BY: NEAL MURHY
The old car in front of us was weaving in and out of traffic dangerously, and the occupants, a male and a female, appeared to be fighting each other. My partner, who was driving the patrol car, decided to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle to see what was going on.
It was in the early 1970s, and we were on patrol for the Harris County Sheriff Department, which is Houston, Texas. The traffic stop was on the East Texas Freeway around midnight on a hot summer night. The vehicle promptly pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway and stopped.
I approached the passenger side of the vehicle, ticket book in hand, prepared to issue a traffic citation. We began to talk to the couple occupying the vehicle and found out that they were arguing about getting married, if, when, and where. The female stated that they had been married in the past, had divorced, but were now contemplating re-marrying.
Without warning, the male asked me, “Officer, can you marry someone?” I quipped that I was already married, but he explained that they wanted me to perform the marriage ceremony for them. I told him that although the badge we wore gave us much authority, it did NOT confer the authority to perform a marriage ceremony. He then asked if we knew of someone who could marry them right away.
Retreating back to our patrol car to buy a little time to discuss this, we thought about the Justice of The Peace who lived in Humble, TX, not very far away. We radioed the dispatcher to call the Judge to see if he would be willing to get out of bed and perform a wedding ceremony. After a few minutes, the dispatcher radioed us that the Judge would be happy to do this.
We relayed this information to the couple, but they did not know where the Justice of The Peace lived. “Could you lead us to his home?”, the male driver inquired. “We don’t know our way around Houston.”
“Just follow us and we will lead you to his house”, I told the couple. My partner said, “Hope we don’t get a hot call and have to leave them.” We did not get a call, and we were able to lead the couple to the Judge’s residence. The front porch light was on, silently inviting us to come inside.
I knocked on the front door, and the Judge’s wife met us with a cheerful greeting and said, “All of you come on into the living room. The Judge is ready for the ceremony.” The Judge was in his bathrobe and slippers, but had his ceremony book and was ready to go. I told him, “Judge, my partner and I will leave now and let you go ahead with the ceremony.”
“Now, wait a minute, officer”, replied the Judge, “I will need you both as witnesses to this ceremony. So ya’ll just stand right over there and watch.” So, there was no other option for us but to oblige the Judge. After the ceremony was over, he gave us a document to sign, which we both did. “Now you can leave, gentlemen”, said the Judge grinning broadly.
Back in the patrol car we just sat there for a few minutes. What had started out as a traffic stop had turned into the witnessing of a wedding. What are the odds on that happening? “Next time, I’m not going to offer the services of a Judge”, mused my partner. “I won’t either, if there ever is a next time”, I agreed. So far there has not been a “next time”.
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972