Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doug TInker

News travels slow sometimes. I just caught wind of Doug Tinker's passing. I knew the clock was ticking down and talked to him about a month ago. I'm just sorry I missed his Bon Voyage last week.

I met Tinker when he was defending Yolanda Saldivar, Selena's killer. His white beard, white hair and love of sailing all recalled Ernest Hemingway, but Tinker was one of a kind. A former prosecutor, would be judge and defender of the indefensible, he practiced law in the Nueces strip that historically lawless zone south of the Nueces River and north of the Rio Grande, based in Corpus. Among his clients were Branch Davidians and homosexual lovers. He was equally at home with lowlifes and characters as with the nautical hoi polloi at the yacht club. He knew Havana and Veracruz both.

Even though Yolanda was found guilty (no question she did it) Tinker put up a good defense and a better show, especially each day after trial in Houston when we retired across the street to Buster's Drinkery, a very anonymous bar owned by a cabal of defense attorneys, where Tinker regaled the working press and fellow barristers with colorful tales of cases past.

We kept in touch and my wife and kids and I once sailed with him across Corpus Christi Bay in a race. Last year, he contacted me to talk about putting together a book. He'd written a column in a North Padre weekly paper about his exploits, and indeed, his career involved many larger than life characters, not the least of which was the Duke of Duval County, George Parr and his son Archer, who really did run their own kingdom in South Texas. I related to Doug how the book I'd just written on Willie Nelson came indirectly out of a busted Candy Barr book proposal. He stopped me in mid-sentence and asked, "Why didn't you tell me? I grew up with her in Edna. I was friends with her until she died and with all the other Slushers. She was good people."

A week later, an envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was a Xerox of an Edna High School yearbook. On one page at the bottom row of photographs of freshmen was Douglas Tinker, beardless but clearly him. On the row above was Juanita Slusher, the ripe makings of the future Candy Barr.

I should've known. Now it's all Wished I would've, and Wished I could've, mostly I wish Doug Tinker would've written that book about his exploits and storied career in a most unusual place and why he painted his painted toenails.

This obit is about as good as obituaries get, followed by a link to a site that's all about the coolest defense attorney you never heard of.

from (

Douglas Tinker

Douglas Tinker died on November 10, 2008. He wore out, he bit the dust, he dropped off the twig, he lost his last appeal. He was frustrated that he could not stay longer as he thought there might be just a bit more marrow in the bone of life, but in the end he was okay with it. He said that when you get right down to it and realize that nothing in, or about life, really ultimately matters, why then things get easier. Kinda takes the pressure off. And he had one hell of a run!

He loved boats and water and people and folks who loved boats and water and people. He was kind to strangers, children, waiters, and bartenders and always tipped well. He was a champion of the working man, and a thorn in the side of the corrupt, the powerful, and the self-righteous. He was proudest when he helped for free or next to free just because it was right. He would listen to bums tell their tales of woe and then give them a twenty and say “It’s alright if you buy booze with that.” He understood people, and did not judge them. He was a teacher and an ass-chewer who knew that it takes ten “attaboys” to make up for one “aw-shit.” He taught a lot of us everything we know as lawyers, but he was quick to point out that he had not taught us everything he knows.

He would knock an opponent down, but always helped them back up. There is not a Judge or a lawyer or prosecutor in South Texas who doesn’t have a favorite Tinker story. And when they tell it, they always smile. He called himself a one-trick-pony. There are sure a lot of just plain folks who are glad that he was on their side. That he was their one-trick-pony.

Doug loved dogs, women, booze, boats, friends, and defending people accused of committing crimes. When the whole world was down on somebody, he figured there ought to be at least one person to stand up for them, regardless of what they were accused of. So he took the cases others would not take. Because it was right. If it paid a little bit, or got some attention, well, that was okay too.

He is preceded in death by his son, Anderson Tinker, whom he loved with his whole heart and missed terribly. He is survived by his sister, Lee Loe and her husband Hardy, of Houston; his sister, Barbara Tinker-Hill of Dallas; and his brother, Tommy Tinker and wife Cindy of Hawaii.

So now the one-trick-pony has gone to the barn. Remember him well.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, November 13, 2008, at the Galvan Ballroom, 1632 Agnes St., Corpus Christi. In lieu of flowers, cash donations may be made at the service for the girls at Knuckleheads.

Here's the link to Tinker stories. Larger than life indeed. Godspeed, sailor.


Anonymous said...

Just curious of how Andy Tinker passed. He was my first boyfriend and I spoke with him around the end of Sept 2007. I heard he passed October of that year. I was devistated when I read this article and saw that Doug's death was preceeded by Andy's. If anyone has any info, I would appreciate it.

Joe Nick Patoski said...

I've wondered the same. His death preceding Doug's just underscores the sadness. Maybe if you peruse Tinker Stories you'll find the answer. If you do, please share privately.

Anonymous said...

Juanita Dale Slusher is the extremely distant cousin of the victim of the worst mall shooting in the history of North America. His name was Gary Eugene Scharf. Slusher and Scharf are direct descendants of John Parke and Sarah Smith.

Anonymous said...

Andy killed himself. Pills, booze, and a plastic bag over his head to make sure he got the job done.