C. H. "Sammy" Downs

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Crawford Hugh "Sammy" Downs
Louisiana State Senator for Rapides Parish
In office
Preceded by Grove Stafford
Succeeded by John R. Hunter, Jr.
In office
Preceded by John R. Hunter, Jr.
Succeeded by Cecil R. Blair
Louisiana State Representative for Rapides Parish
In office
Preceded by

At-large: T. C. Brister
Neil Haven Klock

W. H. Smith
Succeeded by

At-large: T. C. Brister
W. George Bowdon, Jr.

Lawrence T. Fuglaar
Personal details
Born (1911-10-01)October 1, 1911
Effie, Avoyelles Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died May 14, 1985(1985-05-14) (aged 73)
Alexandria, Rapides Parish
Resting place Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville, Louisiana
Political party Democratic

(1) Alice Daigre Downs (divorced), later Alice Thomas

(2) Laura Eskew Downs (surviving spouse)

J. Earl Downs (brother)
James U. Downs (nephew)

Louis J. Daigre, Jr. (brother-in-law)

From first marriage:
James Crawford "Jam" Downs
Ellarene D. Lowery
Ann D. Robertson

Two step-children

U. T. Downs

Callie McCann Downs
Residence Alexandria and Cheneyville in Rapides Parish
Alma mater

Louisiana College
Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Law Center
Occupation Educator-turned-Lawyer

Crawford Hugh Downs, known as C. H. "Sammy" Downs (October 1, 1911 – May 14, 1985), was a lawyer from Alexandria, Louisiana, who was a Democratic member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature. He was a state senator during the final two terms of the Earl Kemp Long administration, 1948 to 1952 and 1956 to 1960.[1] He was Long's senatorial floor leader and later a key player in the administration of another Long factional governor, John J. McKeithen.

As long as people run for government office, you will have indictments, stealing, and the like. - said the educator-turned-lawyer, Democrat C. H. "Sammy" Downs


C. H. Downs was one of seven children from the 1900 marriage of the former Callie McCann (died 1983) and U. T. Downs, a native of LaSalle Parish. Sammy Downs was himself born in his mother's native community of Effie in Avoyelles Parish, south of Rapides Parish. He is named for his great-grandfather, Crawford Downs, originally from Mississippi. His maternal great-grandfather, Uriah Whatley, came to Louisiana about 1812 as a Methodist circuit rider. U. T. Downs, a businessman, served two terms and a portion of a third as the mayor of Pineville, located on the eastern side of the Red River from Alexandria. In 1924, he was elected sheriff of Rapides Parish, a post which he held for sixteen years.[2]

In November 1939, Sheriff Downs and three of his deputies W. C. Nash, N. G. Aymond, and Roy Yerby, were among nineteen persons named in sixty-six indictments by a Rapides Parish grand jury.[3] The four were charged with malfeasance in office. Others faced charges for bribery, embezzlement, and income tax violations. Mayors V. V. Lamkin of Alexandria, an Earl Long supporter, was charged with bribery and malfeasance in office. Mayor Rollo C. Lawrence of Pineville and State Representative Richmond C. Hathorn were indicted for dual-officeholding or being "deadheads" on the state payroll.[4] Other indictments were issued against George C. Gray, the former Alexandria chief of police and a candidate to succeed Downs as sheriff, and Alexandria police officers Allen E. Zachary and Joseph T. Ohman.[3]

In the 1920s, Sheriff U. T. Downs, a Southern Baptist, had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and when the organization folded its Rapides Parish chapter, he joined a still functioning KKK unit in Atlanta, Georgia.[2]

C. H. Downs graduated in 1932 from the Southern Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in Pineville; he was the president of the senior class. In 1933, he graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. From 1933 to 1939, he was a teacher and coach at Glenmora High School in Glenmora in south Rapides Parish. From 1939 to 1944, he was the principal at Cheneyville High School in Cheneyville, also in south Rapides Parish. In 1941, principal Downs was elected president of the former Louisiana Teachers Association. In 1946, while a state representative, he received his law degree at the age of thirty-five from LSU's Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge.[5][6]

Downs was a member of the Masonic lodge, the Chamber of Commerce, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and like his parents the First Baptist Church of Pineville, Louisiana.[6]

Political career[edit]

Downs was first elected in 1944 at the age of thirty-three to one of three at-large seats in the Louisiana House from Rapides Parish. His tenure coincided with the first administration of Governor Jimmie Davis, and he served alongside future Alexandria Mayor Carl B. Close.[7] In 1948, Downs moved up to the state Senate; also elected were Earl Long as governor, Bill Dodd as lieutenant governor, and Bolivar Edwards Kemp, Jr., as attorney general. After a four-year absence, Downs returned to the Senate in 1956 for his second term by defeating fellow Democrat State Representative Cecil R. Blair, an Alexandria businessman allied with the anti-Long faction of Louisiana politics. In 1959, however, with anti-Long sentiment running strongly statewide, Blair unseated Downs[8] and held the seat until 1964, when he was defeated after one term. Blair returned for a second decade-long stint in the upper house from 1966 to 1976.[1]

After he left the state Senate, Downs in the summer of 1960 joined the entourage supporting Earl Long for the vacant seat in Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded. Others on the bandwagon were Bill Dodd, Sixty Rayburn, the Long attorney Joseph A. Sims, and A. A. Fredericks, Long's former executive assistant and another former state senator from Natchitoches.[9] While Long defeated the short-term incumbent, Harold B. McSween of Alexandria for the Democratic nomination for the House, he died before he could take his seat, and McSween won the ensuing special election for term ending on January 3, 1963.

In the spring of 1964, Downs was the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee, in which capacity he largely allied himself with Leander Perez, the political boss of Plaquemines Parish and the leader of the forces opposed to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, then seeking a full term in office. Perez at first pushed for Democratic electors pledged to George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, but he later abandoned that approach and endorsed Republican Barry M. Goldwater.[10] Downs resigned from the Democratic party chairmanship in December 1966 and was succeeded by Edward M. Carmouche, a Lake Charles attorney backed by the loyalists who favored another term for President Johnson, who soon took himself out of contention for reelection. Carmouche defeated, fifty-four to thirty-eight, the Perez-backed W. L. "Jack" Howard, the mayor of Monroe, who in 1964 had been among the list of Democratic defectors to Goldwater.[11]

Downs joined the administration of John McKeithen in the spring of 1964. The two had served together in the legislature from 1948 to 1952; McKeithen, as a state representative from Caldwell Parish and Downs, as senator from Rapides Parish. Downs was the master of ceremonies at the McKeithen inauguration.[12] He left the administration in 1965 but remained an unpaid advisor to McKeithen. Downs once remarked, rather nonchalantly, that political corruption is common in Louisiana and would likely remain so: "As long as people run for government office, you will have indictments, stealing, and the like." He made the statement in 1972 after appearing before a federal grand jury which investigated allegations of kickbacks in the Louisiana state insurance program. Downs indicated that he had never taken insurance commissions.[13]

When Life Magazine reported the strong influence of organized crime on Louisiana state government, a defensive McKeithen named Camille Gravel, another Alexandria lawyer, to head an investigation into the question. Gravel soon resigned in outrage when the investigation was stopped after Downs became the target. Downs' private telephone in the capitol, kept in a "locked box" and available only to him, allegedly kept the governor's office in contact with Mafia kingpins.[14]

Without Gravel, the investigation continued during 1966 under the supervision of Sargent Pitcher, then the district attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish. It was revealed that Downs had been in communication with the New Orleans crime family boss Carlos Marcello regarding a real estate transaction in Alexandria, but no allegation of wrongdoing came forth on the matter. Pitcher also found no link between Marcello and another former McKeithen aide, Aubrey W. Young, other than two telephone calls to which Young admitted, one of which concerned what became the Louisiana Superdome.[15] Despite Pitcher's report, McKeithen still described Downs as "the only Mafia link I know of in my administration."[16]

In 1968, Downs joined the presidential campaign of American Independent Party nominee George Wallace, who after having withdrawn from consideration in 1964, hoped without success to deny Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey an electoral college majority. McKeithen, however, had supported Humphrey at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Afterwards, Downs returned to the McKeithen administration as executive counsel, the Mafia link apparently overlooked or discounted. In 1969, McKeithen named Downs director of public works.[16] Downs resigned early in 1972, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery in connection with procuring state business for the Shoup Voting Machine Corporation. The company itself was also indicted.[17] In the 1973 trial, the case against Downs resulted in a hung jury.[18]

Family legacy[edit]

Downs married the former Alice Daigre (1914-1994), later Alice Thomas, a sister of the Alexandria consulting engineer Louis Jacob Daigre, Jr.[5] Alice Downs and six employees of the Louisiana State Department of Education were indicted on fraud charges brought forward after an investigation of the vocational rehabilitation department, which receives federal funding. The indictments against both Downses came from grand juries empaneled by U.S. Attorney Gerald J. Gallinghouse of New Orleans, an appointee of President Nixon.[17]

James Crawford Downs, known as "Jam" Downs (born October 1940), the son of Sammy and Alice Downs and also a graduate of the LSU Law Center, was from 2000 to 2014 the 9th Judicial District district attorney, based in Rapides Parish. He is retiring from the position in January 2015.[19] Before his election as DA, Jam Downs had been an assistant district attorney. He is known for his interest in conservation, hunting, and enforcement of game laws. He was born in Cheneyville but resides with his wife, the former Maureen Stewart, in a restored farmhouse near Lecompte.[5]

One of Downs' older brothers, J. Earl Downs, was the public safety commissioner in Shreveport, where he served alongside Mayors James C. Gardner and Clyde Fant,[20] prior to 1962, when Downs was unseated in the Democratic primary that summer by George W. D'Artois. He and his wife later moved to Franklin in Macon County, North Carolina, where he died in 1998 at the age of ninety-three.[21]

Alice Daigre Downs Thomas, from whom Downs was divorced, was the mother of his son and two daughters. She is interred at the Henderson James Cemetery in rural Hot Wells in Rapides Parish.[22] C. H. Downs, who died nine years earlier, is buried at Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.[23] At the time of his death, Downs was married to the former Laura Eskew (born 1923), by whom he acquired two step-children, Laurna E. Cornelison and John E. Campbell.[6]

Downs was not related to the late John Harden Barnett Downs, known as Johnny Downs, a five-term member of the Alexandria City Council and the namesake of the Johnny Downs Sports Complex at 271 Vandenburg Drive in Alexandria.[24][25]


  1. ^ a b "Membership of the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2011" (PDF). senate.la.gov. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Henry E. Chambers, A History of Louisiana: Wilderness, Colony, Province, Territory, State, People, (Chicago and New York City: American Historical Society, Inc., 1925), pp. 245-246
  3. ^ a b "Many Public Officials in List of Nineteen Indicted". Biloxi, Mississippi: Biloxi Daily Herald. December 1, 1939. p. 1. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "High Officials of Louisiana Are Indicted". Lubbock, Texas: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. December 2, 1939. p. 6. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c "Rick, Markway, "The Prosecutor: District Attorney James Crawford 'Jam' Downs"" (PDF). lwaa.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 22, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "Crawford H. "Sammy" Downs". Baton Rouge Advocate. May 15, 1985. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2016" (PDF). house.louisiana.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ The Shreveport Times, December 6, 1959, p. 1
  9. ^ Michael L. Kurtz and Morgan D. Peoples, Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl in Louisiana Politics, 1990 ISBN 0-8071-1577-0. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ Glen Jeansonne, Leander Perez: Boss of the Delta, pp. 328-331. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1977. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ Biloxi Daily Herald, December 24, 1966, p. 14
  12. ^ ""Inauguration Plans Revealed: McKeithen will take office May 12", April 9, 1964". Newspaper clipping, Judge Edmund M. Reggie Family Archives. Archived from the original on December 14, 2014. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  13. ^ "'As Long As People Run, Stealing Will Occur,' Says Downs", Minden Press-Herald, March 30, 1972, p. 1
  14. ^ Jack Bass, The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and Political Consequence Since 1945, 1995 edition, p. 162. University of Georgia Press. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Bill Lynch, "B. R. Probe Finds No Proof of Marcella-Young Calls"" (PDF). New Orleans States-Item, July 16, 1968. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Life Magazine (Vol. 68, No. 13), p. 53
  17. ^ a b "Gallinghouse's Goal -- Fill void, Clean up state", April 28, 1972." (PDF). jfk.hoo.edu. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Bill Lynch, "Garrison case [results in acquittal]", October 2, 1973" (PDF). New Orleans States-Item. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Louisiana District Attorneys Association". ldaa.org. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  20. ^ Elliott Stonecipher, "Shreveport History: In Support of the Spring Street Museum", February 4, 2012
  21. ^ "James Earl Downs". findagrave.com. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  22. ^ Alexandria Daily Town Talk, August 22, 1994
  23. ^ The Town Talk, May 15, 1985
  24. ^ "John Harden Barnett Downs". otbelgard.com. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Johnny Downs Sports Complex". plus.google.com. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
Preceded by
At-large members:

T. C. Brister
Neil Haven Klock
W. H. Smith

Louisiana State Representative for Rapides Parish

Crawford Hugh "Sammy" Downs

Succeeded by
At-large members:

T. C. Brister
W. George Bowdon, Jr.
Lawrence T. Fuglaar

Louisiana Senate
Preceded by
Grove Stafford
Louisiana State Senator for Rapides Parish

Crawford Hugh "Sammy" Downs

Succeeded by
John R. Hunter, Jr.
Preceded by
John R. Hunter, Jr.
Louisiana State Senator for Rapides Parish

Crawford Hugh "Sammy" Downs

Succeeded by
Cecil R. Blair