Cecil Morgan

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Cecil Morgan, Sr.
Cecil Morgan - Tulane.jpg
Morgan pictured in The Jambalaya 1965, Tulane yearbook
Louisiana State Senator from Caddo Parish
In office
1932–1934
Preceded by John M. Wynn
Succeeded by Roscoe C. Cranor
Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish
In office
1928–1932
Preceded by At-large members:

Reuben T. Douglas
Perry Keith
Marion K. Smith
John M. Wynn

Succeeded by At-large members:

Dr. P. T. Alexander
William J. B. Chandler
Joseph B. Hamiter
Rupert Peyton

Tulane University Law School Dean
In office
1963–1968
Preceded by William Ray Forrester
Succeeded by Joseph Modeste Sweeney
Personal details
Born (1898-08-20)August 20, 1898
Omaha-Winnebago Indian Reservation in Nebraska
Died June 15, 1999(1999-06-15) (aged 100)
New Orleans
Louisiana, USA
Resting place Magnolia Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Relations Richard Howell (3rd grandfather)
Children Cecil Morgan, Jr., M.D.

Margaret Morgan Harbison

Alma mater Louisiana State University Law Center

Cecil Morgan, Sr. (August 20, 1898 – June 15, 1999) was a leader of the legislative forces that in 1929 attempted to impeach Louisiana Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr. Later, Morgan was an executive of Long's nemesis, the former Standard Oil Company, and the dean of the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans.

Biography[edit]

Morgan was born on the Omaha-Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. His father, Howell Morgan, was an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and his third great grandfather was Richard Howell, a governor of New Jersey. He was also distantly related to Varina Howell, second wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. When Cecil was about six years of age, Howell Morgan purchased the family home called Linwood Plantation, located approximately twenty miles north of Baton Rouge, and began its renovation. Meanwhile, Howell Morgan became involved in politics and was elected state treasurer in 1920 on the Democratic ticket of successful gubernatorial candidate John M. Parker, a former member of the Progressive Party.

Morgan graduated in 1919 from Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge and moved to Shreveport to participate in the area oil boom. He also wanted to succeed on his own without his father's assistance. In 1921, Huey Long, also practicing law in Shreveport, asked Morgan to become his law partner. Morgan declined on the grounds that "I didn't think he was ethical." While attending LSU, he also joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Political career[edit]

Morgan was elected as a Democrat in 1928 to the Louisiana House of Representatives from Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. In the same election, Long was chosen governor. Morgan soon found himself at odds with the self-designated "Kingfish" of Louisiana politics.

The attempt to impeach Long touched off fistfights on the state House floor. Anti-Long elements were horrified when Long seized power and spent state funds in questionable ways. For Morgan, Long's plan to impose a nickel per barrel tax on oil refined in Louisiana was the breaking point. A legislative group known as the "Dynamite Squad", whose members were from old aristocratic families and friendly with the Old Regulars faction in New Orleans, drafted nineteen allegations against Long.

Among those in the Dynamite Squad was Representative Mason Spencer of Madison Parish in the northeastern delta and freshman Representative Ralph Norman Bauer of St. Mary Parish, who was elected House Speaker in 1940 and again in 1944.[1]

Among other infractions, Long was accused of attempting to arrange the murder of state Representative Jared Y. Sanders, Jr., of Baton Rouge, the son of a former governor, Jared Y. Sanders, Sr., whom Long grappled with earlier in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans; bribing lawmakers to get bills approved; carrying concealed weapons; demolishing the previous governor's mansion without proper authorization, and attending a drunken party in which a stripper entertained.

Morgan was assigned by the "Dynamite Squad" to read the charges before the House. When word of the plan leaked out, pro-Long forces tried to adjourn the House for the day. Speaker John Baptiste Fournet of St. Martinville in St. Martin Parish in south Louisiana, selected for the post by Long himself, ruled that the motion for adjournment had majority support. Morgan and others in the anti-Long faction loudly objected. They claimed that the voting machine was rigged. To his death, Fournet denied any involvement in a plot to rig the machines. A brawl known thereafter as "Bloody Monday" broke out on the House floor. Some lawmakers reportedly used brass knuckles in the scuffle. Morgan rounded up witnesses for a hearing on the charges against Long. The House finally voted to impeach the Kingfish on eight counts.

The impeachment proceedings were ruled constitutional by Attorney General Percy Saint, one of the few statewide officials to survive the Long tide in the election of 1928.[2]

However, Long persuaded fifteen of the thirty-nine state senators (one more than one-third of the membership needed to defeat the impeachment) to sign a "Round Robin" document declaring that under no circumstances would they ever vote to convict Long of any violation. The "Round Robin" sealed the fate of the anti-Long forces, and Long finished his term as governor. He was even elected to the United States Senate in 1930 but remained as governor until January 1932, five months before the end of his term.

In 1928, Long warned Morgan that he would fire Morgan's father, Harold Morgan, the former state treasurer, from his job as a state bank examiner if Cecil Morgan opposed Long's legislative proposals. Long fired Harold Morgan, who moved to Shreveport to be with his son. Cecil Morgan told an interviewer that Long "was as cold-blooded in his desire for power as a human being could be."

Fournet would not speak to Morgan for almost a half century after their dispute. At a meeting of the Louisiana Bar Association in Biloxi, Mississippi, not that long before Fournet's death, the two were finally reconciled. For much of the time, Fournet and Morgan had both resided in New Orleans.

After his single term in the state House, Morgan was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1932. He resigned midway in the term to accept a judgeship to which he was elected in 1934. He served as judge for only two years.

Post-political career[edit]

In 1936, Morgan left the bench to become the general counsel for Standard Oil. In 1943, he was named a vice president and member of the board of directors.

Later he held the title of associate general counsel and vice president of the Esso Company (later Exxon), a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey. In 1952, Morgan assumed an office in New York City in a high position in Standard Oil management.

Other services to Louisiana[edit]

From 1944 to 1948, Morgan served at the request of anti-Long Governor James Houston "Jimmie" Davis on the Louisiana Civil Service Commission. He later received the Monte E. Lemann Award from the Louisiana State Civil Service League.

From 1963 to 1968, Morgan was the Tulane Law School dean. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate degree.

Morgan also helped to organize the "good-government" group known as the Public Affairs Research Council and was a past president of the National Municipal League, a vice chairman of the Committee For A National Trade Policy, a board member of Radio Free Europe, and a member of the American Law Institute. He also held membership in the American Legion, International House, the Boston Club, the Metropolitan Club, and the Economic Club.

Death[edit]

Morgan was the last surviving Louisiana legislator from the 1929 session and the last to have served in the old state Capitol building. He was one hundred years old when he died at his home in New Orleans.

In retirement, Morgan did an interview on file with the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU.

Survivors included a son, Cecil Morgan, Jr., M.D., a urologist from Birmingham, Alabama, who retired from his practice in 2001; a daughter, Margaret Morgan Harbison of New York City, six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. Services were held on June 19, 1999, in the chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church, 1329 Jackson Avenue in New Orleans. Interment was at Magnolia Cemetery in Baton Rouge.

Legacy[edit]

The Public Broadcasting Service, in a Ken Burns documentary about Huey Long in the middle 1980s, reported that Morgan did not regard Long as evil. "I don't pretend that he didn't do some things that were good, such as providing free textbooks to schools." However, Morgan added that "everything he did cost more than it should have. It was necessary for the state for somebody with his qualities to come forward, and I think he muffed it. He left us with a heritage from which we have not recovered."

Another Long legacy was the skyscraper state Capitol, which was built in a year for $5 million and dedicated in 1932. The castlelike older Capitol held stronger emotional ties for Morgan, not because of the impeachment fight which occurred there, but because Morgan's ancestral home, Hickey House, once stood on the site. In 1845, the land was sold to the City of Baton Rouge and donated to the state.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ American Legislative Leaders in the West: 1911 - 1994, p. 11. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1997. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Percy Saint". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography by Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved April 16, 2011. 

References[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
At-large members:

Reuben T. Douglas
Perry Keith
Marion K. Smith
John M. Wynn

Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish
1928–1932
Succeeded by
At-large members:

Dr. P. T. Alexander
William J. B. Chandler
Joseph B. Hamiter
Rupert R. Peyton

Preceded by
Pike Hall, Jr.
Louisiana State Senator from Caddo Parish
1932–1934
Succeeded by
Roscoe C. Cranor
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
George H. Gallup
President of the National Municipal League
December 1956 – December 1959
Succeeded by
William Collins
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Ray Forrester
Tulane University Law School Dean
1963 – 1968
Succeeded by
Joseph Modeste Sweeney