Emma Stewart Ph ot o s : Tem pl e J uni or C oll e ge The Bank Job Temple On the morning of Oct. 15, 1980, Emma Stewart decided she had to do something or blow her brains out. Sewage was bubbling up through the shower drain in her $50-a-month rent house and water from bad plumbing was gushing under the crawl space. She was tired of that. She was tired of the rats. She was tired of getting her electricity from an extension cord plugged into a neighbor’s house. She had ten children, three grandchildren and a husband who’d taken off. She stood five-foot-four and weighed 180 pounds and she was 42 years old. Emma Stewart put on a red and blue skirt, blue sweater and red sandals. She had no car so, looking something like an American flag, she walked to the People’s National Bank at Belton. She arrived at 10 a.m., holding a deposit pouch in her hand and a bible in her purse. “In the name of Jesus, put some money in this,” she told a teller, and passed forward the pouch. The teller put some packets of bills in the pouch and Stewart said, “God bless. you.” Then she walked out of the bank. She headed to a nearby creek only a few blocks from the bank and the police station and put the money under a rock. She started to walk home. She didn’t make it. Her description was by then flooding the bands of police radios, and before long a Texas Ranger arrested her. First he drove her back t.ethe creek, where she retrieved the 4oney, a few thousand dollars, and then proceeded to jail. But at a stop sign, Emma Stewart jumped out of the car and fled down the street. She was ordered to halt but did not. “I kept running in hope that they would shoot me. Then I prayed that God would forgive me, because that was the same as suicide.” A Belton police officer quickly caught SteWart. \(“After all,” she later recalled, “how fast can a chubby She spent the next 21 days in jail. She is scheduled to go on trial in Temple for robbery and theft Jan. 14, defended by a court-appointed lawyer and facing prosecution by a politically ambitious district attorney who fully appreciates the ability of local bankers to enhance a career. She may go to prison for 20 years. A Personal Ledger Emma Stewart, born in Madison County, moved her family to Belton in March, 1980, after living in Temple the previous two years. In Temple, she had held and lost three different jobs. In Belton, Stewart and her children found a four-room house. It had three different meters for gas and electricity, and she paid a deposit for electricity to only one end of the structure. Maintenance problems were constant and no repairs were made on the plumbing or other broken fixtures. A few days before she robbed the bank, Stewart recalls, “My daughter was sick with a hot fever and I didn’t have any way to take her to a doctor, so I was down by her bed praying. I looked up and there were four huge, long-tailed rats walking along the cabinets with the food.” Emma Stewart believes her troubles stem from two problems. The first was abandonment by her husband in Madison County six years ago, which left her with ten children to support. Then their house burned down and the family moved into a trailer. She moved to Huntsville where she got a job as a cook. She was convicted \(without legal counalso had a heart attack. After that the family moved to Temple, where Stewart’s mother lives. Emma Stewart’s second problem was the state’s system of social services. She believes that the red tape and requirements of social welfare in Texas, princi THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 ‘
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