9th Congressional District Candidate Johnny Teague – My Story
I am Dr. Johnny Teague, senior pastor of Church at the Cross on the west side of Houston. I am running for Congress in the 2020 election against Al Green to represent the 9th Congressional District. I am asking for your support. I believe it is important that you know that my life and journey is just like so many of yours. For this reason, I want to give you my background.
On June 2, 1962, my mom married my dad. She had just turned 18. He was 17, a few days shy of 18. Dad was a ranch hand for Flat Top Ranch near Glen Rose, Texas. Mom did some waitressing and kept the house – the small ranch house provided them by Flat Top Ranch. It stood nestled below a Texas hill and some beautiful old oak trees.
Just 11 months later, Mom gave birth to me on May 9, 1963. She and Dad were just 18 years old. What an eventful and tumultuous year 1963 was. Prayer had just been taken out of school the year before. Shortly after, the United States faced the Cuban missile crisis. George Wallace was elected governor of Alabama vowing, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. The Dick Van Dyke show won an Emmy. Ayatollah Khomeini was arrested in Iran, but would make a dreadful return years later. A Buddhist monk burns himself alive in protest in Vietnam, The Berlin Wall still divided Germany. Jim Brown set the single season rushing record, Nelson Mandela goes on trial in South Africa. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” before thousands at the Lincoln Memorial. And in November, John F. Kennedy was assassinated at noon.
I don’t remember the day as I had just turned 6 months old, but I should remember it. Mom was so glued to the television at the arrival of President Kennedy, that she missed her normal time to feed me. Then the news broke, President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. Mom and the rest of the nation was in shock. On top of that was the irritant that her baby boy would not quit crying. Mom could not reason why. After a few hours, when the news settled in, she remembered – “I have not fed Johnny all day”.
My Dad got a job at the Texas Highway Department when I turned 2. We moved to a little house in Glen Rose on Mission Street. When I was 6 years old, Dad got a better paying job working for General Dynamics in Ft. Worth, making the F1-11. He commuted each day. With that job, he was able to build our first home out in the country six miles north of Glen Rose in a community called Rainbow. The cost of the home was $18,000. His monthly payments were right at $80 per month. Dad and Mom would work several jobs in their lives – Mom as Church secretary, Glen Rose City Hall secretary, and clerk at the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose where she retired. Dad worked for Flat Top Ranch, the Texas Highway Department, General Dynamics, Morse Electrophonic, Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant, and Santa Fe Railroad. Even though they both worked, money was still hard to come by, so Dad always worked side-jobs – hauling dirt, cutting firewood, laying rock, welding, and running a rural trash route. With all this, we were in Church every Sunday morning and every Sunday night. My parents led us in prayer each night before bed. Work was a virtue, but worship the greater virtue.
Our family’s provision was from my parents work along with my brother and me working after school and in the summers. To supplement this, we always raised cattle and hogs for our meat. We also raised a little garden to add to our food choices. My brother and I were active in this, bottle-feeding calves, picking the garden, and more often picking weeds from the garden – a task we both hated. There is nothing better than walking through a freshly tilled garden, smelling the aroma of tomato plants, and gazing on the clean garden with rows and rows of goodness. That sounds like an HEB commercial but it’s still true.
We were brought up praying in our public school in Glen Rose, even when it wasn’t legal. We also had small revival services there as our righteous principal and superintendent put God over all. We were taught to love our country and the importance of serving and voting. No matter what the election, my family voted – for President, mayor, dog-catcher, or county commissioner. It was our duty. This was more strongly enforced considering my grandad was county commissioner. During World War 2, my Dad’s dad, “Papa”, had joined the war effort at age 39. “Grandad” on my Mom’s side joined it at age 16. He cared for the horses for the army, and then later he served in the Navy. He was recently honored at the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg. Love of God, love of family, love of country.
College and Career
I graduated from Glen Rose High School, third in my class and went on to Tarleton State University where I gained two degrees – Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. By God’s Grace, I won academic scholarships that paid for my whole college tuition and expenses. That was enhanced by money I made on the side as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Math department where I graded papers and taught Math labs through my last three years. Beyond studying and working, I also played football for Tarleton State. In the summers, I worked for the Texas Highway Department repairing signs, cleaning and mowing the roadside parks, and scraping dead animals off the road which is the number one job of a summer hand. Is it any wonder?
I graduated from Tarleton with honors and was hired before our graduation services by Shell Pipe Line Corporation. Texaco also offered me a job, but I just felt Shell was the best fit. I was a pipeline property accountant for Shell Pipe Line and then a revenue accountant for Shell Pipe Line. I later worked for Zapata Gulf Marine as a regional accountant for our vessels operating in Mexico and the Middle East.
Accounting was great, but I loved people and wanted a job with more interactions so I went to the University of Houston where I completed my MBA with an emphasis in marketing. With this degree, I began working for Service Corporation International in sales and then was promoted to sales management over our properties in the Golden Triangle. Longing for a better salary, I interviewed and was hired by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals as a healthcare representative. I loved learning about the pharmacology of our medicines, the business aspects of a doctor’s office, and even more so the relationships with doctors and patients. Our focus at Pfizer and later with Sanofi-Synthelabo was to improve the lives of people and give the medical professionals the tools they needed to better serve their patients while upholding the standards of honesty and integrity. .
I have tried several businesses. I started and ran eight toy stores in different towns in Texas opening them after Halloween and closing them after New Year’s. I had success but closed because it was taking time away from my family over the holidays. I then opened two barbecue restaurants. I would take my vacation, open and run them, and then hand them off to managers that I hired. They did well until I would go back to my regular job. I found people sometimes work harder for themselves than they do for others. I farm and ranch raising our own cows and growing our own vegetables just like I was raised. There is no greater peace than my days on the farm and ranch – no radio, no television, just all the senses engaged in God’s Creation accentuated by the sweat of my brow. I have an invention and have started a business with it on the side. I am currently awaiting a patent. I have written three books. Two are published, Living Your Way Out of the Mess, and the other Preaching Your Way Out of a Mess. My third one is completed and I am seeking a publisher.
During these years, I felt this draw to my family’s foundations of God, family, and country. I truly believe that our nation and our lives are better when we follow the tenets of God’s Word and apply them to life and government. It was what our founders desired. John Adams said that our form of government is for a righteous people, that it is inadequate for any other. That rings even more true today as we see the fissures in our society and the shortcomings of our government. My parents always told me I could do anything I wanted or dreamed if I would put God first and go for it with all that I am. They taught me to never quit. I wanted to apply this to what I was seeing around me. I wanted to hold to what we saw in David as recorded in 1 Samuel, if no one else will do something, I will. So I ran for State Representative in the Alief area. I was with Shell Pipe Line at the time and they were fine with my political aspirations as long as it didn’t interfere with my duties and my time on the job.
I lived in the community of Alief but I had only been in this state representative district a year. I lived there but worshiped at West University Baptist Church. I worked downtown. I was married with a newborn daughter after losing twin boys at birth the year before. In all this, I still wanted to run for state representative, but I had no base, no group support. I had legs and I had time, so I door-knocked the district each afternoon and each Saturday, never on Sundays. I visited home after home and I was bitten by two dogs in the process. I ran as a Democrat because my family in Glen Rose, my county-commissioner granddad, and the rest of my family were Democrats. Why? We believed that the Democrat party was for the working man. Our Democrat party in Glen Rose put God first, family second, and nation just barely behind that. We believed in the moral statutes of God’s Word and the work ethic that every citizen should follow. I felt the Democrat party of Houston would be the same.
I found out quickly that the Democrat of Glen Rose was different than the Democrat where I was running for office. How did I learn that? I had a sweet lady who agreed to volunteer to help run my campaign. She had been a stalwart in the Democrat politics of the Alief community. She knew some other stalwarts. I didn’t know her very well, but I was glad to have the help. We quickly differed when she asked me to speak to a Planned Parenthood group to expand abortion accessibility. I told her I that understood the emotional complexities of pregnancy out of wedlock and of the multiple ways in which pregnancies occur, but that someone has to take the baby into consideration so I was for deterring abortion and looking to help those who face such a decision by offering other options. She said, “You can’t. You’re a Democrat”. I told her that I was, but I was not for abortion and that I could not speak to this group and tell them what they wanted to hear. She then had an appointment for me to speak with a gay-rights group with the goal to gain legalization of gay marriage. I again told her I could not do that. I told her I loved and would represent people who were gay and people who were straight, but that I did not believe gay marriage was right. She said, “You can’t be against gay marriage, you’re a Democrat!”. Again, I told her I was a Democrat but because where I grew up, Democrats followed God’s Word, obeyed it, loved people, and sought to care for those hurting like the working man, those needing work, those sick, and those seeking justice. Needless to say, she quit the campaign and I was back to running it by myself. I lost the election to Talmadge Heflin (around 14,000 to 10,000 votes as I recall).
Two years later, I ran again in District 149, but as a Republican. My dad almost had a fit. He was pro-life, against gay marriage, for the working man, for God’s Word, and in full support of our men and women who served in the armed forces, but to him that meant Democrat not Republican. We had long conversations and I tried to convince my dad that all that he believed was actually now the Republican standard. I told him that I was compelled to stand with what’s right, what God has said, over whatever label allegiance we might have held to in the past. The second go-round, I still had no money, little support, and I was back door-knocking every afternoon and Saturday, never on Sundays. The only support I had was from the Texas State Teachers Association whom I loved. They supported me though I was a Republican and did all they could to help me. Four dog bites later, I lost in a run-off (by a little over 100 votes as I recall). Talmadge Heflin beat me again, but our elections drew us closer. He was always very kind to me.
Back to life out of politics, I worked the jobs as stated earlier. One last seminal moment explains why I am a pastor today, and in Alief of all places. I was working as a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer in Beaumont – which is where I met my wife Lori, the greatest Christian woman I have ever known (by the way, who takes me as I am and works to make me a better man). But I digress. I was calling on a doctor that I had never met, the name was Dr. Bonnie Bee Westbrook. An old man in a white coat came to me and asked, “Can I help you?”. I said, “I am waiting on Dr. Westbrook. When she is finished, I would love to introduce myself to her and tell her about our products”. The old man looked amused. He exclaimed, “I am Dr. Bonnie Bee Westbrook!”. I was tickled and asked him where did he get that name. He said that he was a junior, Dr. Bonnie Bee Westbrook, Jr. We both had a good chuckle.
Dr. Westbrook took me to an exam room and asked me to sit on the examination table. He was old. I thought maybe he was confused or had forgotten. I told him that I was not sick, but that I was a drug rep. He said, “I know what you are, now sit on that exam table and tell me about yourself”. This was the oddest meeting ever for me, a first-year pharmaceutical representative. They never told us about this in my training in New York, but I obeyed. I told him about myself and then he asked me, “Are you a Christian?” I was surprised and told him yes. He asked me to tell him how I became one. I was glad to oblige. He then hit me with a shocking statement, “You were called to preach, weren’t you?” I was dumbfounded. I paused, and then said, “Yes sir.” He asked me, “Then why aren’t you doing it?” I told him that I had been through a failed marriage and that I felt I probably wasn’t qualified anymore. He questioned me about my divorce and saw that I had followed God’s Word as best I could on my end. He said, “I believe you have obeyed the Lord and that you are still called. I am going to get you into seminary”. With one phone call, I was enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Six months later, I was still a pharmaceutical representative AND pastor of Weimar Calvary Baptist Church. How about that! I graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with two degrees – a Masters of Divinity and a Doctorate in Ministry.
I preached through God’s Word, as I do to this day. Weimar’s Calvary Baptist Church grew from eight members in a living room to 150 in a refurbished building. I then became pastor at Church at the Cross in Houston. We have grown from approximately twenty members to a membership near seven hundred. As pastor of Church at the Cross, the Church was near bankruptcy in an eight-story building on US 59. We were able to sell that building and become solvent. That was great, but we needed a building of our own. We moved to the Tinseltown movie theater at Richmond and the Beltway. No sooner did we get there, the theater sold and we were back homeless. By Alief Independent School District’s graciousness, we were able to worship at the Alief Middle School for several years while we built our own building on Dairy Ashford. Building the building was tough trying to meet all the City codes and requirements. We understood the necessity of these codes, but meeting them was tough. It got even tougher when our contractor ran off with $70,000 of the Church’s money and we had to start from scratch all over again. By God’s Grace, we did and with the help of an amazing retired builder, Mr. Doyle Stuckey, we have been in our building now for almost eight years. We have been chosen as one of the top 24 most evangelistic churches in the United States, and twice named in the top five in Texas in baptisms for a Church our size.
Being in the Alief community has been an amazing blessing. The school district treats us great and we are actively seeking to assist them in educating our young people. I have helped as a bus driver for Alief ISD and we have teachers, bus drivers, and administrators in our Church. We started the Alief Baccalaureate for Alief seniors which doubles every year in size. The Shadowlake Community has embraced us as the best neighbors a Church could ever have. Their leadership board is diligent and passionate to serve their community and surrounding area. Our city council has been gracious to us as well.
Government Theory and Philosophy
Now I am considering running again for public office. God, family, and country are still where my priorities and zeal in life reside. What do I believe about government? I believe there are no perfect public officials and there never will be. Each candidate and office holder come with successes and baggage. They come with strengths and mistakes. Is this okay? Yes, if they learn from these and use them to make them better people and representatives. I do feel that our weaknesses and mistakes help us relate to and have compassion on others which we would not normally have.
Should our leadership be composed only of attorneys and those from the legal field? No. Our Founders I believe envisioned a government of the people – from every background, experience, and expertise. Does our Constitution disqualify pastors from public office? Not at all. Some of our founders were pastors. Many more struggled with the call to the ministry before becoming public servants. John Adams said that our form of government is for a righteous people. John Quincy Adams read five chapters per day of the Bible and believed it formed the framework on which to build a nation. Abraham Lincoln as well as George Washington leaned on God, His Word, and prayer to overcome obstacles to sustain a nation and to build a nation. Have we grown so smart, that we no longer need God or Christian leaders? Benjamin Franklin believed not.
Public servants – now there’s a term. We hear our officials say that’s what they are, but I don’t think many of them understand the term – as they fly first class, demand head of the line positions, exemptions from laws that the rest follow, make more money in office than they ever made out of office, declare themselves the cream of the crop, the smartest of the nation, and who believe that their office is a life-long entitlement to be later handed down to their next of kin. I believe that our government officials should come from the people and return to the people after a period of service. We call this term-limits which should apply to every level, not just the President. Harry Truman left office moderately poor and refused to use that office to make money during or after serving. We call this service, not for our own selfish good, but for the good of the nation.
Leadership – this has to be in all matters, morally reaching higher while holding firmly to fiscal constraints. Sadly, we are growing ever more in debt, and no one wants to stop it for fear of losing their treasured position. Leadership requires hard choices. Our nation must be one whose officials give the nation what it needs over what it wants. Cut backs must occur. People must go back to work, leaning less on the government and more on their industry. The government should not be the one we cry to when we are in need. God still holds this position as the Giver of all good things, and He is the One who says if we don’t work, we don’t eat. Kennedy said, “Ask what we can do for our country”. Reagan said the scariest thing a person can face is to meet a guy at the front door who says, “I am from the government and am here to help you.”.
Strength – we need to be strong militarily, not because we want war, but because we want to avoid it. If our nation is strong militarily then other nations will think twice before challenging us. We are a good nation who has sought to end wars by entering them and then care for the defeated enemy as well as the victorious ally.
Economics – we are to enable businesses to thrive so they can hire more of our friends and neighbors enabling them to live the American dream, knowing all are entitled but only if they are willing to work for it.
Good, Righteous – we don’t dictate what is right or wrong. God does that. If someone disagrees with our stand, it is not us they should argue with, but with God. But, as people defy what God says, they soon find that the way they have chosen doesn’t work. The reason God makes commands and gives requirements on how to live is that those ways are best for us and best for others. We cannot pick and choose the things God has said and think we will come out alright, or vainly imagine that we know better than God with regard to our time and our generation. God’s Word is timeless. Right will always be right. Wrong will always be wrong. Our Constitution’s number one source was the Bible. The Constitution was written by men; and thus, has had need for improvements. Over time, we the people have sought and taken measures to correct and improve it. Alexis De Tocqueville said our nation is great because it is good. The shine of our good has tarnished and it must be shined again by going back to the Biblical, wise, and moral principles and standards that made our nation great.
Laws – lastly, laws should be followed not only so we and our families are protected, but also so others around us are. Too many laws weigh down and paralyze a people and their spirit to achieve. Too few laws make it dangerous to leave home. Many of our leaders boast that since they made an illegal act legal that the court costs are down as are the arrests. Taking something that is wrong and making it legal isn’t good administration or enforcement, it is lazy and it is surrender. For example, the hot topic of our day: if we allow people in our nation who came here illegally to stay and become citizens, how can we then think they will now abide by our laws the next time they come against one that’s not convenient? What we are doing is breeding lawlessness, where everyone does right in their own eyes. This brought down Israel in the period of the judges and it brought down the Roman empire as well. Our outcome will be no better unless we return to being a nation of laws. But a nation of laws is only successful if the nation is made of a righteous people. That brings us full circle.
For more information on 9th Congressional District Candidate Johnny Teague, see Johnny Teague on the Issues.