I just heard that one of the more fascinating characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has passed away.
Richard “Racehorse” Haynes died early today. He was 90.
Man, I’ve got a short story I want to tell. So I believe I will.
Many years ago, when I was living and working in Beaumont, Texas, I walked down the street from the Beaumont Enterprise — where I worked as editorial page editor — to the Jefferson County Courthouse.
I approached the front door and waved at a fellow I knew, a local lawyer named Gilbert Adams, who motioned for me to approach. I did and at that, Adams introduced me to Racehorse Haynes, who standing next to Adams puffing on a pipe. “Hey, Race,” Adams said, “I want you to meet this fellow.” We shook hands and Adams then informed Haynes that I was editor of the local newspaper.
So help, as God is my witness, when Haynes heard that that I was a member of the media, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. We stood there for seemingly hours. I barely got a word in edge-wise. Haynes regaled me with his tales of his relationships with the media; he managed to tell me why he was in Beaumont in the first place, which was to assist Adams on a case that Adams was working on.
I ended up having to break off the visit. I am pretty sure it would have gone on until the next great flood.
Two things stood out about Haynes, whose reputation as one of the nation’s top criminal defense lawyers was well-known; I certainly knew of him. I knew that he was from Houston and that he had defended some very high-profile defendants.
The first thing I recalled at the time was how grandfatherly he appeared. He was not a physically imposing man. He was dressed in a plain dark suit and he looked like, well, anything but a flamboyant barrister.
The second thing, of course, was how he garrulous he was with a media guy. His status as a “famed” lawyer didn’t seem to impede his willingness to talk about anything with yours truly.
We said goodbye and went our separate ways.
Years later, I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. Then I learned of Haynes’ connection to the Texas Panhandle. It was where a Tarrant County judge had moved the trial of one Cullen Davis, the Fort Worth millionaire who was accused of murdering the live-in boyfriend of his estranged wife and his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Davis was thought at the time to be the richest man ever accused of a capital crime in the United States.
A Potter County jury acquitted Davis, whose lead counsel in that trial was Racehorse Haynes.
So, one of the nation’s more notable lawyers has passed from the scene. I just felt compelled to tell you my Racehorse Haynes Story.
May you rest in peace … “Race.”