Jack P.F. Gremillion
|Jack P.F. Gremillion|
|Louisiana Attorney General|
May 1956 – May 1972
|Preceded by||Fred S. LeBlanc|
|Succeeded by||William J. Guste|
|Born||Jack Paul Faustin Gremillion
June 15, 1914
|Died||March 2, 2001
East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
|Resting place||Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge|
|Spouse(s)||Doris McDonald Gremillion (married 1942-1989, her death)|
|Children||Jack P. F. Gremillion, Jr.
William McDonald Gremillion
|Parents||William Kossuth Gremillion
Genoa Henderson Gremillion
|Alma mater||Ascension Catholic High School
|Service/branch||United States Army in World War II|
Jack Paul Faustin Gremillion, Sr. (June 15, 1914 – March 2, 2001), was the Democratic attorney general of Louisiana from 1956 to 1972. He was a member of the Earl Kemp Long political faction. Though he opposed school desegregation, he was a party loyalist and was an elector for the John F. Kennedy--Lyndon B. Johnson presidential ticket in 1960. Kennedy and Johnson easily won Louisiana's ten electoral votes that year.
Early years and family
The French-speaking Gremillion (pronounced GRE ME YOHN) was born to William Kossuth Gremillion and the former Genoa Henderson in Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish near Baton Rouge. He graduated from Ascension Catholic High School in Donaldsonville and then attended Louisiana State University and its law school in Baton Rouge from 1931 to 1937. Gremillion's father was a deceased telegraph operator for the Texas and Pacific Railroad; his mother was a school teacher. Coming from meager family means, with four siblings, he worked his way through college mainly at Solvay Chemical in Baton Rouge. He studied law under the tutelage of Fred S. LeBlanc, then a practicing attorney in Baton Rouge and later the attorney general whom Gremillion unseated. Thereafter, Gremillion was admitted to the practice of law and was a member of the American Bar Association.
On January 12, 1942, Gremillion married the former Doris McDonald (July 13, 1920 — October 31, 1989). The couple had four sons and a daughter, Jack P.F. Gremillion, Jr. (born 1944), William McDonald Gremillion, Wayne Francis Gremillion (born 1947), Doris H. Gremillion, and Charles Mark Gremillion (born 1958).
He was a member of the Roman Catholic Church and its Knights of Columbus men's organization, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Before he became attorney general, he had been a counsel to the state revenue department and an assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge Parish. He was a short, stoutly built, balding man with a loud voice and a determined, self-confident demeanor.
Long taps Gremillion for attorney general
Gremillion was tapped by Earl Long to run for attorney general in the 1956 Democratic primary after Long's first choice, Alexandria attorney Camille Francis Gravel, Jr., turned down an offer to run for the position, which paid a low salary compared to what sought-after lawyers were then earning. It has been said that Gremillion was in Donaldsonville acting as a pallbearer at an uncle's funeral when a messenger told him that "Uncle Earl" wanted him to run for attorney general. Gremillion went on to defeat Attorney General Fred LeBlanc, who was elected first in 1944 and again in 1952 and held the post under Governors Jimmie Davis and Robert F. Kennon. LeBlanc also served as mayor of Baton Rouge from 1941 to 1944.
As the 1955 primary campaign proceeded, Earl Long began to complain to his associates that Gremillion's constant "speech" on the stump was getting on Long's nerves. The sarcastic Long, as was his forte, belittled Gremillion. Long said that Gremillion did not "know a lawsuit from a jumpsuit" and scoffed: "If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a lawbook!"
In 1960, after he had won his second consecutive Democratic nomination for attorney general, Gremillion faced a Republican challenger, Baton Rouge attorney Nealon Stracener (June 29, 1916 - October 26, 1990). Gremillion defeated Stracener, 86.4 to 13.6 percent. Stracener was the first Republican in modern Louisiana history to seek the attorney general's position.
In 1963, Gremillion defeated a single Democratic primary challenger, Charles A. Riddle, Jr.
Gremillion investigated a Baton Rouge-area sheriff, Jessel Ourso of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish. His clash with Ourso began in December 1963, when Ourso, as the leading candidate in his race, went to court in an attempt to overturn Gremillion's ruling that votes for a withdrawn candidate counted for purposes of determining if another candidate had an outright majority in a primary election and could therefore avoid a runoff contest. Ourso went on to unseat the 16-year sheriff, Charles A. Griffon, Jr., the grandfather of the statewide radio talk show host, Moon Griffon, a native of Iberville Parish. Thereafter, Gremillion continued to investigate his fellow Democrat Ourso, who won all the legal challenges posed against him, wither with acquittals or hung juries.
Dodd recalls Gremillion's war record
Gremillion referred to his World War II service in his campaign speeches in a bid to appeal to Louisiana's large number of voters who were also veterans.
William J. "Bill" Dodd, who was successfully running for auditor (also called comptroller) in the same primary in which Gremillion was seeking the attorney general's position, recalled how Earl Long who, in Dodd's words, "was a draft dodger in World War I, was sensitive and touchy about candidates who bragged on their war records, and Gremillion, who as a decorated combat veteran ... bragged about his fine record, using as much as half of his speeches in stories about his war experiences."
Dodd continued: "I knew he had a good war record and that he had received a Purple Heart. He got it from a gunshot wound he received while leaning over to help a fallen infantry man. The bullet or shrapnel hit Gremillion in the belly and traveled down between his legs. Gremillion liked to talk about his Purple Heart, but he never said where he got shot."
Dodd told an unusually large crowd in the village of Montgomery in Grant Parish that "Our hero, Jack Gremillion, was breathing gunpowder and killing Germans. Why he almost got killed himself when an enemy shell plowed into one of his most vital organs; if you don't believe Jack Gremillion earned his Purple Heart, he will show you the scars he has to prove it."
According to Dodd, who could barely contain his humor, Gremillion later told him, "Dodd, I appreciate your bragging on my war record, but don't tell the crowds that I will show them where I got shot. Several of those darn rednecks wanted me to show them my scars and got mad when I refused to pull down my pants."
Gremillion's legal troubles
In 1960, Gremillion was charged with contempt of court for a comment he made in a federal courtroom while he was opposing the New Orleans school desegregation case. Judge Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr., who charged Gremillion with contempt, had been his personal friend for many years.
In 1968, Governor John McKeithen asked Gremillion to investigate potential Mafia infiltration of the Louisiana state government. Gremillion reported that there was no evidence for such infiltration. Another investigation begun by Alexandria attorney Camille Gravel ended when the target became C. H. "Sammy" Downs, another Alexandria lawyer, former member of the Louisiana State Senate, and a key player in the McKeithen administration. The Gravel probe was continued by East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Sargent Pitcher, and he too found no evidence of organized crime having infiltrated state government.In 1966, the Louisiana Loan and Thrift Corporation was organized; it collected $2.6 million from small depositors and made loans to various politicians and companies connected to crime boss Carlos Marcello of New Orleans. Gremillion steered federal investigators away from the company, which he declared sound. LL&T paid Gremillion $10,000 in legal fees.
In 1971, Gremillion was charged in the United States District Court in Baton Rouge with mail fraud, conspiracy, and fraud in the sale of securities when LL&T went bankrupt, with the small investors taking heavy losses. Gremillion was tried and acquitted and sought a fifth term as attorney general.
Then he was convicted later in that campaign year on federal perjury charges in a related case. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Fred Cassibry in New Orleans to three years imprisonment for perjury - lying to a grand jury about his role in the Louisiana Loan and Thrift bankruptcy. Gremillion served for two years after losing his appeal in 1973.
Judge Cassiby lectured Gremillion:
"We both know that in the United States, no man is so small as to be disregarded by the law. Neither is any man so great as to be above it. Your offenses cannot be condoned as one committed in ignorance of the law or wittingly, or in the heat of a momentary passion."
Though sentenced to three years in prison, Gremillion served fifteen months in the federal prison at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Louisiana Governor Edwin Washington Edwards pardoned Gremillion in 1976 so that he could resume his law practice. Edwards said that the pardon was required by state law because all first offenders who complete a sentence are automatically pardoned. He signed the pardon paper to avoid any misunderstanding in Gremillion's case.
Meanwhile, Gremillion was denied a runoff berth for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in the 1971 primary. He was succeeded in the office by his fellow Democrat, then State Senator William J. "Billy" Guste, Jr., of New Orleans. Guste defeated his Senate colleague George T. Oubre, Sr., and then crushed the Republican nominee, Tom Stagg, later a federal judge in Shreveport. While Gremillion had been a Kennedy elector, Guste in 1976 was an elector for Democrat Jimmy Carter. Guste served for five terms as the state attorney general.
Gremillion's son, Jack Gremillion, Jr., who was an attorney for the Teamsters Union union, ran into legal troubles of his own. In 1975, Gremillion, Jr., pleaded guilty in Louisiana to a federal charge of conspiring in the obstruction of justice. Three years later, he was convicted in Georgia on a federal mail fraud charge. He was imprisoned in both cases and disbarred. In 2002, while he was the business manager of an automobile dealership in Baton Rouge, Gremillion, Jr., petititoned to regain his right to practice law but ran into opposition from the bar association disciplinary committee.
Jack P.F. Gremillion, Sr., died after a long illness in Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. He and his wife Doris are interred at Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge.
In 1965, Gremillion asked one of his favorite entertainers, Jimmy Durante, to perform before the National Association of Attorneys General in their annual meeting in San Antionio. Durante, a close friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agreed to do so. Durante was also a friend of Gremillion's chief investigator, Frank Manning.
Jack Gremillion had six brown dachshunds throughout a span of time, all named "Sam". "Sam" was also the nom de plume that Gremillion used when submitting various articles to the Baton Rouge newspapers.
- Lake Charles American Press, April 7, 1990
- Minden Press, December 9, 1963, p. 1
- Lake Charles American Press, December 19, 1963, p. 23
- Life Magazine (Vol. 68, No. 13), p. 53
- "ES&S, Diebold lobbyists, July 21, 2005". bbvforums.org. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- "Gremillion Will Serve Three Years on Courtroom Lies", Minden Press-Herald, Minden, Louisiana, January 6, 1972, p. 1
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishers, 1991
- Who's Who in America, 1968
- J.W. Peltason, Fifty-Eight Lonely Men
- www.lib.lsu.edu/special/findaid/4820.htm - 393k
Fred S. LeBlanc (D)
|Louisiana Attorney General
Jack P.F. Gremillion (D)
William J. "Billy" Guste, Jr. (D)