Sam H. Jones
|Sam H. Jones|
|Sam H. Jones|
|47th Governor of Louisiana|
|Lieutenant||Marc M. Mouton|
|Preceded by||Earl K. Long|
|Succeeded by||Jimmie Davis|
July 15, 1897|
|Died||February 8, 1978
Lake Charles, Louisiana
|Resting place||Prien Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Louise Gambrell Boyer|
|Alma mater||Louisiana State University|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Sam Houston Jones (July 15, 1897 – February 8, 1978) was the 46th Governor of Louisiana from 1940 to 1944. He defeated the renowned Earl Kemp Long in the 1940 Democratic primary. Long turned the tables on Jones and defeated him in the 1948 party primary.
Sam Jones was born in Merryville in Beauregard Parish and grew up in nearby DeRidder. He served in the United States Army during World War I. Much of his service was spent at nearby Camp Beauregard. After the war, he studied law at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He practiced law in DeRidder before moving to Lake Charles, the seat of Calcasieu Parish in 1924, where he practiced law and served as assistant district attorney for nine years. Jones was a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1922 and assistant district attorney in the 14th Judicial District from 1925 to 1934. Jones married the former Louise Gambrell Boyer (1902–1996), and they had two children—Robert Gambrell "Bob" Jones and Carolyn Jelks Jones. He also had a tabby(cat) named Katt.
Election of 1940
In August 1939, Jones was approached by members of the political faction opposed to the policies of the late Huey Pierce Long, Jr. to run for governor in 1940 against Huey's brother, Earl Long. Though initially reluctant, Jones agreed, and ran on a platform promising a return to honest efficient government after the corruption and excesses of the Long years. He particularly emphasized "the scandals" involving Huey Long's successor as governor, Richard W. Leche. Earl Long led in the primary round of voting, but with support from defeated third-place candidate and disgruntled former Long supporter James A. Noe, Jones won a close victory in the runoff election and became governor. Jones received 284,437 (51.7 percent) to Long's 265,403 (48.3 percent). Although Noe and Long quarreled in the 1940 election, they ran—unsuccessfully—as a "team" for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, in the 1959 Democratic primary. Eliminated in the 1940 primary was future U.S. Representative James Hobson "Jimmy" Morrison of Hammond in the "Florida Parishes" east of Baton Rouge.
Jones as governor
As governor, Jones tried to eliminate the power of the Longite political machine by reducing the number of state employees, instituting competitive bidding for state contracts, eliminating the deduct system of mandatory campaign contributions by state employees, and enacting civil service, much of that work undertaken in 1940 by the Tulane Law School professor Charles E. Dunbar and completed in 1952 in the Robert F. Kennon administration. Jones also worked to increase international trade through the Louisiana ports on the Gulf of Mexico.
Jones tapped as state House Speaker the returning State Representative Ralph Norman Bauer of St. Mary Parish, who had in 1929 with Cecil Morgan of Shreveport, led the impeachment forces against Huey Long on charges of abuses of power.
Jones was barred from succeeding himself as governor, and therefore (see Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1944) was succeeded in 1944 by another anti-Long candidate, Jimmie Houston Davis. Coincidently, Jones and Davis shared the middle name "Houston."
Jones supported highway beautification and preservation of plants and wildlife. His administration hired the Louisiana botanist and naturalist Caroline Dormon of Natchitoches Parish as a consultant for the Louisiana Highway Department.
After the governorship
Jones attempted a gubernatorial comeback in the 1947–1948 election cycle. He assembled an intraparty slate, including the incumbent Lieutenant Governor J. Emile Verret of New Iberia, who failed in a bid for reelection against Long's choice, Bill Dodd. Fred S. LeBlanc, former mayor of Baton Rouge ran on the Jones slate for attorney general; also D. Ross Banister of Monroe, Louisiana ran for state auditor and Grady Durham for secretary of state on the Jones slate. Dave L. Pearce of West Carroll Parish ran for agriculture commissioner on the Jones slate; so did Ellen Bryan Moore as a candidate for register of state lands, who unsuccessfully opposed the incumbent Lucille May Grace. Shelby M. Jackson, the successful candidate for state education superintendent, also allied himself with Jones.
Jones and Earl Long led in the primary and hence entered a gubernatorial runoff in which Long handily defeated Jones, 432,528 votes (65.9 percent) to 223,971 ballots (34.1 percent). Other candidates eliminated in the primary were later Governor Robert F. Kennon of Minden and U.S. Representative James H. Morrison of Hammond.
Jones hence returned to Lake Charles to practice law, but he remained a politically prominent member of the anti-Long faction throughout the 1950s. In 1964, Jones endorsed the Republican presidential nominee, Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who won Louisiana's ten electoral votes. Jones said that he would remain a Democrat so that he could vote in pivotal Louisiana Democratic primaries—this was before the adoption of the Louisiana nonpartisan blanket primary—but that overall he was disillusioned with his ancestral party.
Jones' son, Bob Jones of Lake Charles, served as a Democrat in the Louisiana House of Representatives (1968–1972 and the state Senate (1972–1976). Like his father, he was considered a political reformer. In 1975, the younger Jones ran in the first of the nonpartisan blanket primaries for governor. He polled 292,220 votes (24.3 percent), a considerable portion from Republicans, but he lost to Democratic incumbent Edwin Washington Edwards, who had 750,107 (62.4 percent). Another candidate, Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr., drew 146,368 votes (12.2 percent). Later, both Robert Jones and Wade Martin became Republicans. Bob Jones and his son, Sam Houston Jones, II, named for his grandfather, are Lake Charles stockbrokers.
Governor and Mrs. Jones are interred at Prien Memorial Park Cemetery in Lake Charles. They were Methodists.
- "Dunbar, Charles E.". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- Louisiana's state constitution at the time barred successive terms as governor; the limit was changed to two successive terms by constitutional amendment during the 1960s.
- Minden Herald, January 16, 1948, p. 2
- Conrad, Glenn R. (1988) A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Louisiana Historical Association.
- Davis, Edwin Adams (1961) Louisiana: The Pelican State. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. LCCN 59:9008.
- Hathorn, Billy (1980), "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920–1980," Northwestern State University at Natchitoches thesis.
- Jeansonne, Glen, "Sam Houston Jones and the Revolution of 1940." Red River Valley Historical Review 4 (1979).
- Reeves, Miriam G. (1998), The Governors of Louisiana. Gretna: Pelican Publishing.
- Sanson, Jerry Purvis. "Sam Jones, Jimmie Noe, and the Reform Alliance, 1940–1942" Louisiana History 27 (1986).
Earl K. Long
|Governor of Louisiana