Sylvan Friedman

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Sylvan N. Friedman
Louisiana State Senator from principally Natchitoches Parish
In office
Preceded by Lloyd F. Wheat
Succeeded by Paul Lee Foshee, Sr.
Louisiana State Representative from Natchitoches Parish
In office
Preceded by John O. Williams

Arthur C. Watson (two members)

Succeeded by Curtis Boozman
Natchitoches Parish Police Jury
In office
Personal details
Born (1908-05-19)May 19, 1908
Louisiana Natchez, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died March 18, 1979(1979-03-18) (aged 70)
United States Natchitoches, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth H. Friedman
Children Sam Friedman
Occupation Farmer; Rancher
Religion Jewish

Sylvan N. Friedman (May 19, 1908 – March 18, 1979)[1] was a Louisiana politician, a rare Jewish member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature. He served from Natchitoches Parish in the House of Representatives from 1944 to 1952 and then in the State Senate from 1952 until his defeat in 1972.

Early years and background[edit]

Friedman was born in Natchez in Natchitoches Parish, not to be confused with the larger and better known Natchez in Mississippi. He was a large landowner, a farmer, and a cattleman, even the president of the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association.[2] Prior to his legislative service, Friedman was a member of the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury, the equivalent to the county commission in other states, including eight years as the jury president.[3] During his tenure, Natchitoches Parish in 1939 erected its existing courthouse in downtown Natchitoches.

Legislative years[edit]

In the state House, Friedman and Numa T. Delouche filled the Natchitoches Parish seats vacated in 1944 by John O. Williams and Arthur C. Watson, an attorney and bank director who later was chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. In Friedman’s second House term, which began in 1948, Delouche was replaced by Roy Sanders of the Chestnut community north of Black Lake. When Friedman won election to the Senate, his House seat was taken by Curtis Boozman (1898–1979)[1] of Natchitoches.[4]

As a senator, Friedman served with four governors: Robert F. Kennon, Earl Kemp Long, Jimmie Davis, and John J. McKeithen. During his lengthy career, he was a member of the legislative budget committee. He also served on committees on higher education, finance, and judiciary.[3] Friedman unseated state Senator Lloyd F. Wheat in the Democratic primary. At various times, in addition to Natchitoches Parish, he represented Red River, Winn, Grant, and a portion of Rapides parishes.[2]

In 1963, then freshman State Representative Paul Lee Foshee, Sr., did not seek reelection but instead unsuccessfully challenged Friedman for the Senate seat. In his last term from 1968 to 1972, Friedman and Cecil R. Blair, an Alexandria businessman, represented a since disbanded two-member multi-parish district, which included Grant Parish. Friedman served a term as Senate President Pro Tempore, in which capacity he was the acting governor if the chief executive and the lieutenant governor were both simultaneously out of state. The position made him third in succession to the governorship.[2]

A personal friend of Earl Long, Friedman frequently dined with the governor, eating cornbread, greens, sweet potatoes, and drinking buttermilk in the old Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge. During Long's tenure, Friedman had a room reserved at the mansion and was a late night "political talking companion."[5]

Friedman lost his bid for a sixth term in the 1971-1972 election cycle, having been eliminated as the third-place candidate in the primary. Former Representative Paul Foshee then defeated state Senator Willard L. Rambo of Georgetown in the runoff election. Thereafter, Foshee prevailed against a weak Republican opponent in the general election held on February 1, 1972. In 1975, Foshee was unseated by Donald G. Kelly, a Natchitoches attorney and horse breeder, who held the seat until 1996.[6]

Friedman was a member of the Southern Regional Education Board. He was a former "Man of the Year" of the Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce.[2] In 1988, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches renamed its student center in Friedman’s honor.[3] As a senator, Friedman had been instrumental in obtaining the student center, as well as Prather Coliseum and several residential halls and classroom buildings.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

The student union building at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, is named for former State Senator Sylvan Friedman, who worked to secure funding for the structure.

Friedman died at the age of seventy. He was part of a small but influential Jewish community in Natchitoches Parish,[7] one of whose members, the Kaffies, founded the oldest still standing hardware store in Louisiana. A long-time member of Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim in nearby Alexandria, Louisiana, he is interred next to his wife, Elizabeth H. Friedman (October 12, 1912 – July 3, 1969), at the Jewish Cemetery in Natchitoches. There is an accompanying marker identified as "Infant" Friedman, November 7, 1945.[7] The couple had a surviving son, Sam Friedman, a businessman and attorney who in 2009 reopened the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.[8] Friedman had a namesake nephew, Sylvan I. Friedman, of New Orleans, son of Friedman's brother, Harry Friedman, Sr.

Leon Friedman (1886–1948), probably the uncle of Sylvan Friedman, served in the Louisiana House from Natchitoches Parish from 1932 to 1940.[4]

Friedman was not the first or second Jewish legislator from Natchitoches Parish. Much earlier, Leopold Caspari, who in 1884 pushed successfully for the creation of Northwestern State University, also served in both houses of the legislature, nonconsecutively between 1884 and 1914.[9] Prior to Friedman's death, Arnold Jack Rosenthal, a Jewish lawyer and businessman in Alexandria, with maternal roots in Natchitoches, served as his city's last finance and utilities commissioner.

In 2006, Friedman was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. As is customary for the organization, cartoonist Pap Dean prepared a caricature of the late Natchitoches lawmaker.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Northwestern State University: Friedman Student Union". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Political Hall of Fame: Sylvan Friedman". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2012". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Blanco heads list for [2006] Hall of Fame induction". James Ronald Skains, The Piney Woods. Retrieved September 18, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Membership of the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2004". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Jewish Cemetery, Natchitoches, Louisiana". Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Paul F. Stahls, Jr., "Roosevelt Returns: This downtown New Orleans hotel has a long and colorful past -- and future", July–August 2009". Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Caspari, Leopold". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography ( Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Lloyd F. Wheat
Louisiana State Senator from principally Natchitoches Parish

Sylvan N. Friedman

Succeeded by
Paul Lee Foshee, Sr.
Political offices
Preceded by
Two members:

Arthur C. Watson
John O. Williams

Louisiana State Representative from Natchitoches Parish

Sylvan N. Friedman

Succeeded by
Curtis Boozman