Buda loses a familiar fellow

By Sahar Chmais

There’s one bar stool left open with a glass of red wine waiting; Buda resident and local gadfly T.J. Higginbotham died recently, and fellow barflies, gadflies and foodies are saddened.

Buda residents, those who have been around for decades, will recognize the name T.J. Higginbotham from his social visits and talks at bars and local stores. On Jan. 21, in his early 70s, Higginbotham died. The reason has not been announced, but word on the street says COVID-19 claimed another person.

Higginbotham, always going around town in his cowboy hat and cowboy boots, had a strong involvement in city and even state affairs. He attended countless city council meetings where he always gave input, helped start an organization called Take Back Texas advocating for property rights, and told people he helped bring Cabela’s to Buda. He also served on Buda’s Historical Committee.

While he was known for all of his involvements, he also loved his red wine and Mexican food. But perhaps he loved a good political debate above all else. In the early 2000s, when Buda was a smaller town, Higgenbotham was one of the 16 group members in Buda Outlaws. They would meet at one of their group member’s pizza restaurants, sit and discuss politics.

Even when the group stopped getting together, Higginbotham would go in search for more conversation. He could cuss with the best, tell a good joke and was always willing to get into another political argument. One could find Higginbotham driving around Main Street in search of a car he recognized so he could stop by a bar or restaurant to visit with old friends.

Higginbotham grew up in Dallas, but he made Buda his home. The family, Higginbotham and his two sisters, owned more than 100 acres of land on FM 967. The sisters went on to sell their share of the property to Centex Homes, which built the Creekside Park development.

Over time, he sold more than 5 acres of his land and almost 33 acres remain in Higginbotham’s name. But he kept the rest and people can still drive by and see his home.

This home, though, received many complaints over time from neighbors. It was getting old, in need of a sprucing up. Higginbotham complied, but in his own unique way.

He picked up some paint and a brush and in big letters wrote “PAINT” on the home. Yes, he conceded to the demands.

Those who knew the man knew that beneath his sometimes abrasive manner was a soft heart.

One of his long-time friends of 20-something years, Linda Raby, recently asked to put a bench out on her property to commemorate Higginbotham. The city agreed to install the bench, but Raby will be responsible for paying $350 for the plaque.

Raby wants to get the bench erected, but she said since she is already dedicating part of her property to the cause, she would like others to participate in the plaque’s cost. She is considering creating a GoFundMe page to get help from those who cared for him.

There were many saddened by the news, and one place, familiar to all Buda residents, is Willie’s Joint Bar and Grill. On the day of his passing, Willie’s Joint wrote a message on Facebook commemorating Higginbotham.

“We lost a great friend yesterday,” the post read. “A true Buda icon. TJ, you were here from the beginning. You always believed in us. We will be forever grateful to you. You were an amazing story teller! From your contagious laugh to your obsession for ‘Texas’ red wine, you are going to be missed by so many. You were such a positive, kind hearted man with big dreams! Always dressed sharp, no matter the occasion. We could go on & on. Rest easy, Cowboy. See you on the other side.”

The message was sealed with a red heart emoji.

All 59 comments were filled with loving words and recollections on his story-telling abilities.

Buda will miss the presence and stories of Higginbotham. When COVID-19 settles, Raby said they will put on a celebration of life for the robust Higginbotham.

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About Author

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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