Noble Ellington

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Noble Edward Ellington, II
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 20th district
In office
January 14, 2008 – January 9, 2012
Preceded by Lelon Kenney
Succeeded by Steve Pylant
In office
1988–1996
Preceded by Fox McKeithen
Succeeded by Lelon Kenney
Member of the Louisiana Senate
from the 32nd district
In office
1996–2008
Preceded by Steve D. Thompson
Succeeded by Hartwood Caldwell "Neil" Riser, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1942-05-25) May 25, 1942 (age 72)
Political party Republican since December 2010, previously Democratic
Spouse(s) (1) Peggy Marie McDowell Ellington (married 1964-1998, divorced, then wed to Chet D. Traylor, former justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and since deceased)

(2) Brenda Anderson Armstrong Ellington (married 2006)

Children Noble Ellington, III (born 1964)

Ryan Ellington (born 1967)

Alma mater Louisiana Tech University
Occupation Cotton merchant
Religion Baptist

Noble Edward Ellington, II (born May 25, 1942), is a wealthy cotton merchant from Winnsboro, the seat of Franklin Parish in northeastern Louisiana, who is former member of both houses of the Louisiana Legislature. He served as a Democrat in the state Senate from District 32 from 1996 to 2008. He was a member of the state House from District 20 from 1988 to 1996 and again from 2008-2012. On December 17, 2010, near the end of his legislative career, he switched his affiliation to Republican. He had returned to the House on January 14, 2008, after an absence of a dozen years because he was term-limited from seeking a fourth consecutive Senate term.

Late in 2007, Ellington, as a returning but still freshman member, sought to chair the House Appropriations Committee, but he ran into a bloc of opposition from conservatives, including the statewide radio talk show host Moon Griffon of Monroe. The conservatives stopped Governor Bobby Jindal from recommending that Speaker Jim Tucker name Ellington as the chairman of the critical committee. They contended that Ellington is an advocate of raising taxes to fund expanded government, rather than a lawmaker committed to reducing taxes and cutting programs. Ellington had asked for the appointment on grounds that no House members from northeastern Louisiana had otherwise been named committee chairmen. Jindal had agreed to the recommendation until Tucker informed him that Ellington does not share Jindal's professed philosophy of limited government.[1]

Education and civic activities[edit]

Ellington was born to Mr. and Mrs. Noble Ellington, Sr. He graduated in 1960 from Mangham High School in Mangham in Richland Parish. In 1964, he obtained a bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish. Ellington has been active in such civic organizations as the Farm Bureau, the Northeast Louisiana Agriculture/Business Council, and the Chamber of Commerce. He is a past director of the Winnsboro Economic Development Corporation. He is a former bank director and hospital board member. Ellington is a patron of the restored Princess Theatre in Winnsboro.[2] He and his sons operate Noble Ellington Cotton Company, Inc., in Winnsboro.

In his earlier years, he was a national director of the Jaycees. He sits on the board of directors of the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home orphanage in Ruston. He is a former co-chairman, now emeritus, of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Ellington is Baptist.[3]

During his first legislative stint in the House, Ellington was named "Legislator of the Month" by the interest group which represents city officials, the Louisiana Municipal Association. Another interest group, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, gave Ellington its "Golden Apple Award" for his support of public schools. Similarly, the Louisiana Association of Educators named him to its "Legislative Honor Roll". He has also been named "Guardian of Small Business".[3]

A bitter divorce[edit]

In 1964, Ellington married the former Peggy Marie McDowell (also born 1942) of Winnsboro, a native of Monroe. Their two sons are Noble Ellington, III (born 1964), and Ryan Fred Ellington (born 1967).[4] The Ellingtons divorced on May 11, 1998. In their family-owned company, Noble handled the negotiation of deals with suppliers and customers, while Peggy ran the office, kept the books, and performed paperwork associated with the business. Their sons joined the business, Ryan in 1992 and Noble, III, in 1995. The company buys cotton from farmers, cotton gins, and other producers and sells to textile mills and shippers. The gross profit of the company comes from the margin made from this activity. The Ellington firm made a profit each year from 1979 through 1998.[5]

By August 1996, when the Ellingtons separated, they had made more than $2 million in the cotton business. They used some of their proceeds to purchase apartments, office buildings, and farms. Peggy sued Noble over the division of the company but lost her claim on appeal. After the divorce, Peggy married Chet D. Traylor, a Republican who served on the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1997 to 2009. Traylor, now of Monroe, formerly resided in Winnsboro.[5] Peggy Traylor died on August 22, 2009, and is interred at Columbia Hills Cemetery in Traylor's native Columbia, Louisiana.[6] Noble Ellington, III, and Ryan Ellington sued Chet Traylor in Fifth Judicial District Court in June 2010 for allegedly withholding information about their late mother's estate. Peggy Traylor died without a will. Chet Traylor since became romantically involved with Denise Lively Ellington, the former wife of Ryan Ellington. Noble Ellington, II, has also blamed Traylor as part of the cause of his own divorce from Peggy, his first wife of thirty-four years.[7]

In 2010, Traylor launched an intraparty challenge to U.S. Senator David Vitter. Traylor claimed that Vitter's personal problems may render the incumbent Republican senator vulnerable to the challenge of the Democrat Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville in Assumption Parish.[8] However, Vitter handily defeated Melancon on November 2, 2010.

Controversy over second wife's employment[edit]

In 2006, Noble Ellington married his longtime legislative secretary, the former Brenda Anderson Armstrong (born 1961). The second Mrs. Ellington sought to continue as her husband's legislative assistant.[9] A hearing was to have been held in the 19th District Court in Baton Rouge on February 19, 2008, to see if she qualifies under the state's ethics laws. However, the case was postponed.[10]

State District Judge Don Johnson issued a temporary restraining order on January 11, 2008, that Mrs. Ellington could continue in her $54,540-per-year position until a final court decision is rendered.[11] She maintained her position while Ellington served in the Senate because she had worked for him for more than a year before the couple married. In fact, she has been employed by Ellington since he entered the House in 1988. The Louisiana Ethics Board maintains that the Senate and House are separate bodies so the grandfather clause no longer applied after Ellington returned to the House. The Ellingtons maintain that the legislature is a single body and that her employment should stand.

Ellington said that his wife has "tremendous experience and a great understanding about the needs of the constituents." House Clerk Butch Speer said he believes the Ethics Board's opinion should stand. According to Speer, "The House's position is that we have to adhere to the code of ethics. The (Ethics Board) is charged by law with interpreting the code, and it said that (Ellington) can't participate in the employment of his wife. But the House is also bound to follow a lawful order of the court. Under the restraining order issued by the 19th Judicial Court, the House isn't to perform any act that would interrupt her employment. Unless or until that order is lifted, she will remain employed. If the order is ever lifted, the House will follow the dictates of the Ethics Board", and Mrs. Ellington would therefore be terminated from her position.[12]

On May 19, 2008, the state Senate without objection approved an amendment offered by then Senate President Joel Chaisson of Destrehan that would erase the court ruling that Mrs. Ellington must resign as her husband's legislative assistant. Chaisson's amendment states that if a lawmaker's spouse is legally an assistant in one chamber of the legislature, a member then being elected to the other body does not change that assistant's employment status.[13]

Election history[edit]

Ellington won the District 20 House seat in the state election held on November 17, 2007. Incumbent Lelon Kenney (born 1935) of Columbia was term-limited. Ellington hence defeated his runoff opponent, fellow Democrat Cleveland Webb "Cleve" Womack (born 1953) of Jonesville in Catahoula Parish,[14] 6,215 (52 percent) to 5,686 (48 percent). The district includes, Franklin, Catahoula, Caldwell, and two precincts of Tensas, the smallest of Louisiana's sixty-four parishes, which is located adjacent to the Mississippi River.[15]

Ellington's former Senate District 32 includes in addition to Caldwell, Catahoula, and Franklin (also in the House district) the parishes of Concordia, La Salle, and small portions of Ouachita and Rapides parishes. The district is now represented by its first ever Republican member, Neil Riser of Columbia. By the time that Ellington left the Senate, the district lines had changed somewhat and included even a few precincts as far south as the northern portion of Avoyelles Parish.

In Ellington's first election to the House in 1987, he and intraparty rival Rodney R. "Rod" Elrod (born 1954) of Winnsboro[16] led a field of seven Democrats and one independent. Ellington polled 3,640 (21 percent), and Elrod 3,063 (17 percent). Ellington then defeated Elrod in the general election, usually called the runoff in Louisiana.[17]

Four years later in 1991, Ellington overwhelmed intraparty rival Dennis Grady Stewart (born 1953) of Rayville in Richland Parish,[18] 13,211 (72 percent) to 5,060 (28 percent).[19] In 1995, Ellington first won his Senate seat. He went into a general election with fellow Democrat Roy Eugene Hebron (born 1954) of Ball in northern Rapides Parish,[20] 19,325 (48 percent) to 16,076 (40 percent). Independent candidate Paul A. Nugent received the critical 5,048 remaining votes (12 percent).[21] In the showdown with Hebron on November 18, 1995, Ellington prevailed, 21,703 (53 percent) to 19,180 (47 percent).[22]

Ellington handily won reelection to the Senate on October 23, 1991, when he defeated his first and only Republican opponent, Larry Bruce Minton (born 1945 of Pineville in Rapides Parish),[20] 27,001 (69 percent) to 11,954 (31 percent).[23] In 2003, Ellington won his last Senate term in an easy contest with fellow Democrat James "Jim" Hearns (born 1952) of Columbia, 27,021 (80 percent) to 6,497 (20 percent).[24]

Party bolt[edit]

On December 9, 2010, Ellington announced that he was likely to switch to Republican affiliation to seek renewed membership in the state House of Representatives in 2011. Three other Democrats announced that same month that they have switched affiliation, John Alario of Westwego, Fred H. Mills, Jr., of St. Martinville, and Simone B. Champagne of Iberia Parish, following the departure of John R. Smith of Leesville two years earlier. Ellington and Smith had been the top recipients of legislative campaign contributions from Koch Industries and its subsidiaries in the state, in the election cycles before their switch.[25] On December 17, 2010, Ellington made the switch official, giving the Louisiana Republican Party its first majority in the Louisiana House since the Reconstruction era.[26]

Ellington explained that this party switch is "historically significant, but the truth is I've been a conservative for my entire career, so it won't affect the way I vote. . . . I found myself farther and farther away from what has become the liberal philosophy of the national party. My way of thinking, which falls along a more conservative line, has been shrinking within the party. At least nationally, the Republican Party seems to fit my philosophy more than the current Democratic Party."[27]

Then Speaker Tucker, who had opposed Ellington's committee chairmanship in 2008, said he is "excited to have Noble in the party and ecstatic about holding the majority. We as Republicans can continue to push for smaller, more efficient government, and we have the numbers to pass legislation that can do that if we stick together. . . . It's incredible that when I started in the House [in 2001] that we have more than doubled our numbers and indicative of where the state in going. It's also a tribute to those who preceded us to helped build the party in this state, in particular [Senator] David Vitter."[27]

Louisiana Republican Chairman Roger Villere issued this statement on Ellington's defection: "For more than one hundred years, the Louisiana House of Representatives has remained under Democrat control, but today that has all come to an end. In just three short years a 16-seat Democrat majority has been erased and Representative Ellington's decision to become the 53rd Republican in the House gives the GOP our first controlling majority in that body since Reconstruction. This is a great and historic day for the Republican Party of Louisiana and I'm pleased to welcome Representative Ellington to the new conservative majority in the House."[27]

2011 election[edit]

Ellington changed his plans and did not seek reelection to the House in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 22, 2011. Voters chose a Republican successor in the seat, Steve Pylant of Delhi, the sheriff of Franklin Parish. Pylant defeated Ellington's previous opponent, Cleve Womack, 9,119 votes (56.3 percent) to 7,066 ballots (43.7 percent).[28]

In 2012, Ellington was appointed to a $150,000 position in the Louisiana Department of Insurance as the chief deputy commissioner. He serves under elected commissioner Jim Donelon, another Democrat-turned-Republican. Ellington would succeed to the insurance commissioner's position were Donelon to vacate the post that he has held since 2006.[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.ouachitacitizen.com/news.php?id=1582; http://forgotston.com/2008/01/13/jindal-ethics/
  2. ^ ::Welcome to the Princess Theatre::
  3. ^ a b Louisiana State Senate - District 32
  4. ^ People Search & Background Check
  5. ^ a b http://www.lacoa2.org/Opinions%20PDF/36943ca.pdf PDF (45.2 KiB)
  6. ^ "Obituary of Peggy Marie Traylor". mulhearnfuneralhome.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ellingtons paint different picture of Vitter challenger Traylor". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved July 21, 2010. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Monroe's Traylor to challenge Vitter", Monroe News Star, July 10, 2010
  9. ^ Louisiana House of Representatives - Internet Portal
  10. ^ The News Star - www.thenewsstar.com - Monroe, LA
  11. ^ NewsHorn.com Forums | Louisiana and Ethics, Worlds in Collision
  12. ^ The News Star - www.thenewsstar.com - Monroe, LA
  13. ^ The Shreveport Times: Buy New & Used Cars, Research Prices, Sell My Car, Find Auto Dealers
  14. ^ People Search & Background Check
  15. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  16. ^ People Search & Background Check
  17. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  18. ^ People Search & Background Check
  19. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  20. ^ a b People Search & Background Check
  21. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  22. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  23. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  24. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State-Multi-Parish Elections Inquiry
  25. ^ http://www.followthemoney.org National Institute on Money in State Politics. Accessed 9/1/12.
  26. ^ Barrow, Bill (2010-12-18). "Ellington gives GOP majority in House: Legislative veteran switches parties". Times-Picayune (Metro Edition). p. A3. Retrieved 2010-12-18.  With Ellington's switch the Louisiana House of Representatives has 53 Republicans, 4 members with no party affiliation, and 48 Democrats.
  27. ^ a b c Hilburn, Greg (2010-12-18). "Ellington switches: First GOP House majority since Reconstruction". News Star (Monroe, Louisiana). Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  28. ^ "Louisiana primary election returns, October 22, 2011". staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  29. ^ ""Former state Rep. Noble Ellington hired as No. 2 official at state Department of Insurance", February 8, 2012". therepublic.com. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lelon Kenney
Louisiana State Representative from District 20
2008 – 2012
Succeeded by
Steve Pylant
Preceded by
Fox McKeithen
Louisiana State Representative from District 20
1988 – 1996
Succeeded by
Lelon Kenney
Louisiana Senate
Preceded by
Steve D. Thompson
Louisiana State Senator from District 32
1996 – 2008
Succeeded by
Hartwood Caldwell "Neil" Riser, Jr.