Foreman, Percy Eugene (1902–1988)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: March 16, 2018

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.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Foreman, Percy Eugene,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

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September 1, 1995
March 16, 2018

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