|Mayor of Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana|
June 1969 – June 1973
|Preceded by||William George Bowdon, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||John K. Snyder|
|Born||Charles Edward Karst
September 18, 1931
New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana
|Died||July 17, 1992
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Resting place||Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans|
|Political party||Democratic Party-turned-Republican-returned Democrat-turned "No Party"|
|Spouse(s)||Divorced from Judy Ward-Steinman Karst|
|Children||Alexander Regard Karst
Alicia Barrows Karst
|(1) Karst won election as mayor of Alexandria in 1969 on a "reform" platform and vowed to clean City Hall from corruption in the administration of his predecessor.
(2) The man whom Karst defeated for mayor in 1969 was the same individual who succeeded him in 1973, another controversial Alexandria mayor named John K. Snyder.
(4) In 1992, Karst was arrested and held on a $100,000 bond in the custody of the Orleans Parish Prison on two counts of public intimidation for having made threats on the lives of the judges of the state Supreme Court.
Charles Edward Karst, known as Ed Karst (September 18, 1931 – July 17, 1992), was an attorney and politician remembered for his controversial tenure as the mayor (1969–1973) of Alexandria, the seat of Rapides parish and the largest city in central Louisiana. In 1991, Karst launched a bizarre "No Party" gubernatorial campaign in which he threatened if elected to fire the members of the Louisiana Supreme Court or, if defeated, as he was, to kill the justices, who had upheld his disbarment. At times, Karst was a member of both the Democratic and the Republican parties, but he ran for governor with the "No Party" label, as permitted in Louisiana.
The New Orleans-born Karst was the son of Charles Karst, Jr. (1890–1981). He was educated in the Roman Catholic Jesuit High School in New Orleans. He then attended Tulane University, and Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. He relocated to Alexandria to practice law during the 1960s.
Karst and Snyder
In 1969, Karst emerged as a sharp-tongued candidate for mayor after it became clear that the scandal-plagued 16-year incumbent, W. George Bowdon, Jr., might not win a fifth consecutive term. Bowdon's father had been mayor from 1941 to 1945; Bowdon had won the position in 1953 to succeed Carl B. Close. In the April 5 Democratic primary, Karst led with 4,093 votes (36 percent) to John K. Snyder's 3,128 (27.5 percent). Snyder, an admirer of the late Governor Earl Kemp Long, considered himself a "populist". The third place candidate, John B. Honeycutt (1911–1998), who had earlier run unsuccessfully for Rapides Parish sheriff, received 2,021 votes (17.8 percent). Bowdon trailed in fourth place with 1,784 votes (15.7 percent). Three other candidates polled a total of 359 votes (3.2 percent).
In the mayoral runoff election held on May 17, 1969, Karst prevailed, 6,016 (53.7 percent) to Snyder's 5,188 (46.3 percent). With Karst's victory, Governor John McKeithen cancelled the general election scheduled for June because only Democrats had filed for the Alexandria municipal offices.
Karst soon found himself at odds with his two fellow Democratic council members under the commission form of municipal government, Streets and Parks Commissioner O'Hearn L. Mathews (1923–1975), a former city marshal, and Carroll E. Lanier, an electrician who won the now nonexistent post of finance and utilities commissioner. Mathews and Lanier had upset Commissioners William Henry "Bill" Lambdin, Sr. (1894–1980), and Leroy Wilson (1905–1978), respectively, both caught up in the anti-incumbent tide. Wilson's nephew, George I. Wilson (1935–1983), was the manager of the city utilities office and remained in place after the change of administration. Ray R. Allen remained as city secretary-treasurer under the Karst administration.
Karst and the GOP
Karst hired the controversial "Radical Right" activist, Kent Courtney, formerly of New Orleans, as his executive assistant. It was unclear how much impact Courtney had on Karst's political decisions. Early in 1972, Karst switched his affiliation to the Republican Party and vowed to work for the establishment of a two-party system in Louisiana. In the congressional election that year, he hosted the Republican candidate, Roy C. Strickland, then a trucking executive from Gonzales in Ascension Parish. Strickland, who opposed the Democrat Gillis William Long of Alexandria, recalls having spent the night in the Karst home during that campaign and the mayor's stated commitment to building a Republican Party.
Karst, however, soon bowed out of municipal politics. He was critical of the commission form of government and advocated a change to the mayor-council format, which was finalized in the summer of 1977. Karst did not seek reelection as mayor in 1973 but returned to his law practice and business ventures. Snyder, meanwhile, defeated the favorite of the business community, reform State Representative R. W. "Buzzy" Graham, the owner of an insurance agency. Karst watched the campaign on the sidelines. Again, no Republicans ran for any city offices that year. Karst did not remain in the GOP. By 1978, he was once again a Democrat and ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in Rapides Parish.
Karst was suspended from his law practice after he accused Ninth Judicial District Judge Guy E. Humphries, Jr., of corruption. The allegation came after Humphries ruled against Karst in several lawsuits which pitted Karst against the Alexandria architect Joe E. Fryar, Jr. (born June 24, 1932), in a dispute over public housing projects formerly known as "Karst Park". The bar association initiated disbarment proceedings against Karst on the grounds that his slurs against Judge Humphries constituted misconduct. In a hearing in 1981, Karst admitted that the allegations that he hurled against Humphries were false. Karst failed to be reinstated to his law practice, as the Louisiana Supreme Court denied each appeal.
A gubernatorial bid
In the 1991 gubernatorial nonpartisan blanket primary, remembered for the David Duke and Edwin Washington Edwards candidacies, Karst ran without a party label and polled some 9,300 votes, or 1 percent of the total. He threatened the Supreme Court justices with an Uzi. "Louisiana's root problem is not lack of jobs and pay raises for teachers, police, and other public employees," Karst said during the campaign. "It is unchecked corruption by the Five Supremes, self-anointed high priests of the Louisiana Way who worship at the temple of corruption in New Orleans. ... I will have no choice but to execute them, blow them away," Karst vowed.
Legal and health troubles
Karst, meanwhile, contracted cancer and died some two weeks before he was to stand trial. His opposition to the judges stemmed from a protracted civil court battle that left him suspended from his law practice and nearly destitute. Judge Jerome Winsberg set August 4, 1992 as court date, after he determined that Karst was competent to stand trial.
On July 2, 1992, Karst suffered a perforated stomach, according to then public defender Craig Colwart. Exploratory surgery at New Orleans Charity Hospital revealed that Karst had terminal colon and liver cancer. "He was doing OK after the surgery and then he took a turn for the worst," Colwart said. Two weeks before his death, Karst's last appeal for reinstatement to the bar was denied. Karst faced felony charges that could have brought a ten-year sentence.
Karst was divorced from the former Judith "Judy" Ward-Steinman (born February 16, 1941), a Ph.D. who herself ran for mayor in 1977 but polled few votes. Karst lived in New Orleans for the last decade of his life. After the divorce, Karst was convicted in Rapides Parish of two misdemeanor counts of trespassing on property owned by his former wife and his former father-in-law, Irving Ward-Steinman (1905-1996), the owner of an Alexandria radio station.
The Karsts had three children: son Alexander Regard Karst (born 1970) and daughters Alicia Barrows Karst (born 1972) and Jacqueline Ward Karst, all then of Alexandria. He was also survived by a brother, Charles Karst, III, of Montgomery, Alabama, and two sisters, Jacqueline Winter of River Ridge in Jefferson Parish and Katherine Bosworth of New Orleans.
- "Charles Karst in the U.S. Public Records Index". search.ancestry.com. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- "Ray Allen, former city of Alexandria finance director, dies at age of 89". Alexandria Daily Town Talk, April 7, 2010.
"Former candidate for governor Karst dies", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, July 18, 1992, p. 9-C
"Ex-Mayor Karst dies", Alexandria Daily Town Talk, July 18–19, 1992
Alexandria Daily Town Talk, May 19, 1973