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Political Wars, Part VIII

Political Wars, Part VIII

It was 1950 … I won a car! In 1951, I was best man at my best friend Dick Guidry’s wedding and helped him campaign for State Representative. In 1952, he made the run-off but the second primary was brutal.

At issue in the governor’s race was the philosophy of Huey-Earl/Longism, represented by Judge Carlos Spaht, and the torch of political reform carried by Judge Robert Kennon.

Lafourche Parish had grudge matches. ‘Old regular’ Frank Ducos, (Chief Deputy to former Sheriff Dr. Thomas Stark), had defeated Sheriff Dr. Charles Barker, and Assessor Dave Robichaux had lost to Max Rizan in the Earl Long sweep of 1948.

Sheriff Ducos and his opponent, former deputy Sheriff Clinton Cheramie, were South Lafourche natives making that race personal and divisive because that area was mostly Cajun, and Cajuns, more often than not, were related. Furthermore the murder of Cheramie’s father remained unsolved, for which his family blamed the sheriff’s office.

The campaign was on! Sound trucks were blaring my “Shrimp Boat “and “Bye Bye” songs throughout Lafourche while the candidates exchanged accusations on newspapers and radio. (TV was not a major factor yet and only used once.)

As the campaigns progressed an “all parish” rally was held at John Guidry’s store, next to the Galliano pontoon bridge. Passengers in a car crossing the bridge were identified as “old regular” supporters and were immediately surrounded. The crowd was about to dump the car into Bayou Lafourche when Dick Guidry’s voice rang out from the sound truck: ”Please don’t do this. That’s not who we are! That’s not what we’re fighting for.”
It worked. It calmed the crowd. The car was let through and the rally proceeded.

Earlier on that same bridge two brothers on opposite sides had a scuffle and drew knives, but the fight was stopped before anyone was hurt.

A semi-final “all parish” rally was held at Golden Meadow High School with a huge turn out Sunday before the Tuesday election. Following the meeting a motorcade was to parade to Thibodaux for their final rally on Mount Carmel High School’s campus. Over 100 cars were lining up and the last voice heard was Dick Guidry at the mike saying: “We’ll all meet in Thibodaux. Drive carefully! Don’t wreck!”

There was only one wreck, Dick Guidry. Like a cowboy on a dead horse, he left his car and jumped into another one without missing a beat.

My band was playing “Shrimp Boats” with my new lyrics as the motorcade arrived, joining the crowd already there. The State Police and sheriff’s deputies maintained controlled even though the rally was being held to defeat their bosses, the governor and sheriff. An estimated 5,000 attended but all I could see from the truck was a sea of heads.

The polls predicted a Kennon landslide and since the “all parish” supported him, he had promised to attend their last rally but HE DID NOT SHOW UP! There were rumors he received a large campaign contribution to stay away. We’ll never know, but he could have made a difference in the close sheriff’s race.

Election eve workers got their instructions, cars were decorated, tanks filled with gas at .32 cents a gallon, and the long bitter campaign would soon become history.

Arriving at the polls, I sat by fellow commissioner Numa Guidry, whose service station I patronized and from whom I had bought a 1949 used car. He was writing on a notebook as the people voted.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Counting votes,” he answered.

“I thought that came after the polls closed,” I said.

“I’m doing it now,” he said with a smile and I forgot about it.

After the votes were counted, I stood amazed! With over 800 votes cast, his tabulation was off by six votes in the governor’s race and three in the sheriffs’ race. I had been sitting next to a human mind reading computer 35 years before they were invented.

Today, his sons are prominate boat owners in Galliano. Smart as their dad? I don’t know but I still remember that incident today and I’m still astonished. I kid you not!

Next week: the results, ramifications, repercussion, aftermath and faux pas.

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