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Louisiana Governors

Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals, and Reformers

Walter Greaves Cowan
Jack B. McGuire
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 304
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    Louisiana Governors
    Book Description:

    Walter Greaves Cowan and Jack B. McGuire, veteran authorities on the Louisiana political scene, trace the history of the state's leaders from the French and Spanish colonial eras to the present day. Using a variety of sources, including personal interviews with the recent governors, they describe unforgettable personalities.

    Such early figures as Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville set the tone for later colonial governors. They had their troubles, fending off protesting Indians and other French and Spanish leaders vying for power. Following the Louisiana Purchase, American politics took control. The Whigs, Know Nothings, Republicans, and Democrats have all waxed and waned through times of slavery, secession, suffrage, and segregation. The early twentieth century saw the rise of Huey P. Long, who established himself as a virtual dictator. An assassin's bullet ended Long's life in 1935, but his followers managed to hold on to the governorship until 1940. In 1948 his brother, Earl Long, brought the family back into power.

    Over the years, two governors were impeached but were not removed from office, and two governors were jailed in federal prison. The experiences, decisions, and conflicts of Louisiana governors have reflected and influenced the history of the state, often in dramatic and fascinating ways.

    In forty years of journalism, Walter Greaves Cowan was reporter and editor of theNew Orleans States-Itemand also vice-president of the Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation. He coauthoredNew Orleans Yesterday and TodayandLouisiana Yesterday and Today. Jack B. McGuire, public relations director for the city of New Orleans from 1964 to 1970, is vice president of Union Savings and Loan Association. He is the author ofUncle Earl Deserved Better.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-320-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
    The Authors
  5. Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville et d’Ardillieres (1699–1702)
    (pp. 3-7)

    Finding the mouth of the Mississippi River turned into a dramatic search headed by the now-famous Iberville, who eventually was credited with being the founder of the fledgling French colony of Louisiana. Some historians say he was unquestionably the greatest Canadian of his generation.

    Historian Edwin Adams Davis noted that Iberville succeeded where René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle had failed in planting a firmly rooted colony that survived and generally prospered, following many disappointments. While Iberville was never given the title of governor, he was everything else, which included leading the voyage from France to colonize Louisiana, selecting sites for...

  6. Sieur de Sauvole (1699–1700)
    (pp. 8-9)

    The most important thing about the Sieur de Sauvole, Louisiana’s second governor, is not who he was, but who he was not.

    Sauvole became the colony’s acting governor in 1699, when Iberville sailed for France to seek additional troops and resources. His tenure was brief, as he died of fever on August 22, 1700.

    There is no image of Sauvole to study, and his name is spelled in various ways, given by the Louisiana secretary of state’s office as Sauvole but with an additionall(Sauvolle) by historian Charles L. Dufour. The confusion about the spelling of his name is...

  7. Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville (1701–1713; 1716–1717; 1718–1725; 1733–1743)
    (pp. 10-20)

    On a calm day in 1699, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, was descending the Mississippi River with five men in two canoes when he encountered an English warship anchored in a bend, waiting for favorable winds to carry it upstream. Its captain advised Bienville that he had been sent by the Carolina proprietors to explore the river and determine whether the French, who claimed all lands drained by it, had established a settlement. Bienville bluffed the Englishman, telling him there was a French fort a short distance upriver, with cannon and soldiers prepared to defend Louis XIV’s claim...

  8. Antoine de Lamothe, Sieur de Cadillac (1713–1716)
    (pp. 21-22)

    Antoine de Lamothe, Sieur de Cadillac, Louisiana’s fourth governor, found himself in a swirl of controversy from the time he was named to the post in 1713. Actually, a report on what he had done in the founding of Detroit just prior to his appointment in Louisiana was so critical that it should have ended his career, some historians claim.

    But Cadillac had great persuasive qualities and talked his way into positions of authority. This was especially true in his role in Louisiana, for he persuaded Antoine Crozat, the wealthy French financier, to take over the territory and its troubles...

  9. Jean Michel De l’Epinay (1717–1718)
    (pp. 23-23)

    Antoine Crozat, the wealthy Frenchman granted a twenty-five-year commercial monopoly of Louisiana in 1712, did not approve of Cadillac’s administration and saw to it that he was removed from office in 1717. Bienville was to be in command until the arrival of Cadillac’s successor, Jean Michel De l’Epinay.

    De l’Epinay arrived on March 9, 1717, accompanied by Marc-Antoine Hubert, who had been appointed intendant. Bienville, disappointed that he was not chosen governor again, gave De l’Epinay a cold shoulder, and he and his friends organized a party of opposition to the new authorities. Bienville had been awarded the Cross of...

  10. Pierre Sidrac Dugué, Sieur de Boisbriant (1725–1727)
    (pp. 24-24)

    One of the French founding fathers of Colonial Louisiana, Pierre Sidrac Dugué, Sieur de Boisbriant (or Boisbriand), was ordered to replace Bienville when the latter was recalled to France. Dugué served as acting governor from February 1725 until March 1727.

    Little is known of Dugué’s accomplishments in Louisiana, except that he became involved in a controversy concerning use of the company stores. His connection with Bienville led him into repeated conflicts with Jacques de La Chaise, chief financial officer of the colony. But Dugué had a lot going for him because of his ability to court favor with the Indian...

  11. Etienne de Perier (1727–1733)
    (pp. 25-28)

    Etienne de Perier had never seen an Indian until he came to Louisiana as its governor, and the mistakes he made in believing that he could handle the native inhabitants led to the massacre of the soldiers and settlers at Fort Rosalie by the Natchez tribe.

    Born in LeHavre in 1690, he rendered commendable service in the closing engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. He commanded ships for the Company of the West and won praise for his abilities, with the command in Louisiana given by its directors as a reward for his accomplishments.

    Perier’s lack of any...

  12. Pierre de Rigaud de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil (1743–1753)
    (pp. 29-30)

    The closest that Louisiana came to having its own royalty, at least until the advent of the Cajun Prince, Edwin Edwards, was the reign as governor of Pierre de Rigaud de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil.

    Descended from a noble family of Languedoc, Vaudreuil was born in Canada in 1698. He was commissioned an ensign in the colonial regulars at age ten, and served in the army and held administrative posts in New France, including as Governor of Montreal. He was an experienced colonial officer when he was named governor of Louisiana. His ambition was to follow his own father as...

  13. Louis Billouart, Chevalier de Kerlerec (1753–1763)
    (pp. 31-32)

    Dissension, even war, confronted Governor Louis Billouart, Chevalier de Kerlerec, when he assumed control of Louisiana February 3, 1753. This was some three years before the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in Europe, but hostilities between France and England had already begun in America.

    The English posed a continual threat because they sought the allegiance of the powerful Indian tribes who vacillated between the French and English. Friendship with the Indians had to be bought over and over again with presents, but Kerlerec maintained this procedure was preferable to war. The Choctaws had fifty-two villages and four thousand warriors,...

  14. Jean Jacques Blaise d’Abbadie (1763–1765)
    (pp. 33-34)

    With Kerlerec’s recall, Louis XV named three officials to govern matters in Louisiana. Jean Jacques Blaise d’Abbadie was commissioned director general, with Nicolas Chauvin de la Freniere as attorney general and Nicolas Foucault as intendant. D’Abbadie, who was the comptroller general and chief administrator of the colony, was the senior official, and was regarded as the governor.

    D’Abbadie had served as a naval officer, both at sea and in administrative posts, and was an experienced colonial administrator. He arrived in New Orleans in June 1763 and made a good impression from the beginning. He restored the colony’s finances and strengthened...

  15. Charles Philippe Aubry (1765–1766)
    (pp. 35-36)

    History does not accord a kind role to Charles Philippe Aubry, the last French governor, who served at a time of great unrest in Louisiana as the colony sought to avoid the yoke of Spanish domination.

    Aubry was commandant and governor when General Alexandro O’Reilly took command following the expulsion of Spain’s first governor, Antonio de Ulloa, when colonists vowed they would not submit to any power other than French. It was Aubry, named governor in 1765 but who served during the period of the investigation of the Revolt of 1768 and beyond, upon whose shoulders fell the task of...

  16. Antonio de Ulloa de la Torre-Guiral (1765–1768) and Alejandro O’Reilly (1769)
    (pp. 37-41)

    The first Spanish governor of Louisiana, Antonio de Ulloa, got off to a bad start. As he took over administration of the colony, he refused to present his credentials to the Superior Council, the governing body under French rule. He further snubbed that body by governing through the French military governor, Captain Charles Philippe Aubry. Ulloa’s orders were dispatched from the Balize, a military station at the mouth of the Mississippi River, where he remained for months after his arrival.

    His contempt of the council, as well as authoritative orders restricting all shipping to certain Spanish ports, angered the general...

  17. Luis Unzaga y Amerzaga (1769–1777)
    (pp. 42-43)

    Luis Unzaga y Amerzaga accompanied O’Reilly to Louisiana; O’Reilly held the titles of captain-general and governor, and Unzaga was deputized as his successor. O’Reilly seated Unzaga as acting governor after the revolt was dealt with, and Unzaga presided over the Cabildo, the Spanish superior council for the colony, at its first meeting. As captain-general O’Reilly outranked him, but he continued as governor after O’Reilly returned to Havana, serving in that position from December 1, 1769, until August 1772. His commission was made permanent then, and he held the office until January 1, 1777.

    Born in Málaga in 1721, Unzaga spent...

  18. Bernardo de Galvez (1777–1782)
    (pp. 44-45)

    Bernardo de Galvez, who succeeded Luis Unzaga as governor of Louisiana on January 1, 1777, proved himself a hero in fighting the British and a diplomat in arranging treaties with the peaceful Indians.

    Charles III of Spain heaped praise on Galvez, especially for his exploits in capturing Baton Rouge and Mobile, and was so pleased with Galvez’s performance at Pensacola that he promoted him from lieutenant general to viscount of Galveztown (the name of his ship). The king also named Galvez captain general of Louisiana and the Floridas. Galvez’s victories at Baton Rouge and Mobile were hailed with enthusiasm in...

  19. Esteban Rodriguez Miro (1782–1791)
    (pp. 46-47)

    Esteban Rodriguez Miro, who served approximately ten years as governor of Louisiana, presided during a period of relative prosperity, according to historians. His tenure, however, was marred by a great fire, which destroyed 856 of the 1,100 buildings in New Orleans in 1788, and by efforts of Mississippi River pirates to seize Spanish lands in the Natchez area. Miro is credited with rebuilding much of New Orleans’ French Quarter, the main sector of the city at the time of the fire, and in successfully halting the river pirates’ actions. He also negotiated treaties with Indian tribes who opposed encroachment on...

  20. Francois-Louis Hector, Baron de Carondelet et Noyelles (1791–1797)
    (pp. 48-49)

    Francois-Louis Hector, Baron de Carondelet et Noyelles (Carondelet in the history books) is best remembered for the now nonexistent canal named for him and the street in New Orleans which bears his name.

    The Carondelet Canal, which linked the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain through Bayou St. John, was important for marine transportation between the two bodies of water until the early 1920s. Built between 1794 and 1796, the canal permitted shallow draft vessels to transport commodities to ships anchored in the river. It was a vital link, since tons of goods could be quickly moved through New Orleans.


  21. Manuel Gayoso de Lemos (1797–1799)
    (pp. 50-51)

    Manuel Gayoso de Lemos became governor of Louisiana at a key point in the colony’s young history. Discontent had spread because of boundary disputes with England, the bordering Indian nations, and farmers seeking to ship their goods through the port of New Orleans.

    Gayoso was governor for approximately two years. Educated in England, Gayoso went to Spain in 1771 to join Alexandro O’Reilly’s forces as an aide-de-camp in the siege of Gibraltar. An infantry soldier, he showed from the outset an ability for diplomacy. When Spain won the Natchez district in 1779, an English-speaking military officer was needed to deal...

  22. Sebastian Calvo de la Puerta Y O’Fariel, Marquis de Casa Calvo (1799–1801)
    (pp. 52-53)

    As the 1800s neared, Americans were pushing across the boundaries of Spanish Louisiana and the fledgling United States at will, to settle and trade. That was the scene as Casa Calvo was sent to New Orleans to become interim governor on September 18, 1799, following the death of Manuel Gayoso de Lemos.

    Little information has survived from the period when Casa Calvo ruled. It was apparent that his administration could not restrain the settlers. He served until July, 1801, when Juan Manuel de Salcedo came.

    Casa Calvo also had to deal with the burgeoning number of Americans over the issue...

  23. Juan Manuel de Salcedo (1801–1803)
    (pp. 54-54)

    The last of the Spanish governors, Juan Manuel de Salcedo, faded away to the Canary Islands after serving from July 14, 1801, until the transfer of Louisiana back to France on November 30, 1803. He was appointed governor, to succeed Gayoso, on October 24, 1799, but he suffered ill health, and did not take office until July 15, 1801.

    Salcedo, who served under Charles IV, did not fit the assignment very well, it seems, although little has been written about his administration. What was written was unfavorable. He boycotted meetings of the Cabildo and humiliated its members, it was said....

  24. Transfer
    (pp. 55-56)

    Flags unfurled and cannons roared as a breeze swept over the Place d’Armes, New Orleans’ public square, but the people in attendance appeared to be unmoved by the ceremonies in which Louisiana went from thirty-four years of Spanish rule back to French domination, and then in an instant the colony was delivered into the hands of the United States of America.

    This was Louisiana’s turning point in history: December 20, 1803, a day in which the size of the continental United States was doubled. The U.S. took possession of the Louisiana Territory in a deal engineered by President Thomas Jefferson...

  25. William Charles Cole Claiborne Territorial Governor 1803–1812 Governor 1812–1816
    (pp. 57-62)

    William Charles Cole Claiborne served as territorial governor and as the first elected governor of Louisiana. While he had many notable accomplishments in a short-lived but distinguished career, none was more important than the success he enjoyed in securing acceptance of the U.S. regime by the largely foreign population of Louisiana, for whom the customs, religion, language, and government of the Americans were strange.

    Claiborne was born near Richmond, Virginia, in 1775, son of a Revolutionary officer. He attended the Richmond Academy and the College of William and Mary, and was evidently a quick learner. At age fifteen, he went...

  26. Jacques Philippe Villere (1816–1820)
    (pp. 63-65)

    Jacques Philippe Villere, son of the Villere who lost his life in the Rebellion of 1769 trying to prevent the Spanish takeover of Louisiana, became the first native-born governor of the state in 1816. He had run for the office in 1812, but Governor Claiborne held the post until 1816.

    Jacques Philippe Villere was but eight years old when his father, Joseph Roy de Villere, was marked for execution but died after defying General O’Reilly’s troops when they occupied New Orleans. Young Villere, born on April 28, 1761, was sent to France to be educated and following that was commissioned...

  27. Thomas Bolling Robertson (1820–1824)
    (pp. 66-67)

    Thomas Bolling Robertson, elected Louisiana’s governor in 1820, exploited his Virginia roots at a time when the embryonic state felt the push of Virginia transplants. His election brought to the political surface a simmering feeling of competitiveness between the established Gallic French forces and the incoming new Americans, a divisiveness that would express itself many times in elections as Louisiana became part of the federal union.

    Named by President Jefferson in 1807 as one of three land commissioners in the Territory of Orleans, Robertson was elected to Congress in 1812 following a short stint as attorney general. Louisiana’s only representative...

  28. Five Governors (1824–1831)
    (pp. 68-69)

    Louisiana had five governors between 1824 and early 1831, a period of less than seven years. They included Henry S. Thibodaux, who as president of the Senate served the final month of Robertson’s term; Henry S. Johnson; Pierre Auguste Bourguignon Derbigny; Armand Julie Beauvais; and Jacques Dupre.

    Johnson served a full four-year term, from 1824 to 1828; Derbigny from December 15, 1828, until October 7, 1829; Beauvais from then until January 14, 1830, when he resigned to run for governor; and Dupre served for a year, completing Derbigny’s term. Both Beauvais and Dupre had served for short periods as president...

  29. Andre Bienvenu Roman (1831–1835; 1839–1843)
    (pp. 70-72)

    The cruel, confused politics of Louisiana after it evolved into an American state became the prototype of what developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, even into the twenty-first. A political gumbo-land, no less, led to a showdown in the election 1831.

    Disarray marked the ranks of the Creoles as they split their support between Bernard Marigny, who violently opposed the Anglo-Americans, and the more moderate former governor, Jacques Philippe Villere, who was induced to try for a comeback. Meanwhile, Martin Duralde, son-in-law of Kentucky senator Henry Clay, regarded as the most powerful Creole in the state and thought to...

  30. Edward Douglass White (1835–1839)
    (pp. 73-74)

    Edward Douglass White, governor from 1835 to 1839, found himself in a crossfire as campaigns became factionalized and issue-oriented, portending the everlasting culture of gubernatorial races in Louisiana.

    He endured a term marked by quarrels over patronage, his vote to authorize a gradual reduction in the sugar tariff when he was a congressman, and public hysteria generated by fears of slave insurrection and supposed plotting by subversive abolitionists. The native American movement, founded to protect the rights of native-born Louisianians, became a vehicle of hatred and antagonism toward any group not traditionally Anglo-American Protestant, and led to the division of...

  31. Alexandre Mouton (1843–1846)
    (pp. 75-76)

    Alexandre Mouton became Louisiana’s first Democratic governor in 1843 during economic times so tough he had to sell state properties, even the state-owned slaves, to balance the budget.

    Because of the times, Mouton opposed expenditures for internal improvement and leased the penitentiary in order to reduce expenses. He supported legislation to limit state borrowing, and at the same time advocated using income to pay off the state debt, except in the sale of public lands, whose revenue went to public education.

    Mouton and the Democratic Party supported calling a new constitutional convention, which resulted in revising the state’s basic law...

  32. Isaac Johnson (1846–1850)
    (pp. 77-78)

    Isaac Johnson, Democratic governor from 1846 to 1850, was a different kind of politician. He believed in appointing the most qualified men to public office, and in doing so incurred the wrath of his party by appointing numerous Whigs. Within two years of his election, he was out of favor in the Democratic party, which had experienced a rise in popularity under the leadership of John Slidell.

    Johnson was attracted to politics in 1833, when he won a seat in the Louisiana State Assembly, after which he was appointed judge of the Third District. He and a brother, William, and...

  33. Joseph Marshall Walker (1850–1853)
    (pp. 79-80)

    State constitutional problems confronted Joseph Marshall Walker after he was elected governor in 1850. Commercial interests in Louisiana were unhappy with the Constitutional Convention 1845 and mounted a campaign to expand its reforms.

    Principal objections included the limited right of the legislature to borrow money, a prohibition against public loans, chartering new banks and restrictions on licensing of corporations to twenty-five-year terms. Walker supported the restrictions, but the populace wanted a freer hand in play for business. The regulations were proposed in the Constitutional Convention 1845, which Walker chaired.

    Walker and most of the Democrats favored changes voted by specific...

  34. Paul Octave Hebert (1853–1856)
    (pp. 81-82)

    Slavery resurfaced as a national issue by the mid-1850s, and its crosscurrents touched upon Louisiana when the conservative Whig party gave way to the Native American or Know-Nothing party, throwing the political landscape into turmoil. Such was the climate in 1853, when Paul Octave Hebert defeated a Whig candidate, Louis Bordelon, for governor by 2,000 votes.

    Actually, change had set in during the administration of Joseph Marshall Walker, who served from 1850 to 1853. Two new parties came into being, the Know-Nothings and the Republicans. Resistance to slavery in the northern tier of states brought on the politics of secession....

  35. Robert C. Wickliffe (1856–1860)
    (pp. 83-84)

    Louisiana moved steadfastly toward its Civil War destiny with the election of Robert C. Wickliffe as governor in 1856. He set the tone of his administration in his inaugural address, in which he denounced congressional interference with domestic policy of the states. He remained preoccupied with southern rights, proposing that the nation annex Caribbean territories, obviously in an effort to spread slavery, and later he attempted to act as an intermediary between the Confederacy and the Union.

    But Wickliffe had more immediate problems after he won the Democratic party’s nomination and, carrying 31 of the state’s 43 parishes, defeated Charles...

  36. Thomas O. Moore (1860–1864)
    (pp. 85-87)

    Louisiana’s Civil War–era governor, Thomas O. Moore, took office in January 1860 as the winds of secession blew across the South, the threat of slave rebellions was being felt, and state politics were in an upheaval.

    Moore was thrust into a chaotic situation at the start of his administration. Chosen to run for the office by the politically powerful United States senator John Slidell, leader of the regular faction of the Democratic party, Moore defeated Thomas J. Wells, who had the endorsement of the Know-Nothing party, a group formed from the remnants of the Whigs. Both Moore and Wells...

  37. George F. Shepley (1862–1864)
    (pp. 88-89)

    George F. Shepley, who was appointed commandant (acting mayor) of New Orleans when the city fell to the onslaught of the Union forces that stormed up the Mississippi River during April 1862, became U.S. military governor little more than a month later. He did not seem to be up to the job: in the words of chroniclers of the time, he was a mere functionary.

    At the outbreak of the war, Shepley received a commission as a colonel in the 12th Maine Infantry Volunteers, and because of his friendship with General Benjamin F. Butler his regiment was included in the...

  38. Michael Hahn (1864–1865)
    (pp. 90-92)

    Michael Hahn, an orphan who grew up with a penchant for politics and matured in the Civil War era, served Louisiana in a wide spectrum of high offices: as governor, United States senator, twice as a U.S. congressman, and thrice in the state legislature. Along the way, he became a confidant of President Abraham Lincoln and, during and after the war, advised Washington on Louisiana developments.

    Hahn had strict Unionist views, and to disseminate them he bought, took over, or created four newspapers, obviously to promote his and the Union cause. But Hahn, who walked with the aid of a...

  39. Henry Watkins Allen (1864–1865)
    (pp. 93-95)

    Douglas Southall Freeman, the Southern historian, described Henry Watkins Allen, governor of Louisiana in 1864–65, as “the single great administrator produced by the Confederacy.” There were ample reasons for the laudatory remark, for Allen was not only a fierce fighter; he moved resolutely to shore up the infrastructure of the crumbling Confederacy, especially in the latter stages of the Civil War.

    At the outset of the war Allen aided in the formation of several military companies, volunteering as a private in the Delta Rifles Company in 1860. Then he took part in the seizure of the federal arsenal at...

  40. James Madison Wells (1865–1867)
    (pp. 96-98)

    James Madison Wells, who became governor of occupied (Southern) Louisiana upon the naming of Governor Michael Hahn to the United States Senate, found himself in a crucial role in momentous times as the Civil War ended. The Union victory attracted many opportunists from both within and without the conquered states. Natives who supported the Reconstruction military and civil authorities were called “scalawags.” Those who came to take advantage of the situation were called “carpetbaggers,” for the valises in which they carried their belongings. Both were regarded as fortune-seekers and scoundrels by the general population.

    Wells, the lieutenant governor under Hahn,...

  41. Benjamin Franklin Flanders (1867–1868)
    (pp. 99-100)

    Benjamin Franklin Flanders was military governor of Louisiana for only six months (June 6, 1867, to January 1, 1868), but his influence in state and New Orleans city government extended over several years during Reconstruction. Ironically, his enthusiasm for the Union cause shortly before New Orleans fell in April 1862 got him run out of town—fleeing so rapidly he had to leave his family behind.

    His vice: raising an American flag amid fields of Confederate banners.

    Flanders went first to Cairo, Illinois, where he offered his services to Union authorities, and then to New York City. After New Orleans...

  42. Joshua Baker (1868)
    (pp. 101-101)

    Joshua Baker, named military governor to succeed Benjamin Franklin Flanders, was caught in the switches, so to speak, in the four months he served. He won appointment through his support of President Andrew Johnson’s policy of leniency toward the South during Reconstruction, but soon found himself in the middle between the theories of competing generals.

    General Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the Fifth Military District, encompassing Louisiana and Texas, set out to remove Radical Republicans from state and local offices, in an effort to establish a conservative restoration of the civil government. In doing so, he was reversing the policies...

  43. Henry Clay Warmoth (1868–1872)
    (pp. 102-106)

    The people of Louisiana and the South generally were a defeated, impoverished mass of humanity who had suffered through four years of excruciating pain as the Civil War ran its course. Poorly clad soldiers came home in the spring of 1865 to a war-ravaged, desolate state, where they found humiliation, poverty, and despair. It was thus a land ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous men from the North, who came to be known as carpetbaggers.

    Imagine, then, the arrival of Henry Clay Warmoth, exploiter and adventurer from Illinois, who seized the opportunity at age twenty-six to become governor and in essence...

  44. P. B. S. Pinchback (1872–1873)
    (pp. 107-109)

    While the governorship of Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback spanned parts of two years, from the end 1872 until the beginning 1873, it lasted only thirty-five days, and gave him the distinction of being the only black who has ever held the office.

    On November 22, 1871, the lieutenant governor, Oscar Dunn, died. As Governor Henry Clay Warmoth was threatened with impeachment by his enemies in the Custom House Gang, Dunn’s successor became a crucial issue. If a Custom House Gang man became the lieutenant governor, he would succeed Warmoth if the governor was removed. Warmoth, wanting an ally in the...

  45. John McEnery (1873)
    (pp. 110-113)

    John McEnery and his brother, Samuel Douglas McEnery, were one of three pairs of brothers to serve as governor; the others were Iberville and Bienville, and Huey and Earl Long. While much is known about Samuel, information about John McEnery focuses on his political activity, and the confusion about his background extends to his place of birth. Joseph G. Dawson III, inThe Louisiana Governors, said that McEnery was a “native son,” while Edwin Adams Davis, in hisLouisiana: A Narrative History, wrote that he was “Virginia-born,” in Petersburg, in 1833, according to another source.

    McEnery’s family moved to Monroe,...

  46. William Pitt Kellogg (1873–1876)
    (pp. 114-118)

    William Pitt Kellogg bore little resemblance to his distinguished namesakes, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, who guided as prime minister Great Britain through the Seven Years’ War with France, and his son, William Pitt the Younger, who became prime minister at twenty-four and died in 1805 during another war with France. Rather, Kellogg had more in common with their ancestor, “Diamond” Pitt, an official who managed to make a fortune on a meager salary in India during turbulent times.

    Kellogg was born in Orwell, Vermont, in 1831, and attended Norwich Military Institute. His family moved to Peoria, Illinois, when he...

  47. Francis R. T. Nicholls (1877–1880; 1888–1892)
    (pp. 119-122)

    Confederate general Francis R. T. Nicholls, who lost his left arm and left foot in Civil War battles, had little interest in politics when the fighting ended but emerged as a leader in a political drama that unfolded, winning the governorship of Louisiana and becoming a central figure in the disputed election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president in 1876.

    Nicholls planned to return to Napoleonville to resume the practice of law after the war, but his popularity would not be denied. With the general population economically destitute in the wake of the war and Carpetbag corruption rampant, Nicholls, a...

  48. Louis Alfred Wiltz (1880–1881) and Samuel D. McEnery (1881–1888)
    (pp. 123-125)

    Louis Alfred Wiltz, Governor Nicholls’s lieutenant governor, was well-positioned to make the race for governor in 1880. He set the stage in 1879 while presiding as president of the constitutional convention of that year. The Democratic party, tired of functioning under the Constitution of 1868, which was written by the Radical Republicans, mustered the strength to revise the state’s basic law.

    The new document, however, turned out to be an instrument fashioned by an alliance between the Bourbon and Lottery forces, and had the effect of strengthening the hand of Major Edward A. Burke, Louisiana’s strongman in the 1880s. Editorialized...

  49. Murphy J. Foster (1892–1900)
    (pp. 126-128)

    The Louisiana lottery was the paramount issue in the 1892 governor’s race, a year in which the Democratic party chose two candidates for the state’s top office. Competing groups—pro- and anti-lottery—were so hostile to each other they did not meet in the same building at Baton Rouge, and each group claimed the other was but a rump organization.

    This was the era in which Louisiana men described themselves as Bourbon Democrats—men who held propertied interests and upheld Southern ideals, conservative Democrats who lived mostly where cotton had made fortunes for them.

    The pro-lottery group chose former governor...

  50. William Wright Heard (1900–1904)
    (pp. 129-131)

    The first governor of the twentieth century, William Wright Heard, was born in Union Parish on April 28, 1853. He spent much of his long career in a succession of public offices: clerk of court for Union Parish, state representative, and state senator.

    Heard was a strong supporter of Murphy J. Foster and was tapped as the Foster slate’s candidate for state auditor in 1892. He was reelected with Foster in 1896, “in what may have been the most hotly contested and fraudulent election Louisiana had yet endured,” according to Mark Carleton, who wrote: “Although much evidence suggests that Foster’s...

  51. Newton Crain Blanchard (1904–1908)
    (pp. 132-135)

    Newton Crain Blanchard served as congressman, United States senator, associate justice of the State Supreme Court, governor, and president of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1913. He held so many high public offices that it is no wonder that friends as well as political enemies regarded him as a “stuffed shirt” with a condescending manner that in his day was known as “strutting.”

    Blanchard was born near Boyce, in central Louisiana’s Rapides Parish, on January 29, 1849. His family home was Rosedale Plantation, and he had the manner of a plantation aristocrat throughout his life, a trait that came to...

  52. Jared Y. Sanders (1908–1912)
    (pp. 136-141)

    When J. Y. Sanders and Huey P. Long squared off in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans on November 15, 1927, it was probably the only time that a former governor and a future governor came to blows during a state campaign. Long, running for governor, had attacked Sanders repeatedly in the campaign, dismissing his opponents, Congressman Riley Joe Wilson and Governor O. H. Simpson, as mere tools of Sanders.

    Sanders, two dozen years older than Long, was seething at Long’s slurs when he encountered him outside the hotel’s dining room. Accounts of what followed depended on...

  53. Luther E. Hall (1912–1916)
    (pp. 142-145)

    For most governors of Louisiana, election to that office represented the capstone of their political ambitions. Some went on to the United States Senate, others served as senator prior to their elections as governor; but as a general rule, with the exceptions of Claiborne, who aspired to national office but died before he could seek it, and Huey Long, whose threatened third-party campaign for the presidency was stilled by an assassin’s bullet, the governorship was the culmination of their political ambitions.

    Luther E. Hall is unique in that regard. He may have been the only governor who wished that he...

  54. Ruffin G. Pleasant (1916–1920)
    (pp. 146-148)

    Several Louisiana governors have been distinguished by their ardent support of the LSU football team, notably Huey Long and John J. McKeithen, but Ruffin Golson Pleasant was the only governor who was captain of the Tigers, in Louisiana’s first intercollegiate game, a 34–0 drubbing by Tulane.

    Pleasant was born in Shiloh, in Union Parish, on June 2, 1871. Following graduation from LSU he studied law in the East, at both Harvard and Yale. He was lieutenant colonel of the First Louisiana Infantry Regiment in the Spanish-American War, after which he opened a law office in Shreveport. He was city...

  55. John M. Parker (1920–1924)
    (pp. 149-157)

    John M. Parker, in his long and distinguished life, battled such diverse enemies as the Ku Klux Klan, the Mafia, and Huey Long, according to historian William Ivy Hair. There is no doubt that, while he regarded them as equally evil, he reserved his greatest contempt for Long. For recreation, Parker enjoyed hunting and killing snakes on his farm at Bayou Sara; he probably associated the Kingfish with those creatures.

    “He was in many ways the antithesis of Huey Long,” Hair wrote. “Parker was dignified, honor-bound, and taciturn; Huey was indecorous, devious, and loquacious. Parker thought first about principles, Huey...

  56. Henry L. Fuqua (1924–1926)
    (pp. 158-160)

    It has been reported that when Governor Henry Luse Fuqua died at the executive mansion in Baton Rouge, inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary shed tears at his loss. Fuqua was appointed general manager of the prison by Governor Pleasant and was reappointed by Governor Parker. He was described as a kindly man who won the trust of convicts by improving conditions at the facility.

    Born in Baton Rouge on November 8, 1865, the son of a veteran of both the Mexican and Civil Wars, Fuqua attended LSU, worked on construction projects, and started his own hardware company after clerking...

  57. Oramel H. Simpson (1926–1928)
    (pp. 161-165)

    Governor Oramel Hinckley Simpson and General Andrew Jackson had one thing in common: they both saved the city of New Orleans, Jackson from the British invasion in 1815, and Simpson from invading floodwaters in 1927. At the height of the Great Mississippi Flood, when raging waters threatened to inundate New Orleans, Simpson ordered the levee at Caernarvon, below the city, dynamited. The crevasse created by dynamite preserved the levees protecting New Orleans from being topped by diverting floodwaters to the Gulf of Mexico through a temporary outlet. Later historians said the dynamiting was not necessary, but at the time Simpson...

  58. Huey P. Long (1928–1932)
    (pp. 166-179)

    Huey Pierce Long became Louisiana’s thirty-eighth governor in 1928 at age thirty-four and the first virtual dictator of an American state as he seized power by whipping the legislature into submission. Two years later, he ran for the United States Senate and was elected but retained the governorship until he could finesse the lieutenant governor, his adversary, out of his job. And, after he took care of that, he established himself as the de facto governor, actually exercising the power of the governor.

    The way he did this brought about a fascinating political drama in a state accustomed to tumultuous...

  59. Alvin O. King (1932)
    (pp. 180-182)

    “The more I try to get out of politics, the more I get into it,” Alvin Olin King said on January 25, 1932, when he was sworn in as governor. King had already decided not to seek reelection to the state senate in 1932, nor to any political office in the future, when he found himself succeeding to the lieutenant governorship and then the governorship. He served as governor until May 16, 1932, when Oscar K. Allen took office.

    King was born in Leoti, Kansas, on June 21, 1890. His family moved to Lake Charles when he was only several...

  60. Oscar K. Allen (1932–1936)
    (pp. 183-187)

    “Oscar was sitting in his office and a leaf blew in through the open window and landed on his desk,” Earl Long said. “He thought Huey must have sent it, so he signed it.”

    No governor was more aptly named than “O.K.” Allen. The image of him made indelible in histories is that of the “pliant front man” for Huey Long, the Kingfish’s “puppet governor” and “stooge,” the “rubberstamp” whose signature made all of Long’s “power grabs” law and under whose administration Long’s dictatorial control of Louisiana was perfected. Anything Long wanted, people said, was “O.K.” with Allen.

    It is...

  61. James A. Noe (1936)
    (pp. 188-193)

    James A. Noe, in forming the Win-or-Lose Corporation to deal in oil lease interests, had the good fortune to create an enterprise that always won and never lost. The fact that his partners included Governor O. K. Allen and Senator Huey Long, and that the oil properties in question were leases on state lands that Allen awarded to Noe, who then gave them to Win-or-Lose, which transferred them to major oil companies in return for royalties, may have had something to do with their success.

    Noe was the first blood donor to Huey Long as the Kingfish lay wounded in...

  62. Richard W. Leche (1936–1939)
    (pp. 194-200)
    J.B.McG. and W.G.C.

    The death of Huey P. Long from an assassin’s bullet threw the line of succession to the governor’s office in 1936 into great confusion as four Long loyalists claimed anointment by the Kingfish himself. Considering the political climate at the time, it was a cinch that whoever was seen as Long’s choice would sail to victory.

    The quartet included James A. Noe, state senate president pro tem; John B. Fournet, who had been elected to the state supreme court while serving as lieutenant governor under Governor O. K. Allen; Wade O. Martin Sr., public service commissioner; and Allen J. Ellender,...

  63. Earl K. Long (1939–1940; 1948–1952; 1956–1960)
    (pp. 201-219)

    In a broadcast to the people of Louisiana, Governor Earl K. Long assured them that he was doing well, was sound in mind, and looked forward to touring the state soon. What was unusual about the statement was that his attorney had tape-recorded it during a visit with him at which they discussed strategy for obtaining his release from the Southeast Louisiana State Hospital, a mental institution where he was confined under court order. It was the second time within less than thirty days that he had been legally committed, first in a clinic in Texas to which he had...

  64. Sam Houston Jones (1940–1944)
    (pp. 220-224)

    Sam Houston Jones, born July 15, 1897, in a log cabin in the piney woods near Merryville, was maturing as an attorney when Huey P. Long won the governorship in 1928, and from that perspective experienced firsthand Long’s manipulation of the legislature and flaunting of the law to serve his own purposes while creating a virtual dictatorship.

    Young Sam, thus endowed with the heritage of pioneering America, won admittance to the bar in 1922 by studying under an attorney in DeRidder, where his family moved when his father became clerk of court in Beauregard Parish. While serving as an assistant...

  65. Jimmie H. Davis (1944–1948; 1960–1964)
    (pp. 225-233)

    The only song played more often, recorded more frequently, and translated into more languages than Jimmie Davis’s “You Are My Sunshine” is “Happy Birthday,” but the latter song did not elect a governor, as “Sunshine” did.

    “How you going to run against that clown?” Earl Long said. “All he does is sing that song and say sweet things.” Uncle Earl was not the only politician who found it frustrating to oppose Jimmie Davis, whose stump speech consisted of a few words about how much he loved Louisiana, a promise to serve her well, and an appeal to “peace and harmony”...

  66. Robert F. Kennon (1952–1956)
    (pp. 234-242)

    It was former governor Robert F. Kennon’s misfortune when he sought a second term in 1963 that his flyers attacking President John F. Kennedy and pledging to oppose the Kennedy administration’s civil rights and other “liberal” programs, were put in the mail on November 21, 1963, and arrived in voters’ homes the day after the president was assassinated in Dallas. In the aftermath of the martyrdom of the young president, Kennedy’s positions that were anathema to a majority of Louisiana citizens were forgotten, and Kennon’s campaign collapsed in the bad timing of his criticism.

    Bob Kennon was “America’s Youngest Mayor”...

  67. John J. McKeithen (1964–1972)
    (pp. 243-247)

    Louisianians needed a strong voice of moderation in the mid-1960s in the face of federal desegregation and the disrupting civil rights movement. They got it in 1964 with election of Governor John J. McKeithen, who quickly showed an enthusiasm for change that surprised even his critics.

    Right away, “Big John,” as he was familiarly known, decided he would need more time than the law limiting a governor to a single term would permit. So he hit the ground running almost as soon as the polls closed, lining up support of newspaper publishers, editors, and television officials before passing a constitutional...

  68. Edwin W. Edwards (1972–1980; 1984–1988: 1992–1996)
    (pp. 248-253)

    When the Louisiana legislature authorized a specified number of casino and riverboat gambling licenses in 1991, it was natural that Governor Edwin Edwards, given his love of rolling the dice, would become involved in seeing who got the licenses. During his four terms in office he built himself into a position of power, and power had become a commodity to market. It was the perfect setting in which to apply the axiom enunciated by Lord Acton a hundred years earlier.

    A jury in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge on May 9, 2000, found Edwards and four others, including his...

  69. David Treen (1980–1984)
    (pp. 254-258)

    David Treen, the first Republican governor in more than a century, was a behind-the-scenes operative who studiously handled every detail of the office as though tomorrow depended on it.

    Elected in 1980 after Edwin Edwards finished his second consecutive term, Treen served from 1980 to 1984, when Edwards reclaimed the governorship in a landslide. But the vote returns do not really tell the story of Dave Treen. It was a tough time, being turned out of office after one term, and he understood why. Edwards, the flamboyant campaigner and deal-maker, never really gave up the office. He established a law...

  70. Buddy Roemer (1988–1992)
    (pp. 259-269)

    “Often wrong, but never in doubt” was the characterization of Congressman Buddy Roemer by Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill. The speaker, who proclaimed that “All politics is local,” joined most of his colleagues in the belief that the freshman congressman was brash, arrogant, and a headline hunter. Roemer, chafing at the idea of being one of 435 members, sought to call attention to himself by challenging his party’s leadership and aligning himself with “Boll Weevil” Democrats, conservatives from the South who were as close to Republicans as possible while still remaining Democrats. They provided President Ronald Reagan with...

  71. Murphy J. “Mike” Foster Jr. (1996–2004)
    (pp. 270-277)

    Baton Rouge was treated to an enormous procession of motorcycles on a clear morning as hundreds of leather-garbed riders gunned their Harley-Davidsons and rode in ranks that filled the streets as they descended on the state capitol to protest legislation that required wearing of helmets. The most unusual aspect of this demonstration was that it was led by Governor Murphy James “Mike” Foster Jr., on his own “Harley Hog.” The governor believed that motorcyclists had a constitutional right not to wear helmets, and he had succeeded in amending a law that made them mandatory. Against the advice of his own...

  72. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (2004–2008)
    (pp. 278-284)

    Louisiana’s first woman governor, elected in 2003, appeared to be on the way to a successful administration when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed the state’s coastal parishes, inundating most of New Orleans and spreading destruction and misery everywhere it touched land. The National Weather Service was quick to label Katrina as the single worst natural disaster ever to befall the United States.

    Unfortunately for Governor Kathleen Blanco, it was also the worst natural disaster to hit the Louisiana governor’s office as well. Nevertheless, the new governor, a dutiful Democrat who worked her way up the political ladder in a state...

  73. Bobby Jindal (2008–)
    (pp. 285-296)

    Bobby Jindal’s October 20, 2007, primary election as governor was greeted with raucous celebrations on two continents. One was in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Select in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the hierarchy of the state Republican Party gathered for the election returns. The other was in his family’s hometown, Maler Kotla, in the Punjab state of India. The celebration in Baton Rouge featured a jazz band, catfish, and Abita Beer. In Maler Kotla, Jinda’s relatives and their friends gathered at the ancestral home his parents had left forty years before, to celebrate with traditional folk dances, drums, firecrackers,...

  74. Index
    (pp. 297-305)