W. Jasper Blackburn

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William Jasper Blackburn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 5th district
In office
July 18, 1868 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Frank Morey
Louisiana State Senator from Claiborne Parish
In office
1874–1878
Mayor of Minden, Louisiana
In office
May 1855 – May 1856
Personal details
Born (1820-07-24)July 24, 1820
Randolph County, Arkansas
Died November 10, 1899(1899-11-10) (aged 79)
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas
Political party Democratic-turned-Republican
Occupation Newspaper publisher and printer
(1) Publisher Blackburn switched his party affiliation to Republican because he opposed slavery and the secession of the Confederate States of America.

(2) Blackburn was spared conviction — and automatic execution — by a one-vote margin of charges that he printed counterfeit Confederate currency.

(3) After the return of Democratic Redeemer government in Louisiana in 1878, Blackburn soon returned to his native Arkansas, where he published the short-lived Arkansas Republican.

(4) Blackburn served in the United States House of Representatives and the Louisiana State Senate as a Republican; earlier he was a Democratic mayor of Minden, Louisiana, from 1855 to 1856.

(5) Blackburn launched the first paper to bear the name Minden Herald.

William Jasper Blackburn (July 24, 1820 – November 10, 1899) was an American printer and publisher who served in the United States House of Representatives from northwestern Louisiana from July 18, 1868, to March 3, 1869. A Republican during Reconstruction, he was thereafter a member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1874 to 1878.[1]

Blackburn was born on the Fourche de Mau in Randolph County in northeastern Arkansas. He received his early education from his mother. In 1839, he moved to Batesville to learn his printing trade. He resided in Little Rock in 1845, in Fort Smith in western Arkansas in 1846, and in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish, in 1849, where he established the first of several subsequent newspapers to use the name Minden Herald[1] eventually the Minden Press-Herald.

As a Democrat, Blackburn was elected mayor of Minden, then part of Claiborne Parish, and served a single twelve-month term from May 1855 to May 1856. Blackburn was opposed to slavery and supported the Union during the American Civil War. He left Minden in the late 1850s and settled in nearby Homer, the seat of Claiborne Parish. There he published the Homer Iliad beginning in 1859. He rejected the growing strength of the Know Nothing Party in Louisiana and shifted to unpopular Republican affiliation during the war.[2]

Blackburn worked openly against the Confederate States of America. He was tried in Confederate District Court in Shreveport on charges of having produced counterfeit Confederate currency. He survived conviction by the jury, 11-1. Had the verdict been unanimous, Blackburn would have been executed. According to the official Minden city historian, John Agan, a faculty member at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, Blackburn had made anti-Semitic remarks in print about the Jewish district judge. Apparently, the judge worked frantically to have Blackburn hanged. Some of Blackburn’s friends, however, intervened. He was spared conviction by one vote and thereafter granted a pardon. On his return to Homer, Blackburn continued publishing the Homer Iliad and dabbled in politics.[2]

In 1867, Blackburn was elected as a member of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. He also served as the then administrative judge of Claiborne Parish, a position which no longer exists. On the readmission of Louisiana to the Union, Blackburn was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth Congress, served less than one calendar year, and did not seek renomination in 1868. Instead he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana. He lost to the African American Oscar Dunn, who was elected to the second position on the Henry Clay Warmoth ticket.

After his four-year stint in the Louisiana Senate, he returned in 1880 to Little Rock, where he published the Arkansas Republican from 1881 to 1884 and the Free South from 1885 to 1892. He died in Little Rock and is interred there in Mount Holly Cemetery.[1]

Blackburn was not the only Minden mayor with newspaper experience. David William Thomas, mayor from 1936 to 1940,[3] J. Frank Colbert, mayor from 1944 to 1946, and Tom Colten, who served from 1966 to 1974, had extensive backgrounds in journalism as well.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BLACKBURN, William Jasper - Biographical Information
  2. ^ a b http://www.nwlanews.com/profile07/H%20MPH/H_MPH_6.html</ref
  3. ^ John Agan, Webster Parish historian, "Echoes of Our Past", Mayor David Thomas, Minden Press-Herald, May 22, 2008.