Diana J. Kleiner
Percy Foreman
Photograph, Portrait of Percy Foreman. Courtesy of Alchetron. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Percy Foreman
Photograph, Picture of Percy Foreman conferring with his client, Charles V. Harrelson, in 1970. Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Percy Foreman
Photograph, Percy Foreman with his client, Melvin Lane Powers. Courtesy of The New York Times. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

FOREMAN, PERCY EUGENE (1902–1988). Percy Eugene Foreman, criminal-defense lawyer, the son of Ransom Parson and William Pinckney (Rogers) Foreman, a Polk County sheriff, was born on June 21, 1902, in a log cabin near Bold Springs, Texas. He was one of eight children. At the age of six he was a shoeshine boy in Livingston. At fifteen he left school to pursue a variety of enterprises; these included shoeshine stands, newspaper routes, a laundry, a bill-collection agency, and a contract to load bales of cotton on freight trains-for which he eventually hired laborers to do the work for eight cents a bale. By the end of World War I Foreman had accumulated significant savings. After finishing a correspondence course in Houston and spending a year at the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, he joined a chautauqua circuit and toured small towns giving humorous lectures on topics including "how to get the most out of life" and "the high mission of women." In 1927 he graduated from the University of Texas law school, where he had typed manuscripts for extra money. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas and spent several years as a county prosecutor and assistant district attorney before entering private practice as a junior partner in the Houston law firm of Lockett and Foreman. Foreman, who was known for his unconventional trial strategies, handled society divorces, and in sixty years of practice defended more than 1,000 accused murderers, only one of whom was executed. Among his most famous clients were James Earl Ray, whom he persuaded to plead guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in exchange for a life sentence; socialite Candace Mossler's nephew Melvin Lane Powers, acquitted of a murder charge; Alvin Lee King, who killed five people in a Baptist church and committed suicide before his trial; and Charles Harrelson, sentenced to fifteen years for a contract killing and involved in the assassination of a federal judge in San Antonio. Foreman preferred cash as payment for his services, but if a client didn't have any, he would take property instead, including jewelry, real estate, boats, automobiles, furniture, and artwork. He became a multimillionaire. Foreman served as president of the National Association of Defense Lawyers. He was twice married; he and his first wife adopted a son. On April 21, 1957, he married German-born Marguerite Obert, with whom he had one child. Foreman died in Houston, Texas, on August 25, 1988, and was buried at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery.


Alcalde (magazine of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas), June 1926. Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Diana J. Kleiner, "FOREMAN, PERCY EUGENE," accessed February 18, 2020,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on March 22, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...