Edwin F. Hunter
|Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr.|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana|
October 3, 1953 – February 22, 2002
(Chief judge, 1973-1976); (Senior judge, 1976-2002)
|Nominated by||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|Preceded by||Gaston L. Porterie|
|Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish (at-large)|
|Preceded by||Wellborn Jack
Turner B. Morgan
|Succeeded by||Algie D. Brown
James C. Gardner
February 18, 1911|
Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, USA
|Died||February 22, 2002
Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana
|Alma mater||Louisiana State University, George Washington University (1938)|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Battles/wars||USS Saratoga in World War II|
Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr. (February 18, 1911 – February 22, 2002), was the longest-sitting U.S. District Court judge in the nation, having served the Western District of Louisiana for forty-eight years. Hunter was based in Lake Charles in the southwestern portion of the state, from 1953, originally under recess appointment, until his death, four days after his 91st birthday. Hunter was known for his civil rights rulings. From 1948 to 1952, he was a one-term member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, having represented Caddo Parish in one of its then at-large seats.
Early years, education, military
Hunter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Ford Hunter, Sr., in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, in Central Louisiana. He obtained his bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In 1938, Hunter received his LL.B. degree from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. and was immediately admitted to the practice of law. He practiced privately in Springhill in northern Webster Parish from 1938-1941. Then he relocated to Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish in far northwestern Louisiana.
In 1945, his World War II service concluded, Hunter resumed his private practice in Shreveport and was elected three years later to the legislature. In 1952, he became executive counsel to the new Democratic governor of Louisiana, Robert Floyd "Bob" Kennon, a native of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish.
Eisenhower chooses Hunter
On October 3, 1953, however, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom Kennon had supported in the 1952 campaign, named the Democrat Hunter to a recess appointment on the federal court to fill the seat vacated by Gaston L. Porterie. Hunter was thereafter confirmed by the United States Senate within a month of his nomination, on February 9, 1954, and received his commission the following day. He was chief judge from 1973 to 1976, assuming senior status on February 19, 1976 and continuing to serve on the bench in that capacity.
Civil rights rulings
Shortly after being appointed to the federal bench, Hunter ruled for the plaintiff in a case that opened all-white McNeese State University (then "College") in Lake Charles to the first African-American students. McNeese later honored Hunter with the "Edwin F. Hunter, Jr., Professorship in Health and Science."
In 1960, Hunter slapped a contempt of court charge against his old friend, then Louisiana Attorney General Jack P.F. Gremillion, for a comment that Gremillion made in a federal courtroom while Gremillion was opposing the New Orleans public school desegregation case.
Professor Michael G. Wade of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, researched a case during the time of the civil rights movement in regard to the lack of a predominantly black institution of higher learning in Lafayette Parish. According to Wade, Hunter concluded that six predominantly white state colleges in Louisiana had been geographically located for the convenience of whites, with "the purpose obviously being to make education available to more people and to make it possible for more people to stay at home and go to college at less expense." Yet, Hunter found that the same opportunity had not been provided to black students, in the particular case in Lafayette Parish. Those individuals, he said, had no college to which they could commute daily. Therefore, the court held that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then Southwestern State College) must be desegregated.
In 1962, Judge Hunter signed voter registration cards for twenty-eight blacks in majority-black East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana. In a case that attracted national attention, he became the first federal judge to use the Civil Rights Act of 1960, a measure signed by President Eisenhower, to strike against a "pattern of discrimination" by registering voters himself. At the time, not one black had been allowed to register for forty years in Lake Providence, the seat of East Carroll Parish. The parish is one of the state's most economically-deprived areas.
The registration of the black voters in East Carroll Parish brought Hunter into temporary conflict with Louisiana 6th Judicial District Judge Frank Voelker, Sr., of Lake Providence, who accused Hunter of having overstepped his judicial limits by acting personally in an executive authority in the matter. The East Carroll Parish voter registrar, Cecil Manning, resigned and closed the office on June 14, 1962, rather than to allow the new registrants to be placed on the rolls. The provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1960 used by Judge Hunter was strengthened and made uniform across most of the American South in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Hunter's work ethic
In his 89th year, Hunter said that he needed to work to prevent boredom. He carried a large civil workload until the end of his life. He presided over more admiralty cases than any other judge.
He died in Lake Charles, where he is honored by the naming of the Edwin F. Hunter, Jr. United States Courthouse and Federal Building at 611 Broad Street. In 1999, Hunter was honored as the "Distinguished Jurist" by the Louisiana Bar Foundation. He was a member of Sigma Chi society.
Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr., 1953-1973
|Senior judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr.
Nauman Steele Scott II, 1976-1984
- "State Judge Restrains Federal Judge's Order", Sumter Daily Item, Sumter, South Carolina, July 21, 1962, p. 1
- Edwin F. Hunter at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.