Donald G. Kelly

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Donald Gene "Don" Kelly
Louisiana State Senator from District 31 (now Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides, Red River, Sabine, and Winn parishes)
In office
Preceded by Paul Lee Foshee, Sr.
Succeeded by Kenneth Michael "Mike" Smith
Personal details
Born (1941-05-23) May 23, 1941 (age 75)
Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana, USA
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Patricia A. Kelly (born ca. 1942)
Residence Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
Occupation Attorney; Quarter Horse breeder
Kelly could presumably have become president of the Louisiana State Senate for the asking, but instead he concentrating on steering dozens of projects to his north central Louisiana district.

Donald Gene Kelly, usually known as Don Kelly (born May 23, 1941), is a prominent trial lawyer and American Quarter Horse breeder in Natchitoches who served as a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1976 to 1996. His tenure covered three of the four terms of Democratic Governor Edwin Washington Edwards and the single gubernatorial terms of Republican David C. Treen and Democrat-turned-Republican Buddy Roemer.

In 1981, Treen appointed Kelly to the board of the newly established statewide accelerated high school, the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Natchitoches.[1]

Kelly's nephew and law partner, Natchitoches attorney Thomas Taylor Townsend (born ca. 1963), served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008, having been defeated in a race for Kelly's former Senate seat in 2007 by Gerald Long of Natchitoches, the only member of the Long family thus far to have been elected as a Republican. Kelly is a brother of Townsend's mother, Dorothy Kelly Townsend. In the 1999 election for state representative, Townsend unseated Gerald Long's brother, Jimmy D. Long of Natchitoches.[2]

In the 1975 nonpartisan blanket primary, also known as the jungle primary, the first ever held in Louisiana in which all candidates regardless of party appear on the same primary ballot, Kelly upset freshman Senator Paul Lee Foshee, Sr., of Natchitoches.[3] In Louisiana state and local (but no longer congressional) elections, the winner of the primary, or the runoff election (called the general election even if both finalists are of the same party designation), hence wins the office. In 1979, Kelly defeated Foshee's 23-year-old son, George Barnes Foshee (1956–2000). In 1987, Foshee, Sr., unsuccessfully challenged Kelly. In 1991, Kelly defeated 19-year-old Republican Randall T. Hayes, 29,410 votes (75.4 percent) to 9,599 (24.6 percent).[4] In 1995, Kelly did not seek a sixth term and was succeeded by fellow Democrat Kenneth Michael "Mike" Smith of Winnfield, the seat of Winn Parish and the traditional home of the Longs.[5]

Kelly worked closely with the Edwards administration to upgrade Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and to bring public works projects to his north central Louisiana district, which includes Natchitoches, Winn, Grant, Rapides, and Red River parishes. For a time De Soto and Sabine parishes were in District 31.[6] He was considered such a political powerhouse that he could have for the asking presumably become the Senate President, but he instead concentrated on the needs of his district.[7]

Kelly graduated from Red River Senior High School, then known as Coushatta High School in Coushatta, the seat of Red River Parish located thirty miles north of Natchitoches. He attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford and then NSU in Natchitoches. He obtained his law degree from Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge.[8]

In 2003, the Democrat Kelly contributed to the reelection campaign of Republican U.S. Representative Jim McCrery, whose Fourth District includes Natchitoches Parish. In 2004, Kelly gave the maximum $2,000 permitted under federal law to the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.[9]

Kelly practices in the firm Kelly, Townsend & Thomas at 137 St. Denis Street in Natchitoches. He specializes in criminal law and retirement issues. The Townsend in the firm is William Lloyd Townsend, brother of Taylor Townsend and Kelly's nephew. He and his wife, Patricia A. Kelly (born ca. 1942), reside in Natchitoches.[10] Kelly's niece, Tracey Michelle Fulton, is a family law, estate planning and probate attorney at the Fulton Law Firm in Houston, Texas.

Kelly's quarter horse specimens have been particularly successful, having substantial earnings through the American Paint Horse Association of Fort Worth, Texas. One of his former legislative colleagues, Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, was also active in Louisiana horse racing.[11] Kelly is also active in the Natchitoches chapter of the sportsmen's organization Ducks Unlimited.[12]

On February 2, 2008, Kelly was among the annual inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, one of the larger communities in Senate District 31. A previous holder of the Natchitoches Parish Senate seat, Sylvan Friedman, was posthumously inducted into the organization in 2006.[13]

Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Lee Foshee, Sr. (D)
Louisiana State Senator from District 31 (now Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides, Red River, Sabine, and Winn parishes)

Donald Gene "Don" Kelly (D)

Succeeded by
Kenneth Michael "Mike" Smith (D)