Temple Gayle Bowen, businessman, transportation industry executive, World War II veteran, son of Robert Walker Bowen and Olive (Zirkle) Bowen, was born on April 27, 1898, in Edna, Jackson County, Texas. He was the youngest of four children. By 1920 Temple and his oldest brother, Robert Chesley (R. C.) Bowen, owned a garage in Mineral Wells and later co-founded several businesses.
The Bowen brothers first operated trucks servicing the oil industry in Mineral Wells and Breckenridge in 1919. By 1925 Temple and R. C. had moved to Fort Worth and launched their first bus line between Amarillo and Lubbock. They formed West Texas Coaches the same year. In 1926 the brothers sold West Texas Coaches, and R. C. established South Texas Coaches running busses between San Antonio and Houston. After expanding routes from Houston to Dallas, the line changed its name to Bowen Motor Transport and then to Bowen Motor Coaches, Inc., in 1928 (see BUSING INDUSTRY).
In October 1927 Temple Bowen, R. C. Bowen, and F. G. Lippitt chartered Texas Air Transport Company (TAT) in Fort Worth. They created the company to service two new airmail routes in Texas. TAT acquired the rights to the airmail routes of Texas Airways Corporation. Temple, vice-president and general manager of the new corporation, participated in the negotiations with the U. S. Post Office Department in Washington, D.C., so TAT could acquire the airmail routes. Always an active participant in his company, Bowen scouted the air routes between Austin and San Antonio by car. Within a year of the company’s creation, he became its president. In 1929 Bowen sold Texas Air Transport, and the company merged with St. Tammany-Gulf Coast Airways to form Southern Air Transport. By 1930 Southern Air Transport merged with eighty-five other air carriers to become America Airways. In 1936 the airline became American Airlines (see AMR CORPORATION).
Bowen did not abandon the infant air transportation industry after he sold TAT. In 1930 he started Bowen Airlines, Inc., a passenger air service based at Meacham Field in Fort Worth. The airline carried passengers between Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Houston. Bowen Airlines utilized single-engine Lockheed aircraft carrying six to eight passengers each. While these early passenger flights had few amenities, stars such as Will Rogers, Jack Dempsey, and Clark Gable patronized the airline while in Texas. While passenger revenue steadily grew, airmail provided carriers with steady income. Even after offering to carry the mail at half the rate of other air carriers, Bowen could not acquire a lucrative airmail contract, so he sold his airline to Braniff Airways in 1936. During the mid-1930s he represented the air transport industry on the codes authority of the National Recovery Agency.
Despite an almost decade-long foray into the aviation industry, Bowen never fully lost his connection to ground-based transportation. In late May 1936 Temple Bowen, R.C. Bowen, and L.C. Eastland incorporated Bowen Busses in Dallas, Texas. Two years later, the brothers opened Bowen Service Station at the intersection of Houston Street and Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth. The station provided automotive supplies, services, and gasoline. A short distance from the service station, Bowen Motor Coaches, Inc., opened a new bus terminal in 1941. The bus terminal serviced buses from multiple bus lines and sought to make Fort Worth a transportation hub. In early 1941 Bowen, as the vice president and general manager, announced that Bowen Motor Coaches and other U.S. bus carriers would provide discount rates for servicemen in uniform to aid national defense.
The outbreak of World War II motivated Bowen to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces on April 21, 1942. He rose to the rank of colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. While based in Cincinnati with the Air Transport Command, he used his logistical and organizational skills gained in the civilian air and ground transportation industries to manage several supply flights each week from Miami to Calcutta, India. Later stationed in Calcutta, he was the deputy commander of the Indochina Division of the Air Transport Command, a unit that flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains into India and China during the war.
Bowen received an honorable discharge on January 28, 1946. After leaving military service, he worked in real estate in Fort Worth and managed office space and other commercial properties. Some of the land he and his wife owned was condemned by the federal government for the Benbrook Reservoir. In addition to his real estate work, Bowen participated in many community organizations and activities. In 1955 he headed a meeting in Fort Worth of individuals who desired to form a Fort Worth chapter of the Air Force Association, a nationwide group which advocated stronger U. S. air power to counter the Soviet Union. Two of the speakers were retired U. S. Air Force generals and national board members of the association. He was a longtime member and secretary of Tarrant Count Draft Board 114. President Dwight D. Eisenhower credited the Tarrant County draft board as being one of the most efficient in the nation. Bowen served as a member of the Good Neighbor Commission, an organization designed to investigate the living conditions of Mexican Americans in Texas. He was a member of the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America. He also served as vice president of the American chapter of the Ligue Internationale des Aviatuers, an international aviators’ club. Bowen attended Benbrook Methodist Church and sat on the board of directors of the Panther Boys Club.
Temple Bowen married Gabby (Pate) Bowen in 1925. The couple had no children. Bowen suffered a heart attack and died in Fort Worth on December 9, 1960. He was buried in Woodland Park Cemetery in Mineral Wells, Texas.
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Austin American, December 10, 1960. Austin American-Statesman, October 13, 1927; December 28, 29, 1927; December 19, 1933; September 30, 1935; May 28, 1936; October 28, 1936; March 10, 1944. Temple Bowen Collection, Special Collections Archives, Eugene McDermott Library, University of Texas at Dallas. Richard Benjamin Cass, Braniff Airways: Flying Colors (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2015). Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light, May 6, 1941. El Paso Times, November 21, 1949. Fort Worth Record-Telegram, October 21, 1927; February 4, 1928; June 13, 1928. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 13, 1927; May 27, 1934; June 24, 1934; April 24, 1935; September 29, 30, 1935; May 28, 1936; November 24, 1938; January 23, 24, 1941; May 3, 1941; February 25, 1944; November 29, 1944; May 15, 1945; November 4, 1950; April 21, 1955; May 22, 1955; January 10, 1956; June 30, 1956; July 1, 1956; September 23, 1956; January 23, 29, 1959; July 10, 1960; April 16, 1961; June 3, 1984; November 19, 1984; December 13, 1986. Fredericksburg Standard, March 11, 1932. Marshall News Messenger, October 29, 1936. “Robert Walker Bowen,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/120882092), accessed January 5, 2021. San Francisco Examiner, December 10, 1960. “Temple G Bowen,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/46263676), accessed January 6, 2021.
Aviation and Aerospace
Founders and Pioneers
Transportation and Railroads
Texas in the 1920s
World War II
Texas Post World War II
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Ray F. Lucas,
“Bowen, Temple Gayle,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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