Lee Emmett Thomas

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Lee Emmett Thomas
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana (Caddo Parish)
In office
1922–1930
Preceded by John McWilliams Ford
Succeeded by J.G. Palmer
Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish
In office
1908–1916
Preceded by At-large members:

W.H.B. Croon
H.H. Huckaby
Henry Hunsicker
W. Winter

Succeeded by At-large members:

George Dimick
James Stuart Douglas
John McWilliams Ford
Perry Keith

Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
1912–1916
Preceded by H. Garland Dupré
Succeeded by Hewitt Leonidas Bouanchaud
Personal details
Born (1866-09-23)September 23, 1866
Marion, Union Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died February 16, 1935(1935-02-16) (aged 68)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Florence Smith Thomas
Alma mater Samford University

Eastman Business College
University of Virginia

Occupation Attorney; Banker
Religion Baptist

Lee Emmett Thomas (September 23, 1866 – February 16, 1935) was an attorney and banker who served as the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, from 1922–1930. He was also from 1912–1916 the Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Background[edit]

Thomas was born in Marion in Union Parish north of Ruston, a son of B. B. Thomas and the former of Susan S. George of Perry County, Alabama. Thomas was educated at the former Concord Institute in the community of Shiloh in Union Parish. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baptist-affiliated Samford University, then known as Howard College in Marion, Alabama, but since located in Birmingham, Alabama. Thomas also obtained a Master of Accounts degree, a 14-week course, from the defunct Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Thereafter for two years he kept the books in his father's mercantile business in Farmerville, the parish seat of Union Parish. In 1889, Thomas procured his law degree from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia.[1][2]

From 1889 to 1896, he practiced law in Farmerville,[2] where he married the former Florence Smith. Thomas's biographical sketches in A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography[1] and The Chronicles of Shreveport does not indicate if the couple had children. In 1896, the Thomases came to Shreveport, where he continued in the practice of law. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Shreveport.[2] Thomas also served as president of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and was affiliated with several fraternal orders, including the Masonic lodge, the Shriners, the Order of the Eastern Star, Knights Templar, and the Knights of Pythias. Thomas worked to establish the Shriner's Hospital for Children in Shreveport, the first in the United States.[1][3] Thomas was also the chairman of the board of the orphanage, the Masonic Home for Children in Alexandria, Louisiana, established ca. 1928.[2]

Public career[edit]

In 1903, Thomas was appointed state banking commissioner by Governor William Wright Heard, who was like Thomas a native of Union Parish. Thomas served as banking commissioner until 1906, when he formed Continental Bank and Trust Company, of which he served as president until 1917.[1]

In 1908, Thomas, an active Democrat, was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. Reelected in 1912, he served his second term in the House as the Speaker. In his second term, he served with David B. Samuel, Perry Keith, and Joseph E. Johnston, Jr., no relation to the Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston. One of his at-large successors in the House, John McWilliams Ford, was also Thomas' predecessor as mayor. Ford also served from 1930 until his death in 1965 as the municipal finance commissioner.[4]

From 1916–1920, Thomas was the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Central Committee, an influential body in a one-party state at the time. He also served on the Democratic National Committee through his role as the party's Louisiana national committeeman. Thomas was chairman of the Louisiana Tax Commission from 1917–1919 under Governor Ruffin G. Pleasant, of Shreveport and like Heard and Thomas a Union Parish native. Thomas was again the state banking commissioner from 1919–1922,[2] under the Pleasant and successor John M. Parker administrations. In 1924, Thomas ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate, losing the Democratic nomination to incumbent Joseph Ransdell of Alexandria.[1] Ransdell polled 104,312 votes (54.9 percent) to Thomas' 85,547 ballots (45.1 percent).[5] In 1930, Ransdell was unseated in the primary by Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who did not immediately take his seat in the chamber.

Shreveport mayor[edit]

As the Shreveport mayor for two four-year terms, Thomas promoted the construction of the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium,[1] originally a memorial to World War I service personnel, which was restored in 1994.[6] From 1948–1960, the auditorium staged the Louisiana Hayride Country music program. Later, Elvis Presley performed at the auditorium on several occasions between 1954 and 1956. While Thomas was mayor, W. K. Henderson launched KWKH Radio.[7] Thomas was active too in building the viaduct on Market Street, the Cross Lake Reservoir (the city's principal water supply), and the construction of ten parks and playgrounds.Thomas worked for the purchase of Barksdale Field.[1]

Thomas died in Shreveport at the age of sixty-eight and is interred there at Forest Park Cemetery.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Thomas, Lee Emmett". Louisiana Historical Association, A Directory of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "LeeEmmett Thomas". files.usgwarchives.org. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography uses information for its biographical sketch on Mayor Thomas from Lilla McLure and J. Ed Howe, History of Shreveport and Shreveport Builders (1937) and Maude Hearn O'Pry, Chronicles of Shreveport (1928).
  4. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812–2012". legis.state.la.us. Retrieved December 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ State of Louisiana, Louisiana Secretary of State, U.S. Senate election returns, 1924
  6. ^ Eric J. Brock, "Municipal Auditorium Now Being Restored," Shreveport Times September 17, 1994
  7. ^ "LouisianaHayride". caddohistory.com. Retrieved December 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Index to Politicians: Thomas, K to N". politicalgraveyard.com. Retrieved December 29, 2010. 
Political offices
Preceded by
At-large members:

W.H.B. Croon
H.H. Huckaby
Henry Hunsicker
W. Winter

Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish (at-large)

Lee Emmett Thomas
1908–1916

Succeeded by
At-large members:

George Dimick
James Stuart Douglas
John McWilliams Ford
Perry Keith

Preceded by
H. Garland Dupré of Orleans Parish
Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Caddo Parish

Lee Emmett Thomas
1912–1916

Succeeded by
Hewitt Leonidas Bouanchaud of Pointe Coupee Parish
Preceded by
John McWilliams Ford
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana

Lee Emmett Thomas
1922–1930

Succeeded by
J.G. Palmer