AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry has long revered Texas icon Sam Houston and now shares a spiritual connection with one of his political heroes: getting baptized in the same waters.
Perry was dunked last month in Little Rocky Creek near the small town of Independence in a private ceremony witnessed only by close friends and family, spokeswoman Lucy Nashed confirmed Tuesday. It's the same rural and rocky spot where Houston was baptized before becoming the seventh governor of Texas in 1859.
"Gov. Perry has a deep and abiding faith in God, and like many people of faith, the governor wanted to reaffirm his commitment in a way that holds great personal meaning," Nashed said.
The baptism was first reported by The Texas Tribune.
Perry, who will leave office in January and hasn't ruled out another presidential run in 2016, has extolled his faith throughout his 14 years in office. He announced his first run for the White House in 2011 just a week after staging a massive prayer revival in Houston called "The Response" that drew roughly 30,000 worshippers at Reliant Stadium.
His reverence of Sam Houston is almost as well known. Even on Monday, Perry again lionized his early predecessor during an interview with conservative talk radio host Michael Medved.
Perry recalled Houston's struggles with alcoholism but praised his discipline in other parts of his life. Like Perry, Houston also had presidential aspirations: He was briefly a candidate in 1860, and Perry suggested that had Houston won there wouldn't have been a Civil War.
"He was a fascinating guy and a very principled leader willing to take the hit to stand up against the forces of those days that were pushing Texas to secede," Perry said. "He really believed in our nation. He believed in the union."
Perry was baptized by Mac Richard, the pastor and founder of Lake Hills Church in Austin. A phone message left at the church Tuesday was not immediately returned.
Independence is about 80 miles west of Houston and is where Sam Houston's family lived in the 1850s. He was a member of Independence Baptist Church, which today draws about 80 to 100 people for Sunday services and still uses Little Rocky Creek as a natural baptistery, pastor Phil Hassell said.
Perry has long said he was active in both the Methodist and Baptist church while growing up in his rural hometown of Paint Creek, and he worshipped at a Methodist church before switching to Lake Hills several years ago. Hassell said most people who seek another baptism do so to reaffirm their faith, because of the significance of a particular location or to join the Baptist church.
Because it was the governor, Hassell made one special preparation for Perry's visit: He asked the local volunteer fire department to hose down rocks by the creek and wash away some algae.
"After the baptism it was pretty noticeable. He didn't hide the fact he was here," Hassell said. "He went to the general store. Walked around old Mrs. Houston's home, kind of did the tourist thing."
Perry also tried his hand at a century-old pump organ before leaving town.
"I didn't know he played the piano," Hassell said. "He actually played it pretty well."
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