Jack P.F. Gremillion
|Jack P.F. Gremillion|
|Louisiana Attorney General|
May 1956 – May 1972
|Preceded by||Fred S. LeBlanc|
|Succeeded by||William J. Guste|
|Born||Jack Paul Faustin Gremillion
June 15, 1914
|Died||March 2, 2001
East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
|Resting place||Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge|
|Spouse(s)||Doris McDonald Gremillion (married 1942-1989, her death)|
|Children||Jack P. F. Gremillion, Jr.
William McDonald Gremillion
|Parents||William Kossuth Gremillion
Genoa Henderson Gremillion
|Alma mater||Ascension Catholic High School
|Service/branch||United States Army in World War II|
Jack Paul Faustin Gremillion, Sr. (June 15, 1914 – March 2, 2001), was the Democratic attorney general of Louisiana from 1956 to 1972. He was a member of the Earl Kemp Long political faction. As the Attorney General of Louisiana, he was called on to defend state law in the matter of school desegregation. He was a party loyalist of the Democratic Party and was a US Presidential Elector for the John F. Kennedy--Lyndon B. Johnson presidential ticket in 1960. Kennedy and Johnson easily won Louisiana's ten electoral votes that year. In addition to school desegregation, Gremillion played an instrumental role in other landmark cases of the day, including the Louisiana tidelands and the Sabine River Parish boundary cases.
Early years and family
The French-speaking Gremillion (pronounced GRE ME YOHN) was born to William Kossuth Gremillion and the former Genoa Henderson in Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish near Baton Rouge. He graduated from Ascension Catholic High School in Donaldsonville and then attended Louisiana State University and its law school in Baton Rouge from 1931 to 1937. Gremillion's father was a deceased telegraph operator for the Texas and Pacific Railroad; his mother was a school teacher. From meager family means, with four siblings, he worked his way through college mainly at Solvay Chemical in Baton Rouge. He studied law under the tutelage of Fred S. LeBlanc, then a practicing attorney in Baton Rouge, who also served as attorney general. Gremillion later succeeded LeBlanc in that position. Gremillion was admitted to the practice of law and was a member of the American Bar Association.
On January 12, 1942, Gremillion married the former Doris McDonald (July 13, 1920 — October 31, 1989). The couple had four sons and a daughter, Jack P.F. Gremillion, Jr. (born 1944), William McDonald Gremillion (Born 1946), Wayne Francis Gremillion (born 1947), Doris H. Gremillion, and Charles Mark Gremillion (born 1958).
He was a member of the Roman Catholic Church and its Knights of Columbus men's organization, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Before he became attorney general, he had been a counsel to the state revenue department and an assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge Parish. He was a short, stoutly built, balding man with a loud voice and a determined, self-confident demeanor.
The Earl Long Era and Populist Politics
Gremillion was tapped by Earl Long to run for attorney general in the 1956 Democratic primary after Long's first choice, Alexandria attorney Camille Francis Gravel, Jr., turned down an offer to run for the position, which paid a low salary compared to what lawyers could then earn. Gremillion was in Donaldsonville acting as a pallbearer at an uncle's funeral when a messenger told him that "Uncle Earl" wanted him to run for attorney general. Gremillion went on to defeat Attorney General Fred LeBlanc, who was elected first in 1944.
As the 1955 primary campaign proceeded, Earl Long complained to his associates that Gremillion's constant "speech" on the stump was getting on Long's nerves. The sarcastic Long belittled Gremillion, as he did many others, saying that Gremillion did not "know a lawsuit from a jumpsuit" and scoffed: "If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a lawbook!"
Long's outburst was related to a dog racing track that he wanted approved for a developer friend, although dog racing was illegal in the state. When a legal assistant in the Attorney General's office confirmed dog racing's illegality, Long delivered the famous zinger directed at Gremillion—although Gremillion's assistant was, in fact, correct about the law, and had, in fact, verified it in a law book. (State-Times, November 23, 1978). Gremillion was good-humored about the slight, saying later, "If it's funny, it doesn't matter if it's true!"
In 1960, after he had won his second consecutive Democratic nomination for attorney general, Gremillion faced a Republican challenger, Baton Rouge attorney Nealon Stracener (June 29, 1916 - October 26, 1990). Gremillion soundly defeated Stracener, 86.4 to 13.6 percent.
In 1963, Gremillion defeated a single Democratic primary challenger, Charles A. Riddle, Jr.
Gremillion referred to his World War II service in his campaign speeches to appeal to Louisiana's large number of voters who were also veterans. Gremillion saw heavy combat in the European theatre in the V infantry division from the Normandy outbreak to St. Lo. He was severely injured as a First Lieutenant in charge of a platoon rooting out snipers. He was awarded a Purple Heart. His sergeant was killed in the same battle. While convalescing in a British hospital, Gremillion befriended his doctor, who subsequently visited him in the United States and with whom he would remain close for many years.
William J. "Bill" Dodd, who was running for auditor (also called comptroller) in the same primary in which Gremillion was seeking the attorney general's position, recalled Earl Long's extreme sensitivity to Gremillion's decorated war record. In Dodd's words, Long "was a draft dodger in World War I, and was sensitive and touchy about candidates who bragged on their war records..."
Dodd continued, "I knew he had a good war record and that he had received a Purple Heart. He got it from a gunshot wound he received while leaning over to help a fallen infantry man. The bullet or shrapnel hit Gremillion in the belly and traveled down between his legs. Gremillion liked to talk about his Purple Heart, but he never said where he got shot."
Dodd told a large crowd in the village of Montgomery in Grant Parish that "Our hero, Jack Gremillion, was breathing gunpowder and killing Germans. Why, he almost got killed himself when an enemy shell plowed into one of his most vital organs; if you don't believe Jack Gremillion earned his Purple Heart, he will show you the scars he has to prove it."
The typically self-deprecating Gremillion later told him, "Dodd, I appreciate your bragging on my war record, but don't tell the crowds that I will show them where I got shot. Several of those darn rednecks wanted me to show them my scars and got mad when I refused to pull down my pants."
Starting in 1956, Gremillion led the state of Louisiana in a protracted battle with the federal government regarding the claims of offshore oil management and royalties claimed by the federal government. The issue became known as the "Tidelands"(State Times, "Offbeat Report, November 23, 1978). Utilizing a superb legal team, Gremillion argued Louisiana's constitutional and historic right to its tidelands territory up to three marine leagues [about 10.5 geographical miles] from the coast. The Supreme Court decided against the state, awarding it only three geographical miles (Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 38.2 (1997): 203-210.)
Recently retired Ken DeJean,distinguished special assistant to four Louisiana attorneys general, believes more than the facts of the case were at play. “Louisiana had been a bad boy after the civil war,“ he said. “This was, in effect, punishment. We should have gotten a much larger piece of the pie" (In-person interview with Leslie Alexander, July 8, 2014). “We had strong leadership and some of the brightest legal minds anywhere working on this case,” he said (ibid).
In a notable dissent, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote that the court should apply “broad principles of equity” and award all of the Gulf states three marine leagues. He did not accept the majority opinion, but sided with Louisiana.
In 1960, Gremillion was charged with contempt of court for a comment he made in a federal courtroom while he was opposing the New Orleans school desegregation case. Judge Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr., who charged Gremillion with contempt, had been his personal friend for many years. The contempt charge came in a federal hearing when Gremillion challenged a judge's ruling that affidavit testimony, instead of witness testimony, be allowed. Gremillion asserted he had not been made aware of the affidavits in question, as is required, and motioned for a postponement. When the motion was denied, Gremillion claimed the judge was presiding over a "kangaroo court" and a "den of iniquity"(Special Collections: Historical Papers Received by LSU Libraries. 14 Apr. 1988. Jack P.F. Gremillion, Sr.).
National Issues and States Rights
As a member of the National Association of Attorneys General, Gremillion won the organizations's top award in 1963, being judged the outstanding Attorney General in the country, the Wyman Memorial Award. He was elected as President of The National Association of Attorneys Generals (NAAG) in January 1965 and re-elected in June 1965. He served as chairman of the southern regional conference of attorneys general in 1962 and 1963. He served on several boards and commissions, including The State Bond and Tax Board, the Pardon Board and Legislative Bureau. (Inaugural Section, State Times, Baton Rouge, May 13, 1968) Journalist F.E. Shepherd wrote that Gremillion had brought "considerable prestige" to his office and was "an indefatigable worker."(ibid)
Gremillion's legal troubles
In 1968, Governor John McKeithen asked Gremillion to investigate potential Mafia infiltration of the Louisiana state government. Gremillion reported that there was no evidence this had occurred. In 1966, the Louisiana Loan and Thrift Corporation was organized; it collected $2.6 million from small depositors and made loans to various politicians and companies connected to crime boss Carlos Marcello of New Orleans. Gremillion steered federal investigators away from the company, which he declared sound. LL&T paid Gremillion $10,000 in legal fees.
In 1971, Gremillion was charged in the United States District Court in Baton Rouge with mail fraud, conspiracy, and fraud in the sale of securities when LL&T went bankrupt, with the small investors taking heavy losses.
Gremillion was tried and acquitted of all charges. He sought a fifth term as attorney general.
He was convicted later in that campaign year on federal perjury charges. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Fred Cassibry in New Orleans to three years imprisonment for perjury - lying to a grand jury about whether he had been a paid consultant to Louisiana Loan & Thrift. Gremillion served for two years after losing his appeal in 1973.
Though sentenced to three years in prison, Gremillion served only fifteen months in the federal prison at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Louisiana Governor Edwin Washington Edwards pardoned Gremillion in 1976 so that he could resume his law practice. Edwards said the pardon was required by state law because all first offenders who completed a sentence were automatically pardoned. Edwards signed the pardon paper to avoid any misunderstanding in Gremillion's case.
Gremillion was denied a runoff berth for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in the 1971 primary. He was succeeded in the office by his fellow Democrat, then State Senator William J. Guste of New Orleans. Guste won the party runoff election in December 1971 over fellow state Senator George T. Oubre of St. James Parish and then overwhelmed the Republican candidate, Tom Stagg of Shreveport, in the general election held on February 1, 1972.
Jack P.F. Gremillion, Sr., died after a long illness in Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. He and his wife Doris are interred at Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge.
In 1965, Gremillion asked one of his favorite entertainers, Jimmy Durante, to perform before the National Association of Attorneys General in their annual meeting in San Antionio. Durante, a close friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agreed to do so. Durante was also a friend of Gremillion's chief investigator, Frank Manning.
Jack Gremillion had six brown dachshunds throughout a span of time, all named "Sam". "Sam" was also the nom de plume that Gremillion used when submitting various articles to the Baton Rouge newspapers.
- Lake Charles American Press, April 7, 1990
- Minden Press, December 9, 1963, p. 1
- Life Magazine (Vol. 68, No. 13), p. 53
- "ES&S, Diebold lobbyists, July 21, 2005". bbvforums.org. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishers, 1991
- Who's Who in America, 1968
- J.W. Peltason, Fifty-Eight Lonely Men
- www.lib.lsu.edu/special/findaid/4820.htm - 393k
Fred S. LeBlanc (D)
|Louisiana Attorney General
Jack P.F. Gremillion (D)
William J. "Billy" Guste, Jr. (D)