Photos by Libby Rogers
Just across from the railroad tracks and in view of the water tower in downtown Trinity stands a long, one-story, white wooden building that’s immediately recognizable to the locals as Stubbs Chemical and Feed. In a town of less than three thousand people, described by the Houston Press as “a speck of a town,” it’s easy to see why everyone knows this place. Back in the day, when Trinity was booming—before they closed the mill—it was a theater. Today, it’s not just known for what it is, but for the person who owns it—Lyle Stubbs.
Stubbs isn’t just a name associated with the feedstore. It’s become a name deeply associated with the town. In a small rural community where people come and go—leaving to find work in the city and coming back to find peace and quiet—Stubbs has stayed in Trinity for all of his 75 years. And over his lifetime, he has worn a lot of hats that have put him at the forefront of the community.
Today, with his position as Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, the correct way to address Stubbs would be “Judge.” For 20 years up through 2014, however, he was Mayor Stubbs, and for 13 years prior to that, he was Councilman Stubbs; however, his political titles don’t even begin to even scratch the surface of this man’s life story.
Growing Up in the Mill Town
Stubbs remembers when Trinity was a different kind of town than it is today. Texas Long Leaf Lumber Company, one of the nation’s most successful manufacturers of yellow pine and southern hardwoods, was booming in the 1940s. Its primary mill in Trinity employed upwards of 1,200 people, and it was the largest timber mill in the state.
Stubbs lived a few miles from downtown, and he and his family would walk to town on Saturdays, which is when people would do their shopping and get their hair cut.
“As a kid, it was very exciting,” Stubbs said. “The town was full of people. And on the way home, there was a store that had a caged monkey and a parrot, and you could go in and buy feed for them.”
Stubbs also remembers going to the mill store, which could be likened to today’s Walmart in its variety of food, clothing, and hardware. Mill employees got paid with half cash and half tokens that could only be used at the mill store, so that is where people went to shop for all their necessities.
All that changed in 1955, however, when the mill closed down. The economy crumbled, and mill workers moved to Diboll and other lumber towns. But while others left, the Stubbs family stayed.
From Mail Carrier to Mayor
There’s an old saying “When the times are tough, the tough get going,” and that would describe how Stubbs’ love of Trinity has kept him there. In a small town with few opportunities to make a living, Stubbs has done whatever he has needed to do in order to make ends meet.
He’s been in the pest control business since 1982, and he opened the feedstore in 1988—but that was after wearing a whole lot of other hats. “I’ve done just about a little of everything. I carried the mail for two-and-a-half years, worked in the woods for eight years, worked on a beer truck 10 years; I ran a bread route for two-and-a-half years…a jack of all trades and a master of nothing!” Stubbs said with a laugh.
What all of those different jobs made him a master of, however, was the town of Trinity. In 1981, Stubbs was elected to the city council, and in 1994 he became mayor, a position he held for 20 years until he was elected to his current position of justice of the peace.
Stubbs’ commitment to Trinity goes beyond business ventures and political offices, though. In 2014, he was recognized for 50 years of dedicated service to the Trinity Volunteer Fire Department. Today, while he can no longer fight fires like he used to, due to physical limitations, Stubbs is still serving with the fire department as its chaplain.
The Feed Store and Country Gospel Music: Doing What He Loves for the Lord
For all the roles Stubbs has held, he is clear on his mission in life.
“I feel like I was chosen to be a servant—to God first and to man second. I love people. I really do,” he said, explaining how the feedstore has given him the perfect opportunity to reach people with the love of Christ. “You can’t make a lot of money in a feedstore, but the fellowship is something else, especially on Saturdays. They are special. God has given me the opportunity to witness to people and to help them.”
“People will come out and ask me to put them on my prayer list,” he continued. “The Lord has clearly given me a ministry through the store.”
Prayer and fellowship are not his only forms of ministry, though. One of the ways Stubbs reaches others is through music. Right next to the counter in the feedstore office is a display rack of CDs and cassette tapes, all original recordings of Stubbs’ country gospel music. These are not home recordings, either. Stubbs has worked with some of the biggest names in Nashville and has had multiple songs in the top 10 Country Gospel Music charts. In 2002, his song “I’ve Got Jesus Now” went all the way to number one.
Stubbs said his love of music started when he was a young child. “Mama taught me how to play the guitar when I was eight. My whole family played,” he continued. “Anyhow, music has always been so important to me. To me, I feel like it’s the common denominator between you and the good Lord.”
Since he began writing and recording, Stubbs has put together nine original albums plus a tenth album of his favorite Del Way songs. A number of his albums were recorded in Nashville, and he loves to talk about his visits there.
“I loved it in Nashville. In ‘94, I did my first album, and I was like a kid with a new toy. I had never been in a recording studio before,” he recalled.
Stubbs got lined up with his Nashville connections through one of his best friends Henry Chamberlain, whose brother David is an acclaimed country music writer known for the hits he has written for George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, and other big name performers.
“Henry would chauffeur me up to Nashville, and David was my producer. He’s the one who lined up all my musicians. He also hooked me up with a good friend of his, Bobby Reed, who worked the (sound) board to balance everything out. I don’t know how he did it. That board was as long as this wall, and he was blind. It’s hard to describe what it was like to be in Nashville. The feeling was just so good.”
In addition to being a recording artist, Stubbs is also a frequently requested performer at churches. “There’s a cowboy church up here out of Rusk, and they invited me twice to come up and sing for them—not just one or two songs, but a mini concert. I don’t know where they got my CDs, but they had my music! And when I walked in that church, they had a band, and they were playing some of my songs. My hair just stood straight up!” he exclaimed.
He has traveled as far away as Hot Springs and Nashville to perform at Country Gospel Music Guild conventions, but these days he is staying closer to home. He has the feedstore ministry, after all.
“I’ve got some other songs I’ve thought about, but never released. But I didn’t do it to make money. I did it to get the word out, for the Gospel. I’ve given away more albums than I’ve ever sold,” he explained. “The only purpose for it was for ministry, nothing else. But it’s been a blessing to me.”
Leaving a Legacy
As much as Stubbs continues to leave his mark on the town of Trinity and beyond, all the photos at the feedstore and in his office show where he sees his legacy going forward—his family.
He talks about Susie, his wife of 55 years, and how he couldn’t do what he does without her. He reminisces about his son Mike, who died at age 28, and proudly shows off a photo of Mike’s daughter Whitley, along with her baby Landon. And he talks about his own daughter Michelle, whose son Les works with him at the feedstore.
Even though he dropped out of the pest control business for a few years, Stubbs kept his license and recently helped Les get his. They officially went into pest control together in September 2018. “I didn’t do it for me. I did it for my grandson, so that when I kick off, he’ll have a business,” Stubbs explained. “It’s hard to make a living at a feedstore. There’s just not that much profit in it. I want him to have something to make a living from.”
As for the near future, Stubbs says he has thought about moving to his property just outside the city limits, but Susie won’t hear of it. “She says she’s not moving back out to the country! We moved downtown, just four doors down from the funeral home, back in 1984, and we’ve lived here ever since. I guess that makes me a city slicker!” he said with a grin.
So that’s Lyle Stubbs … as much of a big-name, big-hearted city slicker as you can get in a “speck of a town” like Trinity.