Shady Wall

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Shady Wall
Louisiana State Representative from Ouachita Parish (later District 15)
In office
1948–1956
Preceded by D. Ross Banister

Chancey Clyde Bell, Sr. (two members)

Succeeded by H. Lawrence Gibbs
In office
1968–1984
Preceded by George A. Wood
Succeeded by Evelyn Blackmon
Personal details
Born Shady Robert Wall
1922
Place of birth missing
Died 1985 (aged about 63)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lallage Feazel Wall
Children No children
Residence West Monroe
Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, USA
Occupation Banker
(1) As chairman of the Louisiana House Retirement Committre, Wall required that all legislators' bills bear his pre-approval and his authorship, a longstanding violation of House rules which gives the author of bills sole power over their disposition.

(2) On at least two occasions, Wall either shot at or pulled a pistol on legislative colleagues who angered him.

(3) Even his critics conceded that Wall's strong-armed tactics, if essential, still saved taxpayers millions in the cost of additional retirement benefits to state and local officials.

Shady Robert Wall (1922–1985) was a banker and philanthropist from West Monroe, Louisiana, who served nonconsecutively as a Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1948–1956 and 1968-1984.[1]

Wall is remembered for his colorful dress, speeding in his Rolls Royce, flamboyant personality, gifts to local charity, and his penchant for packing a pistol in his boot holster. He was also an iron-fisted chairman of the House Retirement Committee in his later legislative tenure.

Wall as a legislator[edit]

Wall's legislative tenure corresponded with the administrations of Governors Earl Kemp Long, Robert F. Kennon, John J. McKeithen, Edwin Washington Edwards, and David C. Treen. Of the governors between 1948 and 1984, Wall served under all except Jimmie Davis.

At the start of his second term in the legislature, Wall, allied with Governor Kennon, challenged the reelection of U.S. Representative Otto E. Passman of Monroe, whose service extended from 1947 to 1977. He polled only 7,199 votes to 28,404 for the popular incumbent.[2]

Ron Gomez, a House colleague from Lafayette in Wall's last legislative term from 1980–1984, describes him, accordingly:

He swore Shady was his real first name. He also claimed that he was the only member of the legislature who could prove that he was legally sane since he had spent some time in a mental institute and had a certificate of release to prove his soundness of mind. . . . He had dabbled in real estate, advertising, and 'investments', and he had married well and become the president of a bank in West Monroe. He loved guns and firearms and kept a cache of them in his apartment at the Pentagon Barracks adjacent to the Capitol. He reportedly had a bowl of hand grenades displayed on a dining room table like a still life display of fruit. He had also reportedly fired a pistol at an [unnamed] representative who made the mistake of incurring his ire. [It] seems this colleague and several others were playing a childish prank on Shady one night and got caught. They were fleeing the scene when Shady opened fire. Luckily, he missed. No one is quite sure whether that was intentional.[3]

Gomez further describes Wall at fifty-eight as "a tall, well proportioned man [and] totally gray. He dressed with a flair. He wore white linen suits, brightly colored ties and ankle high boots. It was not uncommon for him to have a small revolver in an ankle holster tucked inside a boot. . . . As a younger man, he was quite dashing with a dazzling smile. But his most arresting features were his eyebrows . . . thick and black [and] shaped lie an upside down V and, combined with eyes that seemed to dance crazily when he grinned, gave him a devilish look."[4]

Gomez recalls a day in the House in the early 1980s when Wall pulled a pistol on Representative Carl Gunter, Jr., of Deville in Rapides Parish after Gunter inadvertently disconnected Wall's conference call with his banking colleagues.[5] At that point, the House sergeant-at-arms, Richard L. Barrios, and Representative John C. Ensminger, also of West Monroe, grabbed Wall to prevent him from harming the shaken Gunter.[5]

House Retirement Committee[edit]

As chairman of the House Retirement Committee, Wall required that all bills have his pre-approval and be credited to him as the author. According to House rules, however, only the author of a bill has control over the proposed legislation, and only the author can bring up the bill before the House for debate once it has received committee clearance. Ron Gomez, a freshman member on Wall's committee, said that despite the chairman's dictatorial methods, Wall "had saved the state millions of dollars by killing hundreds of special interest retirement bills. At that time, every group in state government had its own separate retirement system. The teachers had one, the state police another, judges had their own [etc.] . . . Each had different rules, different investment plans. Each employed a staff, each had paid actuaries. It was a mess. It hasn't changed much."[6]

Gomez continued:

"Thus, he was in total control of every bill that came before his committee, no exceptions. If you wanted to introduce legislation dealing with an area of retirement you went to confession with Father Wall. He was one of the few House members who had a private office in the Capitol at the time. In fact, he had a suite of offices on the ground floor. Long before the House was wired to bring the audio proceedings . . . to almost every office, Shady had speakers in his office bringing him the audio proceedings of the House. He was rarely in the chamber unless he had bills to present. If you needed to see Chairman Wall, you made an appointment and went to his office. If he blessed your idea for new legislation, he would introduce the bill, drafted the way he wanted it and under his name. . . . "[7]

In 1982, the since defunct Baton Rouge Enterprise named Wall's committee the second "worst committee in the legislature", with only Labor and Industrial Relations deemed even worse. The Enterpise said that Wall's committee "isn't so bad, except that it's not a committee. It's Shady's classroom" in which he handles his "bored and unruly children."[7]

Gomez said that Wall once told him that most appearing before the legislature regarding retirement benefits "consider themselves experts on retirement. They're not. They're just hired guns trying to milk the system. Some of them are actuaries, . . . . [saying] they can predict the future. They can't. They lie. . . . "[8]

In 1980, State Treasurer Mary Evelyn Parker appeared before Wall's committee to request that the state's lesser constitutional officers, such as herself as well as the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, education superintendent, agriculture commissioner, elections commissioner, and insurance commissioner, be treated for retirement purposes under the same formula employed since the 1970s for governors, judges, and legislators. Wall refused to budge and adjourned the committee when Gomez insisted that his amendment be heard. Gomez was seeking not to expand benefits to the other constitutional officers but to roll back the payments for future governors, legislators, and judges to the level of the state constitutional officers. Gomez said that his self-defined "fairness and parity bill never came up again, and the good old boy system rolled along until the 1996, when a new flock of reform legislators finally did away with legislative retirement. . . . with the passage of term limits by this same group, the retirement question was almost moot."[9]

In 1971, Wall announced his candidacy for governor of Louisiana but withdrew and ran inatead for reelection to the legislature.[10]

Wall's Monroe penthouse[edit]

In addition to the large Wall residence in West Monroe, Wall maintained a pink stucco penthouse on the ninth floor of the old Hotel Penn (built for $250,000 in 1928) in downtown Monroe, with a scenic overlook of the Ouachita River. The Penn had 232 rooms, each with a private bath, running hot and cold water and electric fans, and banquet hall frequented by politicians, planters and oilmen. According to Marion Edwards, younger brother of former Governor Edwin Edwards, Wall told him that "the air is just a bit sweeter up here," referring to the penthouse. In time, many of the businesses, including the banks, vacated the area about the Hotel Penn and moved to outlying malls to be closer to residential areas. In 2004, Melody Olson and her husband, Kim, bought the Penn Hotel for $341,000 to convert it into condominiums and live in Wall's former penthouse. The purchase price was only the start. The Olsons have since invested $2 million to restore the structure, having installed a new and larger elevator and replaced all the windows.[11] Melody Olson predicts that the Penn will offer "the finest downtown living in the area. I see the lights coming back on in downtown Monroe and the very thought of it all excites me."[11] Olson's architect, Jerry Madden, said that the former downtown hotels in Monroe "represent a fine era of architecture since most of them were constructed of reinforced concrete and have stood the test of time."[11]

In 1958, the singer Webb Pierce, a native of West Monroe, recorded a rockabilly record, "The New Raunchy"/"I'll Get By Somehow" for Decca under the name Shady Wall. It is unclear why Pierce chose the name Shady Wall, for he must have heard of Wall, the two having been nearly the same age, both with West Monroe connections, and Wall having been a legislator a full decade before Pierce recorded the song.

The charitable Wall[edit]

Wall's father-in-law, William C. Feazel, was an oilman originally from Farmerville in Union Parish in north Louisiana, with business interests in both Monroe and Shreveport. During most of 1948, he served under appointment from Governor Earl Long as an interim U.S. Senator, having held the seat until the election of Russell B. Long, son of Huey P. Long, Jr., and nephew of Earl Long. Feazel also served a single term in the Louisiana House from Ouachita Parish from 1932-1936. Wall's wealthy wife, the former Lallage Feazel (October 28, 1913–February 25, 1999) was nine years his senior but outlived him by fourteen years. Like her father, she too was residing in Shreveport in Caddo Parish in northwestern Louisiana at the time of her death.[12]

Wall once gave $10,000 for a Cabbage Patch doll at a Monroe charity auction in a bidding war against fellow banker Billy Lewis. Wall died of cardiovascular disease in his sixty-third year. Mrs. Wall left $18 million in her will to Tulane University in New Orleans for the encouragement of "creativity" among faculty and staff.[11]

Along with Mrs. Wall and former West Monroe Mayor Bert Hatten, Wall was a member of the first board of advisors of the Twin City Ballet Company, a regional dance entity that fosters community enrichment.[13]

There is a Shady Wall Memorial Endowment Scholarship in Banking, but the website offers no location of the scholarship.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2016". house.louisiana.gov. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  2. ^ Ellen Blue, “Multi-Hued Racehorse, Two-Headed Goose, or Just a Chameleon?: ‘The Political Animal’: Otto Passman and the 1952 Gubernatorial Race in Louisiana”, North Louisiana History (Fall 2000), p. 27
  3. ^ Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 59-70, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
  4. ^ Ron Gomez, p. 70
  5. ^ a b Ron Gomez, pp. 70-71
  6. ^ Ron Gomez, p. 71
  7. ^ a b Ron Gomez, p. 72
  8. ^ Ron Glomez, pp. 72-73
  9. ^ Ron Gomez, pp. 73-76
  10. ^ Leo Honeycutt, Edwin Edwards: An Authorized Biography, Lafayette, Louisiana: Lafayette Publishing Co., 2009, pp. 69, 76
  11. ^ a b c d "Bonnie Warren, "Sweet airs above Monroe: Shady Wall's fabulous penthouse has a new owner with a vision to match the view"". ethington.org. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Celebrating 40 Years: Twin City Ballet Company: A Gathering of Dancers, August 3, 2009". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Shady Wall Memorial Scholarship in Banking". fastweb.com. Retrieved February 15, 2010. 
Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
D. Ross Banister

Chancey Clyde Bell, Sr. (2 members)

Louisiana State Representative from Ouachita Parish

Shady Robert Wall
1948–1956

Succeeded by
H. Lawrence Gibbs
Preceded by
George A. Wood
Louisiana State Representative from Ouachita Parish (District 15)

Shady Robert Wall
1968–1984

Succeeded by
Evelyn Blackmon