James Boyce (Louisiana politician)

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James Harvey "Jimmy" Boyce, Sr.
State Chairman of the
Louisiana Republican Party
In office
Preceded by Charles deGravelles
Succeeded by John H. Cade, Jr.
Personal details

(1922-10-06)October 6, 1922
Carrollton, Carroll County

Missouri, USA
Died May 15, 1990(1990-05-15) (aged 67)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Resting place Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge
Spouse(s) Katherine Jane Thibaut Boyce (married c. 1942 – 1990, his death)

James H. Boyce, Jr.
John Clark Boyce

Jerry Thibaut Boyce, Sr.
Parents Clarence George and Nora Leota Clark Boyce
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Alma mater

Baton Rouge High School
Culver Military Academy

Louisiana State University (one year)
Occupation Businessman
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy pilot (1942–1943)
Battles/wars World War II

James Harvey Boyce, Sr., known as Jimmy Boyce (October 6, 1922 – May 15, 1990) was a businessman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, who from 1972 to 1976 was the state chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. During his tenure, the GOP carried the state in the reelection sweep of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and in the initial elections in 1972 and 1975 of the first Republican members from Louisiana to the United States House of Representatives since the Reconstruction era.


Boyce was born to the Iowa natives Clarence George Boyce (1887–1974) and the former Nora Leota Clark (1994–1984) in Carrollton in Carroll County in north central Missouri[1] but moved south to Baton Rouge because Clarence Boyce was engaged in the construction of levees along the Mississippi River. In 1939, James Boyce graduated from Baton Rouge High School and attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, and for a year, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[2]

From 1942 to 1943, Boyce was a United States Navy pilot during World War II. Boyce was the Baton Rouge dealer of the Caterpillar Company until his retirement in 1984 at the age of sixty-two.[2] His civic commitments included the Baton Rouge Area Foundation,[3] the Baton Rouge Airport Commission, Junior Achievement, the Better Business Bureau,[2] and the National Alliance of Business, a non-profit organization which existed from 1968 to 2002 with the goal of improving the quality of the work force in the United States.[4] Boyce was an Episcopalian.[2]

Boyce married the former Katherine Jane Thibaut (1921–2012), a native of Napoleonville in Assumption Parish in South Louisiana. After graduation from Napoleonville High School, she enrolled at Randolph College, then Randolph-Macon Woman's College, in Lynchburg, Virginia, from which she received a degree in chemistry in 1942. During the war, Jane Boyce became one of the first women chemists at the Standard Oil refinery (since Exxon-Mobil) in Baton Rouge. She was a member of the Roman Catholic Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and served on the Baton Rouge Catholic Diocese School Board. She was a founder and board chairman of St. Michael the Archangel High School. Jane Boyce was also a founder and board member of the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, which is housed in Baton Rouge in the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Company Depot. She was a board member and chairman of the board of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.[5]

The Boyces have three sons, James H. Boyce, Jr. (born November 1943), John Clark Boyce (born January 1945) and wife Melanie, and Jerry Thibaut Boyce, Sr. (born August 1950) and wife Barbara.[5]

Political life[edit]

Like most Louisiana Republicans, Boyce was originally a Democrat. He had worked in the Nixon campaign against John F. Kennedy in 1960 and had developed a friendship with political operative F. Clifton White, later the key organizer of the Draft Goldwater Committee. In 1963, while still a Democrat, Boyce joined a group of mostly Republican conservatives to petition then U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona to seek the presidency in 1964. At first hesitant to take on the challenge, Goldwater nevertheless declared his candidacy on January 3, 1964, when the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson had been president for fewer than two months and was throughout the year the heavy favorite for a full term of his own following Kennedy's assassination.[6]

For decades, Louisiana voting officials had urged that new registrants declare themselves Democrat to maintain eligibility to participate in decisive primary elections. Hence those prone to affiliate with the GOP were hesitant to do so because it meant they could not vote in most elections except for presidential contests and various ballot propositions, such as state constitutional amendments and tax measures. In 1968, the Louisiana GOP had only 28,427 registered members, barely 2 percent of the state's total electorate.[7]

Boyce himself did not switch parties until 1963, when he became the campaign treasurer for his friend Charlton Lyons of Shreveport, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in the general election held on March 3, 1964. Lyons was handily defeated by the Democrat John McKeithen, but he waged a ground-breaking campaign for a Republican running in Louisiana[8] and then served from 1964 to 1968 as state Republican chairman. In that capacity, Lyons, along with such regional figures as Mississippi state chairman Clarke Reed, had been a leader in the development of the Southern Strategy that nominated on the first ballot Nixon for President once again in 1968.[9]

James and Jane Boyce attended the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, he as an alternate delegate.[10] The Boyces attended but were not delegates at the 1968 and 1972[11] national conventions, both held in Miami Beach, Florida.

In 1972, Boyce was elected state chairman to succeed Charles deGravelles of Lafayette, who had followed Lyons in the position for a four-year term beginning in 1968. Under Boyce's leadership, the Louisiana GOP in 1972 offered Roy C. Strickland, then of Gonzales in Ascension Parish, as its standard-bearer against the Democrat Gillis Long for Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded because of declining population and merged into several neighboring districts. While Strickland polled only 15 percent of the vote against Long,[12] David C. Treen, then a lawyer from Jefferson Parish who had run as the Republican gubernatorial nominee, against Edwin Edwards on February 1, 1972, captured Louisiana's 3rd congressional district seat in an open election.[13]

The GOP did not challenge U.S. Senator Russell B. Long in 1974, who faced an intraparty challenge from Sherman A. Bernard, then the state insurance commissioner. Boyce told Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report that Republicans were "so badly outnumbered that we can't find enough candidates to run in local elections."[14] Had the GOP found more competitive candidates in legislative districts receptive to the message of a two-party system, Boyce said the party may have won more than the handful of seats that it netted in the 1972 state general election.[14] In a special election held on January 7, 1975, for Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat, ordered because of a 14-vote deadlock exacerbated by malfunctioning voting machines and a court challenge from the results of the regular balloting on November 5, 1974, the Republican nominee, Henson Moore of Baton Rouge, was elected, 54-46 percent, to succeed the Conservative Democrat John Rarick, who had been earlier unseated in the runoff election in his bid for a fifth term.[15]

Boyce discouraged "sacrificial lamb" candidates or "going through the motions of running. The candidate's feelings get hurt. We have to have a good candidate and financing for him."[14] Boyce said that Louisiana Republicans would not be hurt by the Watergate scandal because they had "so little to lose."[14] But Watergate caused missed opportunities for southern Republicans and a national Democratic sweep in 1974. Therefore, the reelection of David Treen to Congress in 1974 and the victory of Henson Moore in 1975 were the highlights of Boyce's tenure as party chairman.[16]

Boyce died in 1990 at the age of sixty-seven. He and his wife, who outlived him by twenty-two years, are interred at Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge.[5]


  1. ^ "James Harvey Boyce, Sr.". mitchellsandmoores.com. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Obituary of James H. Boyce, Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, May 16, 1990
  3. ^ "Funds and Affiliate: James H. and Jane T. Boyce Fund (established 1992)" (PDF). braf.com. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  4. ^ "National Alliance of Business". business-money.org. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c "Jane Thibaut Boyce, May 10, 2012". The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  6. ^ Jay D. Hartz, "The Impact of the Draft Goldwater Committee on the Republican Party", Continuity: A Journal of History (Fall 2000)
  7. ^ State of Louisiana, "Statement of Registered Voters as of October 5, 1968" (Louisiana Secretary of State, Baton Rouge)
  8. ^ Shreveport Times, March 4, 1964, p. 1
  9. ^ "R.W. Apple, Jr., THE REPUBLICANS: THE CONVENTION IN NEW YORK -- APPLE'S ALMANAC; Father of the Southern Strategy, at 76, Is Here for His 11th Convention, August 30, 2004". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Boyce, James H.". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Louisiana Delegation to the 1972 Republican National Convention". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ "LA District 8". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  13. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, November 7, 1972
  14. ^ a b c d Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, October 26, 1974, p. 2962
  15. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State, Special election returns, 6th congressional district, January 7, 1975
  16. ^ Grover Rees, III, Dave Treen of Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Moran Publishing Company, 1979, p. 81
Preceded by
Charles deGravelles
State Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party

James Harvey "Jimmy" Boyce, Sr.

Succeeded by
John H. Cade, Jr.