Francis Grevemberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Francis Carroll Grevemberg
Francis Grevemberg.jpg
Louisiana State Police superintendent
In office
May 13, 1952 – March 1955
Personal details
Born (1914-06-04)June 4, 1914
Biloxi, Harrison County,
Mississippi, USA
Died November 24, 2008(2008-11-24) (aged 94)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Resting place Urn in St. Martinville, Louisiana
Political party Republican, after 1959
Spouse(s) Dorothy Maguire Grevemberg (1917–2010)
Children Francis J. Grevemberg

Carroll S. Grevemberg

Occupation United States Army colonel; Businessman
Religion Roman Catholic
(1) Grevemberg's crusading work as superintendent of the Louisiana state police prompted his memoirs, a film about his career, and two unsuccessful attempts to be elected governor.

(2) Grevemberg was a highly decorated United States Army officer during and after World War II.

(3) Actor Keith Andes played Grevemberg in the 1958 crime film Damn Citizen.

(4) Grevemberg was a pioneer in the establishment of the modern Republican Party in Louisiana.

(5) Grevemberg's memoirs are titled My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling & Corruption - Col. Francis C. Grevemberg Remembers, published by attorney W. Thomas Angers.

Francis Carroll Grevemberg (June 4, 1914 – November 24, 2008),[1] was the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police from 1952 to 1955, best remembered for his fight against organized crime.

Grevemberg was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, to Francis Bartholomew "Frank" Grevemberg and the former Onita Coulon Jumonville deVilliers, members of two prominent families in South Louisiana. He twice ran for governor of Louisiana, as a Democrat in the 1955 party primary and as the Republican nominee in the general election held on April 19, 1960.

Military record[edit]

A decorated United States Army officer in World War II, Grevemberg served twenty-eight months in the European Theater of operations. He made five amphibious landings and participated in nine combat campaigns. He went overseas as a captain commanding an anti-aircraft artillery battery in the 1st Infantry Division. He received a combat promotion from General George S. Patton, Jr., to the rank of major in Tunisia, and five months later, at the age of twenty-nine, during the beachhead campaign in Sicily, he received a second combat promotion, to the rank of lieutenant colonel, from General Omar N. Bradley.[1]

In 1951, Grevemberg was promoted for a third time, to the rank of colonel, and became the group commander of the 204th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He returned to active duty during the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961. His previous command was changed to the 204th Transportation (Truck) Battalion of the state National Guard, which was temporarily stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia.[1]

During his military service, Grevemberg received the Soldier's Medal for Heroism, the Legion of Merit for outstanding performance during the invasion at Anzio, the Croix de Guerre with silver gilt star awarded by the French government for exceptional war services rendered in the liberation of France, the Army Commendation Medal, the Italian Military Valor Cross, the European-African Middle Eastern Medal with nine bronze campaign stars, and a bronze arrowhead signifying participation in five amphibious landings against the Axis powers.[1]

Louisiana State Police superintendent[edit]

Grevemberg was appointed in May 1952 to head the state police, based in Baton Rouge, by newly elected Governor Robert F. Kennon. Grevemberg's autobiography, My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling and Corruption,[2] tells about his experiences with the Mafia, which he said tried to kill him and bribe him and to kidnap his sons. The mob sent him a Mafia black hand death-threat letter. Illegal gambling had existed in Louisiana for a century, and the mob began operating there during the administration of Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr., when New York City mobster Frank Costello brought slot machines into the state. Grevemberg's book chronicles his fight against gambling and vice. Slot machines and casino devices, illegal in Louisiana at the time, were operated by the Mafia and other criminal elements.

Grevemberg defied the opposition and conducted more than one thousand lightning raids that shut down much of the illegal gambling. Most of the gamblers then moved to Nevada. He destroyed 8,229 slot machines. Grevemberg vastly reduced the amount of narcotics sold on Louisiana streets, dismantled an eight-state white slavery ring, and modernized the Louisiana state police into a premier law-enforcement agency.[1]

Grevemberg said that he could not have carried on under constant threats from the mob without the inspiration of his wife, nee Dorothy Maguire (September 1, 1917 – December 9, 2010), a New Orleans native whom he called "the love of my life." The couple had identical twin sons born in 1949[3] – Francis J. "Pete" Grevemberg, married to the former Melissa Coleman, of Conyers, Georgia, and Carroll S. Grevemberg, wed to the former Alice Henderson of New Orleans – two grandchildren, David Grevemberg of Bonn, Germany, later Killearn, Scotland, and Elisa Grevemberg of Reims, France, and two great-grandchildren.[4] In his fight against the lawless elements, Grevemberg was aided by journalists such as Jim McLean[5] of the Associated Press, as well as pastors and citizens from the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation, who gave Grevemberg the will to persevere.

Democratic U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the Influence of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, credited Grevemberg with transforming Louisiana from being one of the most corrupt states to one of the cleanest during the 1950s. Gambling spots across South Louisiana were closed en masse, and the raids on illegal liquor sales even touched Kennon's hometown of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish. On a Saturday in November 1954, the day of the traditional Louisiana State University v. University of Arkansas at Fayetteville football game in Shreveport, a state police raid in Minden resulted in the arrest of several local residents on charges of bootlegging, including the then-Democratic mayor, John T. David.[6] David had to step down as mayor, but voters quickly elected him to the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing council akin to the county commission in most other states.

When state officials first considered legalizing gambling, Grevemberg said:

I think that if they want gambling, it must be legal. However, legal or illegal gambling corrupts public officials, especially police. It's a breeding ground for other kinds of vice. I think it would hurt our state immeasurably. The state has gone down the drain for the umpteenth time in my lifetime. I just think it's pathetic!"[1]

Grevemberg's crusade was the subject of a 1958 film by Universal Studios titled Damn Citizen. Keith Andes played Grevemberg, and Margaret Hayes was cast as Dorothy. Gene Evans played incorruptible police Major Al Arthur. Evans is best remembered as the father, Rob McLaughlin, on My Friend Flicka, a western television series, and for numerous guest spots on other westerns, such as CBS's Gunsmoke.[7]

Democratic gubernatorial campaign, 1956[edit]

In 1955, Grevemberg left the state police position to seek the Democratic nomination to succeed Governor Kennon. He finished fourth in the race, with 62,309 votes (7.6 percent). Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison Sr., of New Orleans polled 191,576 (23.4 percent). The winner in the first round was Huey Long's younger brother, Earl Kemp Long, with 421,681 (51.4 percent). Two other contenders, Fred Preaus of Farmerville and James M. McLemore of Alexandria, divided the remaining 18 percent of the vote. Earl Long was then unopposed in the general election held in the spring of 1956. Never did Earl Long face a Republican candidate for any office.[8]

Questions arose in the campaign about Grevemberg's purchase of the Mirimar Hotel on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an establishment which sold liquor and operated slot machines. Grevemberg, who himself denied drinking or gambling, said that he should not have bought into the business and sold his interest in the hotel at a loss of $10,000.[9]

Grevemberg's choice for lieutenant governor on his statewide intraparty ticket, was the Democrat Wesley H. Clanton (1906–1986) of Eunice in St. Landry Parish.[10] His candidate for attorney general, Ben C. Bennett, Jr., was eliminated when victory went to the Earl Long choice, Jack P.F. Gremillion. Grevemberg's candidate for state auditor, Robert Lindsey]], was defeated. Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Dodd toppled the incumbent Allison Kolb in that race.

Republican gubernatorial campaign, 1960[edit]

In July 1959, Grevemberg rejected cries of "It can't be done" and switched parties in[11] in preparation for another run for governor, this time as a Republican. He challenged former Governor Jimmie Davis, winner of a hard-fought Democratic primary and runoff. Grevemberg called for abolition of useless positions in state government and industrial recruitment efforts. Among his supporters were Charles deGravelles and wife, Virginia deGravelles of Lafayette, two future leaders in the fledgling Louisiana Republican Party.

His candidacy offered the state something that it had not seen since the 19th century, an actually contested general election for governor.[12]"Never before have the voters in this state been given such an opportunity for self-expression," opined the Alexandria Daily Town Talk on Grevemberg's candidacy. "It is a rare opportunity for us to take part in an advanced course in government and politics." The Town Talk's managing editor, Adras LaBorde, gave more attention to the Davis-Grevemberg than did most of the other Louisiana newspapers.

Democrats were sufficiently confident of overwhelming victories to restrict their general election activities to a few party-harmony speeches. Davis had stopped campaigning after he defeated Morrison and did not return to active campaign status until a few weeks prior to the general election. National Republicans had promised financial help to Grevemberg, but none arrived.

Grevemberg polled only 86,135 votes (17 percent); Davis, 407,907 (81.5 percent). Grevemberg scored his highest percent, 39.9 in Terrebonne Parish, and his second-best showing was the 27.2 percent in Lafayette Parish. In several parishes, including Kennon's Webster Parish, Grevemberg polled less than 2 percent of the ballots.

Grevemberg was outraged at newspaper editorials against him. "My main purpose for entering this race was toward a two-party system.... I hope I have convinced a sizable number of people we do need two parties." Grevemberg was particularly hostile toward the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which called him a "turncoat" after he left the Democratic Party, adding: "I risked my life and those of my family in attempts to rid this state of racketeers.... These newspapers have lived up to the reputation given them by Huey Long that they were yellow journals."

The GOP was still four years away from offering voters a more competitive choice in a Louisiana gubernatorial general election. At the close of the campaign, Grevemberg called upon President Dwight D. Eisenhower to investigate Mafia figure Carlos Marcello of Gretna, the seat of Jefferson Parish, in light of failed efforts to have Marcello deported.[13] Grevemberg said that he harbored no ill will toward Davis but was merely trying to plant the seeds of a two-party system in Louisiana.[14]

As a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Grevemberg was among ten delegates who still cast their votes for U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, after Goldwater had lectured conservatives "to grow up" and support Richard M. Nixon for the party's nomination against U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Grevemberg a phony, according to Dodd[edit]

William J. "Bill" Dodd, a veteran Louisiana officeholder and an observer of the state political scene, had no use for Grevemberg. In his Peapatch Politics,[15] Dodd, without using Grevemberg's name, charged that the former state police superintendent undertook his crusade against gambling to secure maximum political exposure as a reformer running for governor.

Dodd wrote:

... do-gooders, crime commission buffs, and many Protestant preachers joined up with and supported this faker who was acting as a reformer. The biggest drunkard, whoremonger, gambler, and wife-beater can put on a uniform and begin cussing crime by day, while he slips around and commits it by night, and many gullible church people will carry his banner. So it was with that policeman-turned-politician. My own Protestant [ Baptist ] minister preached sermons bragging on him. He told me that he couldn't vote for several of my favorite candidates because they were Roman Catholics, but he was 100 percent for the policeman [Grevemberg], who was a Catholic. He was for him, he said, because he was against crime.

Controversy over how Huey Long died[edit]

Grevemberg's memoirs, My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling & Corruption - Col. Francis C. Grevemberg Remembers describes a ride into north Louisiana, in which state troopers told of the shooting of Huey Long in 1935. They said that Dr. Carl Weiss (1906–1935) was not armed and that Long was in fact shot to death by his own bodyguards. Grevemberg related how the shooting of Long came up during a conversation among four troopers accompanying Grevemberg on a casino raid. Grevemberg said that the troopers told how Weiss' gun had been taken from his car after the shooting. "It appears... that all of the actions following the shooting were a conspiracy to cover up the accidental death of Senator Long and the killing of Dr. Weiss," said Grevemberg. The troopers told Grevemberg that what started out as a fist to Long's lip by Dr. Weiss triggered an accidental shooting that ended in a hail of gunfire.[16] This claim was also repeated in a 1990s segment of the NBC series Unsolved Mysteries. The claim has been rejected by scholars; the troopers were repeating a story that was invented after the fact by anti-Long politicians and spread widely.[17]

Sustained opposition to gambling[edit]

During the third term of Louisiana Governor Edwin W. Edwards a state-run lottery and legalized casinos were proposed in the Louisiana Legislature and later generally adopted. Grevemberg opposed these measures, expressing his concern in a number of venues including a 1990 article in the Louisiana Trooper magazine.[18] At the time the discussion of gambling was particularly poignant in Louisiana as the state constitution of 1974 (adopted during Edwards' first term) included a phrase that the Legislature "shall define and suppress gambling." The Legislature, and subsequently the courts, took the view that the emphasis was on the verb "define" instead of the noun "gambling" such that all "gambling" continues to be illegal in Louisiana whereas ostensibly similar activities can be legalized as gaming.[19]

Business activities and honors[edit]

In 1960, Grevemberg opened a real estate company and was elected president of the Baton Rouge Board of Realtors. In 1961, he received the "Realtor of the Year" designation. After returning again from military active duty in West Germany in August 1962, he started United Guaranty Residential Insurance Company, which specialized in the sale of private mortgage insurance.[1]

Grevemberg received the Patrick Henry Award for outstanding patriotism from the national headquarters of the Military Order of the World Wars and both the Gold and Silver Good Citizenship Medals from the Sons of the American Revolution. He was a member of American Legion and the New Orleans chapter of the Military Order of The World Wars.[1]

In 2002, Grevemberg was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame.[20] in Winnfield.[21]

Until Hurricane Katrina, the Grevembergs had resided in New Orleans. Francis Grevemberg died at the age of ninety-four of acute respiratory problems stemming from surgery for a broken hip. After her husband's death, Dorothy Grevemberg entered the Morningside Assisted Care facility in Conyers, Georgia, where she died in 2010 at the age of ninety-three. Their funeral services were private. The remains of both Grevembergs were placed in an urn in the family tomb in St. Martinville in St. Martin Parish.[1][4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kevin McGill, "Ex-State Police Chief Francis Grevemberg" ("Deaths"), Times-Picayune (New Orleans), November 26, 2008, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B4. McGill's news article was syndicated by the Associated Press and even appears with different titles in the several regional editions of the Times-Picayune. A web version appears at http://www.nola.com/ap/stories/index.ssf?/base/news-44/1227666552171110.xml&storylist=topstories (accessed November 26, 2008). A detailed obituary with photograph appeared under rubric "Grevemberg" in the Times-Picayune's death notices on November 29, 2008, p. B6, and in a slightly different version without photograph under rubric "Francis G. Grevemberg" at http://obits.nola.com/NOLA/DeathNotices.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=120757454 (retrieved November 29, 2008).
  2. ^ (Lafayette, LA: Beau Bayou, 2004), ISBN 0-935619-01-1, ISBN 978-0-935619-01-0.
  3. ^ Net Detective, People Search
  4. ^ a b "Dorothy McGuire Grevemberg". legacy.com. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  5. ^ The obituary by Kevin McGill (see note supra) renders "James McLain" as that reporter's name.
  6. ^ John Agan, Echoes of our Past, Minden Press-Herald, October 8, 2004
  7. ^ IMDB Damn Citizen: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051515/
  8. ^ The 1956 Louisiana gubernatorial election has been analyzed extensively by Southeastern Louisiana University historian Michael L. Kurtz and Louisiana Tech University historian Morgan Dewey Peoples in Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991), ISBN 0-8071-1765-X, ISBN 978-0-8071-1765-1.
  9. ^ "Grevemberg Admits Mistake Buying Hotel", Minden Herald, December 1, 1955, p. 1
  10. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  11. ^ Ruston Daily Leader, Ruston, Louisiana, July 28, 1959, p. 1
  12. ^ Harrison Bagwell, a delegate for Dwight D. Eisenhower to the 1952 Republican National Convention, had been on the ballot for governor in April 1952, but he did not campaign, and lost to Kennon, 96-4 percent.
  13. ^ Marcello was later deported during the Kennedy Administration but soon slipped back into the United States. See the Marcello article for the related conspiracy theory about the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.
  14. ^ For these and other quotations, see the extended article on Grevemberg's role in the 1959 Louisiana gubernatorial election in the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, April 14, 1960, 18, 20.
  15. ^ (Baton Rouge: Claitors, 1991), ISBN 0-87511-932-8, ISBN 978-0-87511-932-8. The subtitle is The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics.
  16. ^ Louisiana 101, Huey Long assassination: http://www.louisiana101.com/ideashuey_story1.html
  17. ^ T. Harry Williams, Huey Long (1969) pp 870-71
  18. ^ "Francis C. Grevemberg: A Legend Lost," Louisiana Trooper, Summer 1990, pp. 39-59. See also the Francis C. Grevemberg Collection in the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans.
  19. ^ L. Nicholas Dean. (2003, February). "Losing in Louisiana: The Legal Problems of Gambling and Edwin Edwards." Gaming Law Review 7(1), 57-60. See also the positions taken on the gambling issue by former Louisiana state legislators David Vitter and Raymond "La La" Lalonde.
  20. ^ Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame
  21. ^ City of Winnfield Museum