Noah W. Cross

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Noah Webster Cross
Sheriff of Concordia Parish, Louisiana
In office
July 1, 1944 – July 1948
Preceded by Hartwell Love
Succeeded by Hartwell Love
In office
July 1952 – April 4, 1973
Preceded by Hartwell Love
Succeeded by Fred L. Schiele
Personal details
Born (1908-10-03)October 3, 1908
Monterey
Concordia Parish
Died November 22, 1976(1976-11-22) (aged 68)
Ferriday
Concordia Parish
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Iola May Denham Cross (1910-1997)
Children Diane C. Brakinridge

Kay Faulkner
Lydia Wilson

Alma mater Ferriday High School

Louisiana Tech University

Occupation Sheriff
Religion United Methodist
(1) Long-serving Sheriff Cross was forced from office in the first half of his seventh non-consecutive term after he lost his appeal of a conviction of two counts of procuring bribes to protect prostitution and gambling interests.

(2) One of Cross' sons-in-law, Roger Wilson (1948-2006), began his own 40-year career in law enforcement as a deputy to his future father-in-law.

(3) Former State Representative Fred L. Schiele was appointed sheriff (pending a special election) by Governor Edwin Washington Edwards when Cross vacated the office.

Noah Webster Cross (October 3, 1908 – November 22, 1976)[1] was a controversial Democratic sheriff from Ferriday in Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana, who served from July 1, 1944 until July 1948 and again from July 1952 until April 4, 1973, when a conviction for perjury and a failed appeal forced him into federal prison. Cross was succeeded by Fred L. Schiele (1933–2002),[2] a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, who was appointed by Governor Edwin Washington Edwards, pending a special election, to fill the remainder of Cross' term. Schiele had run unsuccessfully in the 1967 primary against Cross.[3] At the time of his resignation, Cross was the senior sheriff in Louisiana in terms of service.[4]

Background and family[edit]

Cross was born in Monterey in Concordia Parish to Marsalin Gillis Cross and the former Lydia Catherine Wilson. He attended Ferriday High School and Louisiana Tech University. He married the former Iola May Denham (February 28, 1910 – July 23, 1997)[2] of Baton Rouge,[5] Cross began his career in 1927 with the William Campbell Nabors Oil Company. Iola Cross was an English teacher at Ferriday High School. The couple had three daughters: Diane Brakinridge, Kay Faulkner, and Lydia C. Wilson[5] (born August 23, 1950).[6]

Lydia Wilson, named for her paternal grandmother Lydia C. Wilson, is the widow of Roger Wayne "Butch" Wilson (1948–2006), a Wisner native and a 40-year law enforcement officer who began his service as a deputy to his future father-in-law, Noah Cross. Wilson was also the chief of police for eight years in Ferriday and was thereafter a deputy under Sheriffs Schiele (1973–1980) and Hubert Lee McGlothin (1984–1990).[7]

Cross was a member of the Sevier Memorial United Methodist Church in Ferriday. He was also affiliated with the Masonic lodge.[5]

Cross as sheriff[edit]

Cross was first elected sheriff in 1944, when James Houston Davis won the first of his two nonconsecutive terms as governor. Cross was, nevertheless, unseated in 1948 by his predecessor, Hartwell Love. That year Earl Kemp Long was elected to the first of his two full terms as governor. Cross then unseated Love in January 1952 in the runoff election which propelled Robert F. Kennon of Minden to the state's highest constitutional office.[8]

On January 1972, days prior to the February 1 general election in which Edwin Edwards defeated Republican David C. Treen for governor, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish in Central Louisiana, began investigating Cross.[9] On May 6, Cross was convicted on two counts of perjury for having lied to a grand jury about his acceptance of bribes to protect prostitution and gambling in Concordia Parish. The case was prompted by the padlocking on orders of District Attorney William C. Falkenheiner of the former Morville Lounge, operated by Curt Hewitt, who had come to Concordia Parish from St. Landry Parish, where he had owned the Peppermint Lounge and paid bribes to Sheriff Cat Doucet.[10]

In Cross's trial before U.S. District Judge Nauman Scott of Alexandria, two bar operators testified that they made weekly payments to either Cross or the Concordia chief deputy to keep from being arrested. J.D. Richardson, one of the bar operators, testified that Cross was paid $200 per month to allow the bar to operate. Cross denied ever having taken the money. He faced four years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His conviction came the Saturday before the Tuesday, May 9, inauguration in Baton Rouge of Edwin Edwards as governor.[11]

After the perjury conviction, Cross was charged with jury tampering and obstruction of justice. In June 1972, Cross petitioned for a new trial, a month before he took office for his seventh nonconsecutive term as sheriff.[12] In a second trial in Alexandria in January, 1973, Cross was again found guilty of perjury.[13] In March 1973, he filed a motion for an appeal.[14] The request for an appeal was rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.[4] Cross then changed his plea to guilty in the jury tampering case. Judge Scott ordered him to report to U.S. marshals in Shreveport for transportation to federal prison on April 16, 1973.[4]

Cross then resigned as sheriff to enter the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas.[15] He faced six years after the second trial.[16]

Cross was ultimately released from prison after serving less than half of the sentence. He was a member of the Louisiana and national sheriff's associations. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography credits him with having modernized operations of the sheriff's department.[5][17] Cross died thereafter in Ferriday at the age of sixty-eight.[3] He is interred at Natchez City Cemetery in nearby Natchez, Mississippi.[1]

Though he was known for longevity in office, Cross was not the longest-serving Concordia Parish sheriff: that designation went to Eugene P. Campbell, who served from 1908 until his death in office on January 30, 1940.

Deputy Frank DeLaughter[edit]

A Cross deputy, Frank DeLaughter (died 1997), received a sentence of one year in 1972 for racketeering and for violating the civil rights of Cliff Davis of Ferriday, who was beaten to death in the parish jail; the sentences were served concurrently. Known for his large physical size and his abuse of African Americans and his dealings with parish bars, houses of prostitution and gambling during the 1960s, DeLaughter claimed to have been reformed after his release, but he was never again allowed to work in law enforcement, in which he had fifteen years of experience, or to carry a firearm.[18]

DeLaughter told FBI agents that Sheriff Cross sent him to the Morville Lounge brothel south of Vidalia to pick up an envelope, which he never opened but presumably contained cash. DeLaughter long claimed to have taken the fall for Cross. During the 1960s, the Marcellos, an organized crime family from New Orleans, controlled much of the gambling, prostitution, and liquor rackets in Concordia Parish.[18]

DeLaughter sought a second trial in the Davis case when he claimed to have found a physician who treated Davis on the night of the incident and would testify that Davis had no life-threatening condition, only loosened front teeth and two lacerations on the scalp. Prosecutors claimed that DeLaughter had switched victims, and he never obtained a retrial. He also appealed the U.S. District Court conviction on the grounds that the trial judge gave erroneous instructions to the jury. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the motion. Cross's sentence was identical in time to that of DeLaughter but based on his guilty plea to perjury.[18]

DeLaughter had close ties with the Ku Klux Klan. According to circumstantial evidence in FBI reports, DeLaughter may have been indirectly involved in the 1964 burning death of Frank Morris, an African-American store owner in Ferriday, and the torture/drowning death earlier that year of Joseph Edwards, an employee of the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia whose corpse has yet to have been found. These two cases, unsolved since in the late 1960s, were reopened by the FBI under the Emmitt Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.

In 1977, DeLaughter requested a pardon so that he could carry a weapon for hunting and resume voting. Many Ferriday residents objected, and the pardon never happened. He spent his last years in Ferriday, where he worked at various jobs and resided with relatives.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Natchez City Cemetery records, Natchez, Mississippi
  2. ^ a b Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
  3. ^ a b Stanley Nelson, Concordia News-Sentinel, Ferriday, Louisiana, archives check
  4. ^ a b c "Cross Resignation Slated April 15th", Concordia Sentinel, April 4, 1973, p. 1
  5. ^ a b c d "Cross, Noah W.". The Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  6. ^ Net Detective, People Search
  7. ^ The Natchez Democrat - Obituary: Roger Wayne "Butch" Wilson Sr
  8. ^ Concordia Sentinel, Ferriday, Louisiana, January 25, 1952
  9. ^ Concordia Sentinel, January 19, 1972
  10. ^ "Stanley Nelson, Matt Barnidge, and Ian Stanford, "Connected by violence: the mafia, the Klan & Morville Lounge,"". Concordia Sentinel, July 16, 2009. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Sheriff Cross Convicted on Two Counts", Minden Press-Herald, Minden, Louisiana, May 8, 1972
  12. ^ Concordia Sentinel, June 7, July 5, 1972
  13. ^ Concordia Sentinel, January 24, 1973
  14. ^ Concordia Sentinel, March 14, 1973
  15. ^ Quiana R. Wright, Louisiana Documents Librarian. State Library of Louisiana, Baton Rouge
  16. ^ Concordia Sentinel, April 4, 1973
  17. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography does not mention Cross's legal troubles and incorrectly states that he remained in office until his death in 1976.
  18. ^ a b c d "Kevin Thibodeaux, "Infamous former Concordia Parish deputy claimed to have reformed", June 4, 2013". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
Preceded by
Hartwell Love
Sheriff of Concordia Parish, Louisiana

Noah Webster Cross
1944—1948

Succeeded by
Hartwell Love
Preceded by
Hartwell Love
Sheriff of Concordia Parish, Louisiana

Noah Webster Cross
1952—1973

Succeeded by
Fred L. Schiele