Tom Stagg

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Tom Stagg
Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
In office
1974–1994
Preceded by Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr.
Succeeded by Tucker L. Melancon
Personal details
Born Thomas Eaton Stagg, Jr.
(1923-01-19) January 19, 1923 (age 91)
Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
Political party Republican candidate for attorney general of Louisiana in 1972 against William J. Guste
Spouse(s) Mary Margaret O'Brien Stagg (married 1946)
Children Julie and Mary Margaret
Parents Thomas Stagg, Sr., and Beulah Meyer Stagg
Occupation Attorney; Businessman
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Captain
Battles/wars World War II

Thomas Eaton "Tom" Stagg, Jr. (born January 19, 1923) is an attorney, businessman, politician and jurist who served as a senior United States federal judge for the Western District of Louisiana since his appointment by President Richard M. Nixon in the spring of 1974. Stagg's court is based in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Background[edit]

Stagg was born in Shreveport to Thomas Eaton Stagg, Sr. and the former Beulah Meyer. In 1939 he graduated from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport. He attended Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, from which he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943. During World War II Stagg was elevated from 1943 to 1946 from second lieutenant to captain in the United States Army. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star for Valor, a second Bronze Star for meritorious service and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster for wounds received in battle. Stagg married the former Mary Margaret O'Brien on August 21, 1946. They have two daughters, Julie and Margaret Mary.

Legal practice and business activities[edit]

After the war, Stagg briefly attended Cambridge University in Great Britain and then the LSU Law Center, from which he received his Juris Doctor degree in 1949. He began the practice of law with the firm of Hargrove, Guyton, Van Hook, and Hargrove, in Shreveport. He was a solo practitioner from 1953–1958; thereafter, he became the senior partner with Stagg, Cady, Johnson, and Haygood and the successor firm, Stagg, Cady, and Beard.

While he maintained his law practice, Stagg was vice-president of King Hardware Company from 1955-1974. He was president of the Abe Meyer Corporation in Shreveport from 1960 to 1974. He was a managing partner of the Pierremont Mall Shopping Center from 1963 to 1974. He was president of Stagg Investments, Inc., from 1964 to 1974. He has been a managing partner of Camellia Trading Company since 1974. He hence divested himself of most of his business dealings when he was sworn in as judge.

Political activities[edit]

A Republican since 1949, Stagg as the chairman of the GOP for Louisiana's 4th congressional district became involved in 1959 in an intraparty feud with the national committeeman, George W. Reese, Jr., of New Orleans, the party's U. S. Senate nominee in 1960, and LeRoy Smallenberger, the Shreveport lawyer, party functionary, and subsequent state chairman from 1960 to 1964. Stagg objected when Reese endorsed, with Smallenberger in agreement, a slate of candidates for party position on both the state and parish committees. Stagg described Reese as having attempted to assemble a group of "yes-men" and had hence "earned the enmity of a large number of fair-minded Republicans".[1]Reese, however, defended his endorsements, most of whom won their primary races, on the premise that he as a statewide party leader was obligated to recommend suitable candidates to rank-and-file voters.[2]

Stagg was the Republican National Committeeman from Louisiana from 1964 to 1972, a member of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee from 1964 to 1968, and a five-time delegate to GOP national conventions, from 1956 to 1972. He served on the platform committees in 1960, 1964, and 1968. He is a former member of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee and the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee.[3]

On February 6, 1968, Stagg ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Senate when he sought one of three at-large seats from Caddo Parish. He polled 16,341 votes in the general election, but he fell 6,536 votes behind the bottom-ranked Democrat in the race, conservative incumbent Jackson B. Davis, who, like Stagg, had supported Republican Barry M. Goldwater for president in 1964. Joining Davis in the Caddo Senate delegation were Democrats J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., and Joe LeSage, two Shreveport attorneys.

In the 1968 Republican convention meeting in Miami Beach, Florida, Stagg supported Nixon's second bid for the party's presidential nomination. Time magazine quoted national committeeman Stagg: We've had our shot at a candidate who totally met our qualifications [Goldwater in 1964], and that candidate got six states. We've had our druthers. Now shall we win one?" Stagg described as "not viable" last-minute efforts by some party conservatives, including Louisiana Republican leader David C. Treen, to draft then Governor Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California for the presidential nomination.

In 1969, Stagg continued to challenge political corruption in Louisiana and asked, "Government improprieties are a feature of our daily newspapers. ... Will it require revelation of further scandals, corruption, misgovernment, nepotism, and just plain crookedness to gain reform in government?" His remarks came when the 28,000-member Louisiana GOP was seeking to increase membership to 200,000 in time for the 1972 election cycle.[4]


Running for Louisiana attorney general, 1972[edit]

In 1972, Stagg was the Republican nominee for state attorney general on a ticket headed by gubernatorial candidate David Treen. Stagg was seeking to fill the seat being vacated by long-term Democratic incumbent Jack P.F. Gremillion, a protégé of the late Earl Kemp Long. Gremillion had been eliminated in the 1971 party primary because of corrupt practices in office.

Stagg faced the Democratic primary winner, one-term State Senator William J. Guste, of New Orleans, but party affiliation worked heavily to Guste's advantage. Guste and Stagg were virtually the same age. Stagg won the endorsement of the since defunct Shreveport Journal: an editorial hailed him as "a man of considerable force ... considered by his colleagues in the law fraternity to be a man of brilliance." The Shreveport Journal also noted that for years Stagg had "fought for the southern viewpoint in national Republican party conventions."

Guste prevailed in the race with 763,276 votes (74.1 percent) to Stagg's 270,038 (25.9 percent). Stagg won only his native Caddo Parish with 54 percent of the ballots cast, and he finished with at least 43 percent in six other north Louisiana parishes. Guste went on to serve twenty years as attorney general. Two other statewide Republican nominees also won in Caddo Parish, Treen for governor and Robert L. Frye, a native of Webster Parish who was then a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, who challenged the Democrat Louis J. Michot of Lafayette.

After his race for attorney general, Stagg vacated the position of Republican national committeeman in favor of David Treen. Stagg also announced that he was considering running for the U.S. Senate in 1972 for the seat held by Democrat Allen J. Ellender, who died during the primary campaign. Stagg said that he would need "money, support, and possibilities of success, rather than just running as an exercise."[5] Stagg never ran for the Senate; the Republican nominee was Ben C. Toledano, a lawyer and author, who had carried the party's banner in 1970 in a race for mayor of New Orleans. Victory in the Senate race, however, went to Stagg's former rival for the state Senate, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. Stagg did win one election, a nonpartisan contest in the summer of 1972 for delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973. He served as chairman of both the Temporary Rules and the Executive Department committees.

Federal judicial service[edit]

On February 18, 1974, Stagg was nominated to the judicial seat vacated by Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr. Stagg was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 7, 1974, and received his commission a day later. He was sworn in as judge on April 26, 1974. He served as chief judge from 1984 to 1991, and assumed senior status on February 29, 1992, but still maintains a full staff and case assignment. In addition to trial court duties, he has served on panels in several federal circuit courts of appeal. His full-time position was filled in 1994 by Tucker L. Melancon, appointee of Democrat President Bill Clinton. As a judge, Stagg has handled a plethora of cases in a career that exceeds thirty-five years.

In 2006 Stagg sentenced Chevelle “Big Mook” Hamilton (born 1978) to sixteen years in federal prison without parole for his role in drug trafficking and weapons violations in the Shreveport area. Hamilton had pleaded guilty to the charges. Stagg denounced Hamilton from the bench as "the leader of a group of criminals that brought cocaine to this market regularly on a kilo basis ... This will take Mr. Hamilton off the street long enough to where his lust for freedom will succeed his lust for criminal behavior."[citation needed] Federal indictments had been brought against Hamilton and six others in August 2005, as a result of an intense investigation that spanned some eighteen months and involved several law enforcement agencies. Police said that they had broken up a major drug-trafficking ring that had a propensity toward violence.

Defending a 1993 "junket"[edit]

Stagg came under fire from The Washington Post for his attendance at a Law and Economics Center seminar in 1993. The judge defied his critics, dismissed complaints about propriety, and declared that he would be eager for a second stay at the resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. "The food was wonderful; the teachers were wonderful. If somebody doesn't like it, I'm sorry."[citation needed] The Washington Post had revealed something that many Americans did not know: that federal judges, like congressmen, also take junkets, which are often never reported, that are sometimes of questionable value to the taxpayers who underwrite their salaries and benefits.[citation needed]

Honors from alma maters[edit]

In 1990, Stagg was named to the Byrd High School Hall of Fame. In 2004 Stagg was presented the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center's Distinguished Alumnus award, which came on the 30th anniversary of his judicial service. A fellow Shreveporter, Robert G. Pugh, who had served with Stagg at the Constitutional Convention, received the honor in 2003. Therefore, a joint recognition service was held a the Shreveport Petroleum Club on October 14, 2004, in honor of both Pugh and Stagg. Stagg expressed surprised on his selection: "Upon considering the merit of those recipients who have preceded me, I am very proud to be named the distinguished alumnus for 2004."[citation needed]

Stagg's papers, including his constitutional convention activities, are filed in the archives section of Louisiana State University at Shreveport. The collection includes working papers, committee proposals, resolutions and memoranda, files of newspaper clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, and published notes and studies on developing the Louisiana Constitution of 1974.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GOP Faction Fight Erupts Over Primary: 4th District Head Charges Attempt to Pack Committee", The Shreveport Times, December 2, 1959, p. 1
  2. ^ "Endorsements Defended by GOP Leader: Reese answers attack by Stagg as Faction Fight", The Shreveport Times, December 3, 1959, pp. 1, 4
  3. ^ "Tom Stagg to Speak to Local Lions Thursday", Minden Press-Herald, January 5, 1972, p. 1
  4. ^ "Louisiana Republicans Push for 200,000 State Members", Minden Press-Herald, March 4, 1969, p. 2
  5. ^ "Treen Named State GOP Committeeman," Minden Press-Herald, March 6, 1972, p. 1
Legal offices
Preceded by
Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr.
U.S. Federal District Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
1974-1994
Succeeded by
Tucker L. Melancon
Legal offices
Preceded by
Nauman Steele Scott, II, 1976-1984
Senior Judge, Western District of Louisiana

Thomas Eaton "Tom" Stagg, Jr.,
1984–1991

Succeeded by
John Shaw, 1991-1996