Harmon Caldwell Drew

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Harmon Caldwell Drew
Harmon Caldwell Drew.jpg
Harmon Caldwell Drew as a boy (ca. 1903)
Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, Louisiana
In office
January 4, 1930 – May 1945
Succeeded by Robert F. Kennon
Judge of the 26th Judicial District of Bossier and Webster parishes
In office
January 22, 1927 – January 4, 1930
Preceded by John S. Richardson
Succeeded by J. Frank McInnis
District Attorney of Bossier and Webster parishes
In office
December 8, 1916 – December 10, 1924
Preceded by Thomas W. Robertson
Succeeded by W. D. Goff
Personal details
Born February 16, 1889
Minden, Webster Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died September 1, 1950(1950-09-01) (aged 61)
Minden, Louisiana
Resting place Minden Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Katie Caldwell Drew (married 1913-1950, his death)
Children R. Harmon Drew, Sr.

Katie Drew Carey

Alma mater Minden High School

Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University Law Center

Profession Lawyer
Religion Presbyterian

Harmon Caldwell Drew (February 16, 1889–September 1, 1950) was a lawyer from Minden, Louisiana, who served prior to 1945 as the district attorney of Bossier and Webster parishes and then as a judge of both the district and the state appeal courts. His political career ended with his defeat by future Governor Robert F. Kennon. Drew's grandson, Harmon Drew, Jr., of Minden is a sitting judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, based in Shreveport.


Harmon C. Drew was born in Minden to Richard Cleveland Drew, also a judge of the district and circuit courts, and the former Katie Caldwell (1859–1936). His paternal grandfather was Richard Maxwell Drew, a district judge and state representative. In 1818, R. M. Drew's father, Newett Drew, founded the Overton community, the first settlement in Webster Parish.[1][unreliable source?]

In 1913, Drew married the former Annie Lucile Grigsby (March 25, 1896– August 10, 1974). The couple had two children, R. Harmon Drew, Sr., an attorney, Minden city judge, and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and Katie Elizabeth Drew Carey (1915–1971), a Minden Realtor, married to and later divorced from Harvey L. Carey (1915–1984),[2][3] a U.S. attorney in Shreveport, appointed in 1950 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman.[4]In 1960, Carey was an unsuccessful candidate for a district judgeship in the Democratic primary, having lost to O. E. Price.[5]

H. C. Drew was an early graduate, probably 1906, of Minden High School, formerly known as the Minden Male Academy. In 1910, he graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he was a member of an undefeated football team. He was the starting left guard on the 1909 LSU Tigers team.[6] At first, Drew, a physically large man who commonly wore suspenders, practiced law in Minden with his father, whose circuit judgeship had ended in 1913.[3] The Drew ancestral home at 1002 Broadway Street in Minden was acquired about 1915 from the Minden businessman and later city council member William L. Life (1887–1972). Judge Harmon Drew, Jr., still resides there with his wife, the former Jean Talley.[7]

Axe-murder case[edit]

On December 8, 1916, Drew assumed the post of Webster Parish district attorney. Less than a month in office,[8] Drew was compelled to prosecute a bizarre murder case in the Grove community north of Minden. On Christmas Day of that year, the family of John Nelson Reeves, including his wife Maude and three of their four children, was bludgeoned to death by a group of axe-wielding men. The presumed motive for the killing was money that Reeves, who distrusted banks, had boasted of having stashed away in a mattress in his house. The district judge in the case was John N. Sandlin, later a U.S. representative and like Drew an intraparty opponent of the Longs.[9]

Two African American men, Chester Tyson and Mark Peters, were convicted and scheduled for execution for the five murders. However, Governor John M. Parker, acting on a recommendation from Judge Sandlin, commuted their sentences to twenty years in prison. Both were released on April 18, 1936.[10] A petition sent to the Louisiana Board of Pardons claimed that two white men, Henry Waller and Johnie Long, had actually planned and carried out the crime but had each received life sentences, rather than the death penalty. Long escaped in 1922 and was never apprehended, and Waller died of tuberculosis in prison in 1926.[11]

Judicial tenure[edit]

In 1926, Drew was elected judge of the 2nd Judicial District, renamed the 26th District, covering Bossier and Webster parishes.[12] Drew served three years on the lower court. Soon, he was elected to the circuit court, on which he served for two six-year terms from 1930 to 1942. In 1940, Drew was defeated by Kennon, a former Minden mayor and then the two-term Bossier/Webster district attorney. The margin of defeat was about nine thousand votes.[13] Because Kennon soon entered World War II military service, he did not claim the judgeship until 1945. Therefore, Drew continued to serve as interim judge for nearly four years until Kennon returned from the military. Drew also served temporarily by appointment during the latter part of his circuit judgeship on the Louisiana Supreme Court.[3]

Political squabbles[edit]

In 1933, Judge Drew, who served as the president of the interest group known as the Louisiana New Deal Organization, an association committed to promoting the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, got into a heated exchange with U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who had been less than fully committed to the Roosevelt agenda. In a speech in Monroe, Long alleged that Drew had paid only $600 on an outstanding debt owed to the former Bank of Minden. The next night in Minden, accompanied by his bodyguards, Long spoke at Minden City Park. Judge Drew was there to challenge him directly. Instead, Long uttered mild remarks and did not attack the judge. After Long left the gathering, Drew told the crowd:

"I came here tonight to hear him [Long] repeat that lie in my presence, and he didn't have the nerve to do it. Louisiana must act to stop that man when he goes about the state attacking honest people. I for one do not intend to tolerate it any longer."[14]

Coincidentally, the day after the Minden Herald published the story of the Long-Drew squabble, John L. Fort (1906–1992) of Minden, the son of then Mayor Connell Fort and later the owner of a Minden news stand, shot to death city council member Abraham Brisco Nation (1886–1933) as a result of a political dispute between Nation and Mayor Fort.[15] In 1937, Judge Drew was a pallbearer at the funeral of former Mayor Fort.[16]

Memorial service[edit]

H. C. Drew and most of his family members were Presbyterian.[3]

Drew died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-one. He is interred in the newer section of the historic Minden Cemetery, alongside his wife, son Harmon Drew, Sr., daughter Katie Drew Carey, and a granddaughter, Elizabeth Taylor Drew Weaver (1942–1996). In addition to Circuit Judge Harmon Drew, Jr., Judge H. C. Drew's grandchildren are Richard Drew Carey (1934-2013), a Realtor who developed nine subdivisions in the Minden area,[17] Thomas Drew Carey, a dermatologist in Ruston, Katie Lucile Carey Sims, a businesswoman in Houma in Terrebonne Parish in South Louisiana, and Margaret Caldwell Drew Colvin of Springhill, Louisiana.[18]

Three weeks after his death, Judge Drew was lauded at a memorial service at the Webster Parish Courthouse for his dedication to the law:

"Judge Drew was moved by a jealousy of the law. To him, law was the pillar of fire by night and smoke by day, ever leading him onward to the fulness of law, maturing in justice."[3]


  1. ^ "Drew Family". mindenmemories.org. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Memorial Services for Judge H. Drew Conducted Thursday", Minden Herald, September 22, 1950, pp. 1-2
  4. ^ "Western District of Louisiana --About Us". justice.gov. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Humphrey, McClendon, Price Nominated", Minden Press, July 25, 1960, p. 1
  6. ^ Louisiana State University Tigers, 1909 team roster
  7. ^ Statement of Judge Harmon Drew, Jr., 2006
  8. ^ List of District Attorneys of Webster Parish, Webster Parish Centennial Booklet, 1971, Webster Parish Police Jury publication
  9. ^ Marilyn Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light (Many, Louisiana: Sweet Dreams Publishing Co., 2000), pp. Foreword, 1-4, ISBN 1-893693-09-0
  10. ^ Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light, pp, 187-188, 193
  11. ^ Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light, pp. 187, 193
  12. ^ List of Judges of Webster Parish, Webster Parish Centennial Booklet, 1971
  13. ^ Kennon advertisement, Minden Press, January 4, 1952, p. 5
  14. ^ "Long Fails to Make Attack Here: Silent on Charges against Judge Drew and New Deal Group," Minden Herald, November 10, 1933, p. 1
  15. ^ "Investigation of Saturday's Killing Held by Coroner's Jury", Minden Herald, November 17, 1933, p. 1
  16. ^ "Connell Fort Dies Saturday Night at His Residence Here: Was Great Civic Worker and Builder of This City," Webster Signal-Tribune, March 5, 1937, pp. 1, 6
  17. ^ "Richard Drew Carey". Shreveport Times. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  18. ^ Obituary of R. Harmon Drew, Sr., obituary, Minden Press-Herald, December 19, 1995
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas W. Robertson
District Attorney of Webster Parish

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
W. D. Goff
Preceded by
John S. Richardson
Judge of the 26th Judicial District of Bossier and Webster parishes

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
J. Frank McInnis
Preceded by
Judge of the Second District of the Louisiana Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennon