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The Political War of 1951, Part I

The Political War of 1951, Part I

The election of 1952, my first vote, was arguably the most bitterly fought Louisiana election of the 20th century, especially in South Lafourche, where, like the Civil War, it pitted brother against brother.

After being elected Governor in 1928, Huey Long had dominated Lafourche Parish politics, and his death in 1935 was exploited by his followers to defeat their opposition.

Thibodaux 3rd District Congressman Numa Monet was accused of running on the “Assassination Ticket” and although in office since 1929 he lost to Robert Mouton in 1937.

After reconstruction, the Democratic Party was the only one still standing and they held every state and parish office in Louisiana and most of the South, comparable to the Republicans today. Louisianans said that Republicans could hold their convention in a phone booth. (Superman used them too, but they are now obsolete.)

Since 1928 the Democratic Party had split into Long and anti-Long factions so in primaries, Democrats fought Democrats. General elections were redundant since less than 100 Republicans were registered in Lafourche. Winning the primary was tantamount to winning the election but interparty rivalries were intense.

It came to a head in Lafourche in 1951 with the followers of Huey/Earl Long, called “The Old Regulars”, motivated by former Senator Harvey Peltier, Sr., versus the remnants of the Sam Jones/Jimmy Davis faction which had won the governorships in 1940 and 1944. Their Lafourche supporters had elected Sheriff Dr. Charles Barker, Assessor Dave Robichaux and Senator Walter Lanier during that period.

In 1948, Earl Long swept Louisiana and Lafourche and the Old Regulars regained the offices they had lost and prepared for the election of 1952.

Forming an opposition slate were Thibodaux attorney Bernard Knoblock, (later Judge), and David Barker, (later Police Juror), son of former Sheriff Barker who had been defeated by Frank Ducos. (I hope you’re taking notes because there will be a quiz.)

The Old Regulars supported Judge Carlos Spaht from Lake Charles for governor with Earl Long, who could not seek re-election, as his Lt. Governor; incumbent Frank Ducos for sheriff; Leonard Toups for senator; Eugene Gouaux and Harvey Peltier, Jr., for state representative, incumbents Clerk of Court Raoul Legendre and Assessor Max Rizan, and a full slate of locals.

Candidates ran as a team or “ticket” and voters were urged to, and most did, vote the “straight ticket”.

The Jones/Davis faction entered the primary under their new name “The All Parish Ticket”.

The Lafourche Comet had announced that Barker and Knoblock were forming a new political “All Parish” organization, and the name stuck. They supported Judge Robert Kennon from Minden for governor, and from Thibodaux, attorney Clyde Caillout for senator, insurance agent R.J. Signet for representative and longtime Clerk of Court employee Ms. Jeanne Coulon for that job.

From South Lafourche was Richard “Dick” Guidry for state representative, Alvin Louviere for assessor and heading the ticket, former deputy Clinton Cheramie for sheriff opposing fellow South Lafourche native and incumbent Sheriff Frank Ducos.

I now admit I was supporting the “All Parish” ticket because of my lifetime friendship with Dick Guidry. I was partisan, this column is not, just fair and balanced. (Sorry Bill O’.)

A third ticket, the Robichaux-Landry ticket included Thibodaux businessmen Dave Robichaux, trying to regain his assessor job, attorney Bernard Knoblock for senator and Ambroise Landry trying to unseat incumbent Clerk of Court Raoul Legendre.

Frank Ducos and Clinton Cheramie fought the political battle of the century. The sheriff’s race was always the “biggie” and here were two local boys metaphorically in the ring duking it out.

The “Old Regulars” wanted to keep the incumbents and the “All Parish” wanted to defeat them.

Both sides played rough and used every political weapon available then … radio, newspapers, signs and public rallies. Television was not yet a major factor and was scarcely used. Television was not always here, my friends—we used to watch radio.

This election and the one it spawned shaped my future. Not many remember and that number is thinning fast. I’ll continue next week with Political Wars II, and as Bette Davis once said, “Fasten your seat belt—it’s going to be a bumpy ride”.

BYE NOW!
Comments are welcomed at: leroymartin1929@gmail.com