Cat Doucet

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Daly Joseph "Cat" Doucet, Sr.
Sheriff of St. Landry Parish
Louisiana, USA
In office
1936–1940
In office
1952–1968
Personal details
Born (1899-11-08)November 8, 1899
Grand Prairie, St. Landry Parish
Louisiana
Died February 9, 1975(1975-02-09) (aged 75)
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Anna Dorcey Doucet (married 1919-1975, his death)
Children Alberta, Harold, Yvonne, Louis Austin, Anna Dale, and Daly, Jr.
Occupation Law-enforcement officer
Religion Roman Catholic

Daly Joseph Doucet, Sr., known as Cat Doucet (November 8, 1899 – February 9, 1975), was a Democratic politician and a law enforcement officer from St. Landry Parish in south Louisiana. He served as sheriff of St. Landry Parish for a total of twenty years.

Background[edit]

Doucet was born in Grand Prairie in St. Landry Parish to Lucius Doucet and the former Aza Lafleur (1879–1970).[1] He was educated in the public schools of Ville Platte, the seat of Evangeline Parish. In 1919, Doucet married the former Anna Dorcey (1892–1979)[1][2] of Lafayette. The couple had six children, Alberta, Harold John, I (deceased), Yvonne, Louis Austin, Anna Dale, and Daly, Jr. (1941–1974).[1][3]

The Doucets were followers of the legendary Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who stayed at their home when he was in the area.[4] Elton J. Doucet (1901–1992),[1] Cat's younger brother, recalled in 1991: "All the farmers and all the poor people was [sic] for Huey P. Long, The Pavys (a reference to anti-Long Judge Benjamin Pavy who was the father-in-law of presumed Long assassin Dr. Carl Weiss) couldn't get nothing [sic] they wanted from Huey. If he was your friend, he'd help you. If you were his enemy he'd stomp you down."[4]

A 20-year sheriff[edit]

Running as a Long Democrat, Doucet was elected in 1936 as sheriff of St. Landry Parish. He emerged as a colorful, controversial figure, much like that of the later Sheriff F.O. "Potch" Didier, who served from 1960-1980 in Avoyelles Parish to the north. Didier once even spent time in his own jail on a charge of malfeasance.[5]

Based in Opelousas, Doucet served as sheriff from 1936–1940 and again from 1952-1968. He was unseated in the 1940 anti-Long surge that elected Sam Houston Jones of Lake Charles as governor, rather than incumbent Earl Kemp Long, younger brother of Huey Long. Doucet survived another anti-Long sweep in 1952, which brought Robert F. Kennon of Minden to the governorship, to regain the sheriff's position, which he thereafter held in four consecutive elections. Doucet was among the first white politicians in Louisiana to endorse the civil rights agenda.[3][6]

In supporting the registration of African American voters in St. Landry Parish as early as 1952, Doucet cemented a hold on black backers that endured throughout his four later terms in office. Buoyed by the large black community in his parish, Doucet was able to fend off the opposition of both "good government" groups and vocal segregationists.[7]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation accused Doucet of protecting gambling and prostitution within his jurisdiction. Doucet presumably even gained his nickname for having allowed prostitution to flourish in the "cathouses," slang for brothels, along U.S. Highway 190 between Opelousas and Krotz Springs and Opelousas and Eunice.[8] An FBI memorandum dated August 10, 1939, reports that Doucet was "operating all slot machines in St. Landry Parish."[8] Some twenty years later, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that "flagrant gambling law violations" continued in St. Landry Parish.[9]

In 1940, the Eunice New Era newspaper accused Doucet and other officials of malfeasance by having "failed to perform their required duties in connection with shutting down of slot machines in St. Landry Parish."[8] Out of office in 1940, a grand jury indicted Doucet for the embezzlement of some $3,000 in public funds. Seven former deputies testified against the sheriff. The case, however, was dismissed because of prosecutorial irregularities. In a subsequent investigation in 1953, the St. Landry Parish grand jury failed to indict Doucet.[8]

In an interview with the historian Michael Kurtz of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, co-author with Morgan D. Peoples of Louisiana Tech University of The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics (published 1992), Doucet said that the final return of Earl Long to the governorship from 1956-1960 permitted Doucet to "open up the cathouses again . . . he promised to let me get my fair share of the take."[8]

In the 1960s, Curt Hewitt, operator of the Peppermint Lounge on the St. Landry/Evangeline border, who had paid bribes to Doucet in vice trades, brought his expertise to Concordia Parish, opposite Natchez, Mississippi. There in Vidalia and Ferriday, the veteran Sheriff Noah W. Cross filled the same role as Doucet in St. Landry Parish.[8]

Hewitt, Cross and several others were in time prosecuted on various federal racketeering, perjury, and jury tampering charges in the early 1970s, after a six-year investigation pursued by an FBI agent Doucet was cleared of all charges. Ultimately, Cross went to prison.[8]

The Doucet legacy[edit]

Louisiana author Mary Alice Fontenot and Vincent Riehl in 1972 published The Cat and St. Landry, a biography of Doucet.[10] In 1999, Doucet was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[11]Only four other sheriffs have received this designation, Charles Fuselier, Leonard R. "Pop" Hataway, Harry Lee, and Jessel Ourso.

One of Doucet's great-grandsons, Harold John Doucet, III, (July 11, 1982–May 29, 2008), owned a motorcycle shop in Scott. He died at the age of twenty-five[12] and was interred at Bellevue Memorial Park in Opelousas. He was born some seven years after Sheriff Doucet's death. Another great-grandson, Ryan Doucet, died prior to 2008.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ Some sources spell "Dorcey" as "Darcey."
  3. ^ a b "Doucet, Daly Joseph "Cat"". lahistory.org. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b ""Weiss's Body May Hold Clue," October 17, 1991". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Philip Timothy, "Ex-governor [Edwin Washington Edwards] tops list of colorful parish politicians"". Alexandria Daily Town Talk, March 18, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  6. ^ Information on this article was derived by The Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org) from Mary Alice Fontenot and Vincent Riehl, The Cat and St. Landry (1972) and selected issues of the Opelousas Clarion and Opelousas Daily World, from 1935-1969.
  7. ^ Adam Fairclough, Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1995, ISBN 0-8203-1700-4. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Stanley Nelson, Matt Barnidge, and Ian Stanford, "Connected by violence: the mafia, the Klan & Morville Lounge,"". Concordia Sentinel, July 16, 2009. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ New Orleans Times-Picayune, December 11, 1958
  10. ^ The Cat and St. Landry. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Claitor's Publishing Company, 1972, 153 pp. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame". lapoliticalmuseum.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  12. ^ Young Doucet's obituary does not list a cause of death.
  13. ^ "Harold John Doucet, III". ardoinfuneralhomes.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010.