than 30 books about East Texas.)