|Born||William Franklin Spooner
September 9, 1937
Stephens, Arkansas, USA
|Alma mater||Stephens High School
Southern Arkansas University
University of Oklahoma
|Occupation||Oil and natural gas producer|
|Republican nominee for Louisiana's 5th congressional district, 1976|
William Franklin Spooner, known as Frank Spooner (born September 9, 1937), is an oil and natural gas producer in Monroe in Ouachita Parish in northeastern Louisiana, who has been active since the early 1970s in his state's Republican Party. In the fall of 1976, Spooner waged a strong but losing race for the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 5th congressional district in a bid to succeed incumbent Otto Passman, who had been unseated in the Democratic primary by farmer/businessman Jerry Huckaby, then from Ringgold in Bienville Parish. Therefore, instead of facing Passman, as he had expected, Spooner competed with Huckaby for a relatively rare open seat in the state's congressional delegation.
Spooner's father, Harry Spooner, Sr. (1895-1965), originally from Buffalo, New York, was injured in France during World War I. A Republican, the senior Spooner came to Texas with the petroleum industry and settled in Arkansas, first El Dorado, then Smackover, and finally Stephens in Ouachita County, where he married the former Willie Green (1905-2000). Frank Spooner was born in Stephens and graduated in 1955 from Stephens High School. For two years thereafter he attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and then transferred to the University of Oklahoma at Norman, from which in 1960 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum land management. After college, Spooner served in the United States Army and the Army Reserves, pre-Vietnam War. He worked for Humble Oil Company and at times was a business partner with his brother, Harry Spooner, Jr.
After several years in Shreveport, Spooner in 1967 launched his oil and gas-leasing company, Mark V Petroleum, at 510 North 17th Street in Monroe. An innovator in his field, Spooner in 1989 spearheaded the effort to tap the first coal seam natural gas (CSNG) from a well in Caldwell Parish south of Monroe.
In 1971, Spooner was the chairman of the Ouachita Parish Young Republicans and directed the Monroe-area campaign of the party's gubernatorial nominee, David C. Treen, an attorney then from Metairie in Jefferson Parish. Treen was defeated in this first bid for governor by Democrat Edwin Edwards. Later in 1972, Treen was elected to the U.S. House, and four years thereafter, Spooner sought to join Treen in Congress when he opposed Jerry Huckaby for the seat Otto Passman was compelled to vacate. Treen left Congress in 1980, when he was inaugurated as the first Republican governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction.
1976 congressional campaign
Spooner was the first Republican in seventy-six years even to contest the Fifth District seat. The previous GOP candidate, Henry E. Hardtner of LaSalle Parish, had polled a mere 628 votes (9.2 percent) in 1900 against the Democrat Joseph E. Ransdell of Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish, who was elected with 6,172 votes (90.8 percent). Hardtner later became a Democrat and served in the Louisiana State Legislature. Ransdell thereafter served in the United States Senate until he was unseated in the 1930 primary election by Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr.
In preparation for his race and when he expected to face Passman, Spooner attended a Republican candidate training school in Washington, D.C. The Republican National Committee sent John Bruce Hildebrand, former editor of the party's First Monday newsletter who had written speeches for vice-presidential candidate Bob Dole, to work on Spooner's behalf. Jennie Carroll Casey, a reporter at the time for the Monroe News-Star, worked as an unpaid public relations specialist.
Top-name Republicans, including former Governors Ronald W. Reagan of California and John B. Connally, Jr., of Texas, later rivals for the party's presidential nomination in 1980, came into the sprawling district, with a large agricultural component, to urge voters to elect Spooner. Connally lashed out at the increased power of the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House, which he maintained had undermined the influence of the more moderate party members, such as then U.S. Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana. Connally did not know Spooner, but he had known Mrs. Spooner when she was a child in the Connally neighborhood in Fort Worth in the 1950s. Reagan and Connally gave the race a high profile and helped to provide critical financial support for Spooner. Reagan appeared in West Monroe and Connally in Natchitoches, the oldest city in the state. Huckaby, who like Spooner was a political newcomer, nevertheless developed effective television advertising critical of out-of-state politicians trying to influence voters in an otherwise unnoticed Louisiana district.
Spooner hoped to poll convincing majorities in urban areas of the district to offset expected losses in rural regions, where voting Republican was still comparatively rare at the time except for the presidential level on occasion. He aimed particularly at winning in his own Monroe and West Monroe as well as Natchitoches, Ruston, Bastrop, and Winnfield. The general election turnout was more than double that of the Passman-Huckaby race because, while Huckaby and Spooner sought the House seat, in the same November 2 election, Jimmy Carter and the unelected incumbent, Gerald R. Ford, Jr., were the nominees for U.S. President.
After his primary defeat, Passman "threatened" to endorse Spooner in the general election, but he never did so. Passman had run mostly without opposition after his initial primary victory in 1946, when he had unseated Charles E. McKenzie. He was unopposed in his last successful election on November 5, 1974. Passman was particularly known as a critic of foreign aid programs and a supporter of farm subsidies and the recently concluded Vietnam War.
Carter's statewide victory in Louisiana (and in nine other former Confederate states) worked to Huckaby's advantage. Huckaby received 83,696 votes (52.5 percent); Spooner, 75,574 ballots (47.5 percent). Spooner surpassed Passman's primary showing by 35,000 votes, which translated only into a 0.2 percent gain over Passman's primary share of the vote because of the much larger turnout in the general election in contrast to the primary. Spooner polled 59 percent in Ouachita Parish and also won in the parishes of Lincoln (Ruston), Morehouse (Bastrop), Union (Farmerville, and Richland (Rayville), but his strength was insufficient to overcome large Democratic margins stretching from Huckaby's Bienville Parish on the west to Madison Parish (Tallulah) on the northeast, Concordia Parish (Vidalia) on the southeast, and the most northern precincts of Rapides Parish (Alexandria) on the south. Spooner received just 27 percent in Bienville Parish and less than 40 percent in Madison and Winn parishes, the latter the ancestral home of the Long political faction.
Later political activities
Right after his congressional campaign, Spooner became the Louisiana Republican National Committeeman. He did not seek office again though he remained active in the GOP, largely as a donor to the party and its various candidates. In 1979, Moore was uncommitted between Treen and U.S. Representative Henson Moore of Baton Rouge, who then held Louisiana's 6th congressional district, as the Republican choice for governor. His stance brought criticism from his predecessor as national committeeman, the Treen aide John H. Cade, Jr., of Alexandria. Soon Spooner found himself at odds with Treen and Cade regarding the removal in 1985 of state party chairman George Despot of Shreveport. Spooner and then State Representative Charles D. Lancaster, Jr., of Jefferson Parish stood with Despot, whom Spooner called "the best chairman we ever had." Such divisions hurt the state party in 1986, when Henson Moore opposed Democrat John Breaux in the U.S. Senate race to succeed Russell Long, who retired after thirty-eight years in office. Spooner later said that Moore's defeat for the Senate was his own "greatest disappointment" in politics.
Over the years, Spooner has supported Governor Bobby Jindal, U.S. Senator David Vitter, elected as Breaux's successor in 2004, and Representative Rodney Alexander, who held the seat that Spooner contested from 2003 to 2013, by which time the district had expanded far south into Rapides and Avoyelles parishes and even into the Florida Parishes east of Baton Rouge. In 2004, Spooner contributed to Alexander's unsuccessful intraparty rival, former State Representative Jock Scott of Alexandria. In 2007, Spooner donated to the presidential campaign of former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. He was thereafter a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which nominated the McCain-Palin ticket.
- Billy Hathorn, "Otto Passman, Jerry Huckaby, and Frank Spooner: The Louisiana Fifth Congressional District Election of 1976", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, LIV No. 3 (Summer 2013), p. 346
- "Louise S. Durham, Coal Gas Tapped in Louisiana: From the 'Seam', Not the 'Bed', May 2006". aapg.org. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- Louisiana History, p. 346
- Anna C. Burns, “Henry E. Hardtner (1870-1935): Louisiana’s First Conservationist,” Journal of Forest History Vol. 22 No. 2 (April 1978)
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 1900-1976 U.S. House races from Louisiana
- Louisiana History, pp. 348-349
- Alexandria Daily Town Talk, October 26, 1976
- Louisiana History, p. 348
- Louisiana History, pp. 334, 337, 343
- Office of the Louisiana Secretary of State, Congressional Election Returns, 1976
- Louisiana History, p. 349
- Louisiana History, pp. 347-348
- "MONROE, Louisiana (LA) Political Contributions by Individuals". city-data.com. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- Louisiana History, pp. 353-354
- Louisiana History, p. 343
- "Donors: January 1, 2006 - April 30, 2006". Louisiana Methodist Children's Home. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
John H. Cade, Jr.
|Louisiana Republican National Committeeman
William Franklin Spooner