J. Emile Verret
|J. Emile Verret|
|41st Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana|
|Governor||Jimmie H. Davis|
|Preceded by||Marc M. Mouton|
|Succeeded by||William Joseph "Bill" Dodd|
|Iberia Parish School Board member|
September 13, 1885|
Iberia Parish, Louisiana
|Died||February 9, 1965(aged 79)|
|Spouse(s)||Katherine Markham Verret|
|Residence||New Iberia, Louisiana|
|Alma mater||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
J. Emile Verret (September 13, 1885 - February 9, 1965) was the Democratic lieutenant governor of Louisiana from 1944 to 1948, having served under the first of the two nonconsecutive gubernatorial terms of James Houston "Jimmie" Davis. Verret defeated former Governor Earl Kemp Long in the party's runoff election for the second-ranking office in state government. He and Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish both denied Long victory in races for lieutenant governor: Verret in 1944 and Aycock in 1959. Earl Long had been elected lieutenant governor in 1936 and succeeded to the governorship for a year in 1939. Long was defeated for a full gubernatorial term in 1940 but staged impressive comebacks to win the top office in 1948 and 1956.
Verret was born in Iberia Parish and educated in local schools. He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1905 (then Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute). He also attended Soule Business College in New Orleans. He returned to New Iberia and opened a general store. He was also an independent insurance agent from 1928 until his death. His wife was the former Katherine Markham.
In politics, Verret was first elected to the Iberia Parish School Board in 1912 and was the board president from 1914–1943, when he ran for lieutenant governor. Many found it unusual that a candidate whose only elective office had been on a school board could defeat a legendary Long to gain the state's second highest office. Verret ran second to Long in the first primary but defeated him in the second balloting, when anti-Long elements coalesced behind him. Also in the running was freshman State Senator Frank Burton Ellis of Covington in St. Tammany Parish, later a short-term U.S. District Court judge in New Orleans, appointed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy
Had Lewis L. Morgan, a judge from Covington, the seat of St. Tammany Parish, not entered a gubernatorial runoff against Jimmie Davis, Long would have automatically become the lieutenant governor nominee without a runoff contest. At the time, Louisiana law provided that there would be no runoffs for "down-ballot" races if there was no second gubernatorial contest. Had Morgan deferred to Davis as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Long would have hence been slated for the general election ballot as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
According to William J. "Bill" Dodd, a nearly lifelong observer of Louisiana politics, several Democratic figures, including Lucille May Grace, the register of the state lands, and Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr., privately urged Morgan to make the race against Davis, not because they opposed Davis per se, but because they wanted Earl Long to face Verret, a largely unknown anti-Long candidate. Dodd said that "Miss Grace" and Martin believed that two consecutive defeats for Earl Long (governor in 1940 and lieutenant governor in 1944) might doom his political career. Morgan was indeed said to have seriously considered not pursuing the runoff, but his decision to enter the second round of balloting hurt Earl Long. Long, however, was undeterred by the defeat for lieutenant governor. He set his sights on the governorship again in 1948.
Verret was Roman Catholic and a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He was president of the Louisiana School Board Association and held membership in the Elks and Rotary clubs of New Iberia.
The Verrets are interred at St. Peter's Cemetery in New Iberia.
On September 18, 1947, Verret was serving as Lt. Governor while Gov. Jimmy Davis was out of state. A hurricane was threatening the state and Verret wanted to close the state offices to allow those who were in Baton Rouge and Lafayette the chance to go home and prepare for the storm. He signed a proclamation which basically read: "Until further notice, the official office of the state will be 215 Julia street, New Iberia, Louisiana" (Verret's home). The front page of the Daily Iberian on Friday, September 19, 1947 proclaimed "New Iberia Serving As State Capital For the Day!" On a technicality basis, his home, which is still standing, became a one-day state capitol. Glenn Conrad, who wrote two books on the history of New Iberia, never discovered this fact as his efforts were toward compiling previous writings and interviews. It was discovered by Pat Onellion, who was looking at the newspaper's microfilms in his effort to document the New Iberia High football history. Friday the 19th happened to be one of the scheduled game dates and as he slowed the microfilm down, he caught the headline on the front page. The city had totally forgotten that it had such an honor and in fact, the new First Baptist Church had purchased the property with an intent to move or demolish the house. The Daily Iberian, fifty years later, republished its article from 1947 as well as a biography of Verret.
- Minden Herald, January 16, 1948, p. 2
- "J. Emile Verret", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 2 (1988), p. 810
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's, 1991
- Lafayette Daily Advertiser, February 10, 1965
Marc M. Mouton
|Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
William J. "Bill" Dodd