Terry had the unusual distinction of being a member of the Harris County District Attorney's Office on two separate occasions. He initially retired as a Division Chief in the late 1990s, and then returned as a consultant under the Rosenthal Administration, working on office policy issues and international extradition matters. It was during his stint the second time that I got to know him a little bit.
Former Assistant District Attorney Ted Wilson (no relation to Terry) described Terry to me in an e-mail this morning:
I first met Terry in law school. He was a year ahead of me but we did share a few classes. We became friends and I would pick his brain every chance I had. He was an outstanding student and it was fun to listen to Terry when some professor tried to outsmart him in class. They never succeeded.
Terry came to the D.A.'s office a year before me and worked his way through the Trial Bureau. He was picked by Henry Oncken to go to Special Crimes when Terry was a #2 in District Court. He made Chief a few months later and was sent back to District Court as chief prosecutor. He did that for a couple of years and then started the Civil Rights Division. Back then he made every police shooting himself. And, that included when officers got shot as well as when they shot someone. Terry loved that job because he loved "investigating" as well as going to court. And, he was a hell of an investigator.
Terry went from that job to heading up the Major Offender Division. He, and his assistant, Chuck Rosenthal, handled investigations involving violent crimes. I was in Special Crimes by that time so Terry and I handled several investigations together. We also tried a solicitation of capital murder case together. He was brilliant and a lot of fun to work with.
Terry also taught the Penal Code to Houston Police cadets for years. He knew the code backwards and forwards. You could throw any set of facts at him and he could tell you what, if any, violation fit those facts.
Terry acted like a lawyer who wished he was a Texas Ranger. He was gruff and didn't act like a "button down lawyer". I loved watching Terry come to court to go up against a defense attorney who didn't know Terry nor had heard of him. They would look at Terry and assume he wasn't all that great of a lawyer. His demeanor suggested a lot of hot air with little to back it up. But, man was there ever plenty to back it up. He would chew up lawyers in the courtroom. Good on the law, quick on his feet, articulate, and just plain smart. Any case he had, the State was well represented.
I always thought that the newer lawyers in our office didn't take the opportunity to learn from Terry when he came back part-time. They didn't know about Terry prowess when he was a full time prosecutor. So, they didn't know how much help and advice he was capable of providing to them. They missed a lot if they didn't seek his advice.
It was my pleasure to have known and worked with Terry. Not only did we get to do a lot if interesting and challenging things over the years but we had a lot of fun doing it. I learned a lot from Terry. I will miss him and the great times we had.
When Terry did come back to the Office the second time, he was mostly known for the rascal motor scooter than he blazed down the hallways on at a high rate of speed. It was after having to leap to safety to avoid being run over by Terry a couple of times when I finally got to know him. Although I clearly didn't know him as well as Ted or some of the folks from back in the "old days", I enjoyed hearing his war stories. I was also able to learn how to turn down the throttle on his scooter, which probably saved countless lives in the Office.
Terry had been involved in the Max Soffar case when it was first tried back in the 1980s, and he testified in the case when it was re-tried in 2006. It was something very interesting to watch and listen to him talk about. When then-Gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman testified in trial on Soffar's behalf, I remember telling Terry that it was a tough call to see who looked more "grizzled" - Terry or Kinky.
Terry claimed it was him.
In talking to Terry, I just enjoyed feeling his enthusiasm and camaraderie that he felt about the Office. In retrospect, I think it was characters like Terry Wilson that made the D.A.'s Office such a fun and desirable place to work.
Ted is correct in saying that newer lawyers didn't take the time to get to know Terry when he came back to the Office. That's a shame.
I did. And I'm glad that I did.
Terry will be missed.