Jesse Monroe Knowles

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Jesse Monroe Knowles
Jesse Knowles
Louisiana State Senator (portions of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis parishes)
In office
1964–1980
Preceded by Guy W. Sockrider, Jr.
Succeeded by Clifford D. Newman
Louisiana House of Representatives (Calcasieu Parish)
Preceded by At-large members
Succeeded by At-large members
Personal details
Born (1919-07-23)July 23, 1919
Merryville, Louisiana, United States
Died April 23, 2006(2006-04-23) (aged 86)
Political party Democrat; Republican convert (1980)
Spouse(s) Helen Noel Knowles
Children None; niece Jacqueline Oglesby of New Bern, North Carolina
Occupation Supervisor for Amoco in Lake Charles
Religion Baptist

Jesse Monroe Knowles (July 23, 1919 – April 23, 2006) was a Lake Charles, businessman, civic leader, former member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature from Calcasieu Parish, and a survivor of the Bataan Death March in World War II.

He was born in Merryville in Beauregard Parish but had resided in Lake Charles since 1935. Knowles graduated from Lake Charles High School (renamed Lake Charles Boston High School after consolidation).

A veteran's veteran[edit]

In 1939, Knowles enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was captured by the Japanese army at Bataan and held in a number of prison camps for 1,228 days. He was in the camp in Mukden, Manchuria, until he was liberated on August 15, 1945. The Death March was featured in a National Broadcasting Company documentary in 1982 entitled "The Forgotten Hell".

As a president of the Mayor's Armed Forces Committee, he had regular contact with the Fort Polk staff in Leesville, the seat of Vernon Parish, and urged members of the military to visit Lake Charles. He was a well-known speaker at school programs and veterans' ceremonies.

Knowles was a past commander of his area and district Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was a past legislative officer and a past junior vice commander of the VFW Post 2130. He was also a member of W.B. Williamson American Legion Post 1, the Disabled American Veterans, and the American Ex-Prisoners of War. He was a past national president of the 27th Bombardment Group Association and was cited as "Man of the Year" by that group. He was a member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

After he returned from the service, he went to work as a draftsman for Amoco Oil Company and became a fee land supervisor. He retired with thirty-eight years of service from Amoco in 1984 and was thereafter employed by Lake Charles River Pilots.

Entering Louisiana politics[edit]

Knowles was first elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives as a Democrat in the 1959-1960 election cycle. In 1964, Knowles was elected again as a Democrat to the Louisiana State Senate, in which he served for four terms. He was named "Outstanding Legislator" by the Lake Charles Jaycees.

In the 1979 jungle primary, Knowles did not seek a fifth state Senate term but instead ran for lieutenant governor in a bid to succeed James E. "Jimmy" Fitzmorris, Jr., of New Orleans, who was running instead, unsuccessfully, for governor. Knowles lost, and fellow Democrat Robert "Bobby" Freeman became lieutenant governor for the first of two terms.

Knowles supported Republican gubernatorial candidate David C. Treen in the 1979 general election. Early in 1980, Knowles, with just a few weeks remaining in his senate term, switched his party affiliation to Republican. Governor Treen then appointed Knowles, a past chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife Commission, as secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. However, a heart attack caused him to resign the post after only twelve days. Treen later named him to the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board. He was also elected to the board of directors of the Louisiana Rice Council and served thereafter as president of that group.

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