Tem Dotson retires after 45 years in abstract, title work

Tem Dotson shows off a cake given to him in honor of his retirement late last month.

Tem Dotson of Waco Title in Huntsville retired recently after 45 years in the abstract and title business.

Dotson, who is “69, pushing 70,” was provided a lunch, cake and gifts by Waco officials and co-workers on his last day. The previous day, when asked how much longer he had on the job, Dotson looked at a clock and said, “about 12 hours.

“We’re counting the hours now,” he said. “Tomorrow will be my last day. I was kind of hoping they’d give me the day off.”

Tem Dotson got into the field after his brother, X Dotson, took over an abstract business in 1972. Tem went to work for X’s business in 1974 on the third floor of the Madison County Courthouse.

X Dotson bought J.S. Miller and Madison County Abstract, then operated his new business under those names. In 1986, the business moved to its current location on Court Street, the former location of The Madison County Record.

In 2006, Waco Title in Springdale bought the local business.

“I started when I was 24 years old, so I’ve been here quite a while. I’ve seen a lot of change,” Tem said. “Whenever I started ... we built abstracts, then they’d take the abstract to the attorney and get a title, an examination of it ... now that’s my job is title examinations. I do what attorneys used to do, really.”

Tem Dotson said he did all the research about a parcel of land or property, such as looking for tax liens, boundary lines, property disputes, size disputes and more.

When finished, his work creates title insurance for a buyer or seller, which ever hired Waco. The work also is for real estate and banking officials.

“Everything comes back to roost on me ... if I do something wrong, it comes back to me and they point fingers at me. That’s a big motivator as trying to get the job done right,” he said.

Dotson said he was grateful his brother gave him the job in 1974.

“[My job] was an apprenticeship. I learned from X, really, and he was my only teacher at that time. It took about 10 years,” he said.

The Dotsons grew up in Hindsville, but when Tem was 12, his father moved the family to Kansas, where he wanted to ranch. Tem graduated high school there in 1968.

“It was challenging back in those days. It was pretty rough out there throughout the country,” he said.

After high school, Tem attended Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan. In high school, he was told there was a great demand for teachers, so that’s what he studied at first. He admits to changing majors a few times.

“I really set out to be a field man ... I was really interested in microbiology type stuff,” he said.

Dotson earned his degree in biology/chemistry, then earned a teaching certificate.

A recession in the early 1970s meant few – if any – jobs were available after he graduated college in 1974, he said.

“There were no jobs, period. There was no work to be found. I was fortunate X had bought the company a couple of years before I went to work for him,” he said. “I was fortunate that he wanted to hire me. It was on a trial basis because I didn’t know if I’d like it and he didn’t know if I would get the job done.”

As the economy improved in the mid-70s, so did the abstract business.

“A lot of real estate changed hands. A lot of Texans were buying property up here,” he said.

X Dotson said a good opportunity came around in 1972.

“I was just looking for something and the lady who owned it said something to me. I said, ‘well, I can’t afford it’ and she said, ‘I’ll fix it where you can afford it,’ so I got in and enjoyed it for 33 years.”

After going to work for his brother, Tem said he didn’t plan on making abstract work a career.

“I really set out to only work for the company probably four or five years, then I was going to find something else to do,” he said. “Well, 10 years happened, then another 10 years and then they added up to 45.”

Tem said one of the highlights in his career happened just a few weeks ago, when he traced a family’s original deed back for their property to 1938.

He admitted that he wasn’t sure he wanted to work for Waco when the local business was sold.

“Waco has really treated me good. They’ve been good to me. The only thing I ever hated was the clock: clock in and clock out. I hate that clock. But other than that, I can’t fuss. They’ve been very good to us,” he said.

Tem said he didn’t have any definite plans for retirement. He said he’ll “probably go back out and help” his twin brother, Tom, who runs the family farm in Hindsville.

“He does all the work on the ranch,” Tem said. “I’ll probably go out and boss him around.”

Tom taught school for about nine years, then went to work on the farm, Tem said.

“There’ll be something to do for sure. You’ve got to keep moving,” Tem said.

The Dotsons’ dad died at age 65 from a heart attack. Tem had heart surgery three years ago after a heart attack of his own.

Tem Dotson also is a pilot. He laughed and said he flew too much recently when he went to Dothan, Ala., and back, in the air for about nine hours.

X Dotson was asked if he thought his younger brother would last 45 years in the business.

“No, not the day I hired him,” he said. “He has so much knowledge. After doing all that research for 45 years, he knows the county and he knows the people. He’s irreplaceable.”

X praised Tem’s work in the abstract and title business.

“He’s done a tremendous job for me and I know he has for [Waco]. He was very, very serious about his work and did a good job.”

About Tem bossing his twin around on the farm, X said, “that’s probably not going to work real good, but he can try.”

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