Paul N. Cyr

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Paul N. Cyr
31st Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
1928–1931
Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr.
Preceded by Philip H. Gilbert
Succeeded by Alvin O. King
Personal details
Born Paul Narcisse Cyr
(1878-09-09)September 9, 1878
Jeanerette, Iberia Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died August 24, 1946(1946-08-24) (aged 67)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary McGowen Cyr
Children Louie Cyr
Marjorie Cyr ___
Emily Cyr Bridges
Charles M. Cyr
Alma mater Atlanta Dental College
Profession Dentist; Geologist
Businessman
Religion Presbyterian

Paul Narcisse Cyr (September 9, 1878 – August 24, 1946) was the elected lieutenant governor in the Huey Pierce Long, Jr., gubernatorial administration who quarreled with the self-designated "Kingfish" throughout most of their tenure. In 1931 and 1932, Cyr twice proclaimed himself the legitimate governor when Long delayed vacating the office to assume his elected seat in the United States Senate.

Early years, family, education[edit]

Cyr (pronounced SEER) was born in Jeanerette, a small town in Iberia Parish, to Joseph Cyr and the former Emilie Julie Hoffer. On February 6, 1907, he married the former Mary McGowen, and they had four children named Louie, Marjorie, Emily, and Charles M. Cyr (1915–2001).

He graduated from Atlanta Dental College and became a practicing dentist in Jeanerette in 1900. He was sufficiently regarded by his peers that he was named president of the Louisiana Dental Examining Board for 1916 to 1917.

Business interests[edit]

Besides being a dentist, Cyr was a surface geologist who had worked for Humble Oil Company and knew that large petroleum deposits existed below salt domes from Plaquemines Parish in south Louisiana to the Texas state line. Cyr found that several independent oil developers who contributed to Long for governor had received prosperous oil leases on state lands after the Kingfish took office.

Cyr was also a director of the First National Bank of Jeanerette and Consolidated Grocery Store. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, and the Elks Club. He was Presbyterian.

The split with Huey Long[edit]

Cyr was elected lieutenant governor on the Long intraparty ticket in 1928. He defeated the Opelousas physician Felix Octave Pavy, Sr. (died 1962), later a state representative from St. Landry Parish and a brother of Judge Benjamin Pavy, the father-in-law of the Long assassin, Dr. Carl Weiss.

Within months of taking office, Cyr split permanently with Long. The historian Richard D. White, Jr., found that fewer rivals irritated Long more than did Cyr. Long and Cyr had first openly quarreled in February 1929 over a controversial murder case in which a St. Mary Parish physician, Thomas E. Dreher, hired his handyman to murder electrician James LeBoeuf (pronounced LEBUFF), the husband of the doctor's lover, Ada LeBoeuf. Long favored the execution of the couple, but Cyr wanted leniency. Ultimately, the two were hanged on makeshift gallows —Ada thus becoming the first white woman hanged in Louisiana.

Long also loathed Cyr because the lieutenant governor would declare himself acting governor every time Long left the state, even for a day or two. Cyr was committed to reversing Longism if Long stayed away from Louisiana for any length of time. Fifty years later, that same scenario threatened David C. Treen, Louisiana's first Republican governor since Reconstruction; if Treen left the state, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Robert "Bobby" Freeman, a staunch partisan, would assume acting duties and attempt to thwart Treen.

Succession dispute[edit]

In 1930, in the middle of his term as governor, Long was elected to the United States Senate term beginning on March 4, 1931, but chose to delay resigning as governor and taking up the Senate seat until he had accomplished some remaining state goals. (He did not resign as governor until January 25, 1932.)

Throughout the spring and summer of 1931, Cyr threatened to take the oath of office as governor but did not do so.

In October 1931, Cyr filed suit in a bid to oust Long as governor and declared himself governor. He had a justice of the peace in Shreveport give him the oath of office in the Caddo Parish courthouse. Cyr arrived in Baton Rouge and threatened to take over the governor's mansion. Long ordered the National Guard to mobilize, and troops surrounded the capitol with strict orders not to admit Cyr. After a few days, state police replaced the guardsmen. For a time, the city was an "armed camp", with both Long and Cyr packing pistols.

Without police power, Cyr realized that he was beaten and returned to Jeanerette. Long, who had dubbed Cyr the "tooth puller from Jeanerette", flatly declared that his nemesis is "no longer lieutenant governor, and he is now nothing." Long ordered that Cyr be removed from the state payroll. Cyr tried again to take the governorship in January 1932, while the gubernatorial campaign between Oscar K. Allen and Dudley J. LeBlanc was underway. He established "executive offices" in the Heidelberg Hotel in Baton Rouge and took a second oath as governor. When Long learned of the turn of events, he called the manager of the Heidelberg and requested that Cyr be evicted. Cyr then moved to the Louisiana Hotel but thereafter forced to return in defeat to Jeanerette.

Forced out as lieutenant governor[edit]

When Cyr declared himself governor, Long insisted that the rightful claimant as lieutenant governor was not Cyr but Alvin O. King, a state senator from Lake Charles that Long had appointed as lieutenant governor when Cyr allegedly bowed out. Cyr did not resign as lieutenant governor, but the Louisiana courts agreed with Long that by declaring himself governor, he had in effect vacated the lieutenant governorship The pro-Long Bienville Democrat newspaper in Arcadia opined that Cyr had "about as much chance being installed or elected governor of Louisiana as a Texas billy-goat had of making a nonstop jump to the planet Mars."

Enduring anti-Long sentiment[edit]

Despite Long's control over Louisiana as governor and while in the Senate too, his opponents often seemed fearless at the odds against them. In a speech in Baton Rouge in 1934, former Lieutenant Governor Cyr declared that Senator Long "belongs to the hog family, and the piney woods, razorback type at that." Cyr earlier called Long "the worst political tyrant to rule the state."

Years later, Cyr's reclusive daughter, Emily Cyr Bridges, banned the name "Huey Long" from being spoken at her Albania Plantation House near New Orleans.

References[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Philip H. Gilbert of Assumption Parish
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor
1928–1931
Succeeded by
Alvin Olin King of Calcasieu Parish