|Mack Elwin Barham|
|Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court (Place Four)|
|Succeeded by||James L. Dennis|
|Judge of the 4th Judicial District of Louisiana based in Monroe|
|Municipal Judge in Bastrop, Louisiana|
June 18, 1924|
Bastrop, Morehouse Parish
|Died||November 27, 2006
St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
|Spouse(s)||Ann Lavois Barham|
Bret Lane Barham
|Alma mater||Louisiana State University Law Center|
A native of Bastrop, the seat of government of Morehouse Parish, Barham spent his later years in New Orleans. However, after Hurricane Katrina waters destroyed his Lakewood home near the 17th Street Canal, he relocated to nearby Covington in St. Tammany Parish.
Barham was the son of the late Henry A. Barham, Sr. (1882-1961), and Lockie H. Barham (1884–1973). The family owned Barham's Dairy in Bastrop. His brother, Henry Barham, Jr. (1919-1993) and sister-in-law, Ann Jocelyn Heres Barham (1929-2015), operated Barham's Drugs in Bastrop. Ann Barham was the first woman pharmacist in Morehouse Parish.
Mack Barham received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. He then entered the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge, where in 1946, he obtained his law license. Two years later, at the age of twenty-four, he was elected municipal judge of Bastrop, a position which he held until 1962, when he was elected as a Democrat to the Monroe-based Fourth Judicial District Court bench on which he served for six years until 1968.
The law and Justice Barham
On the Supreme Court, Barham and Justice Albert A. Tate, Jr., originally from Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, formed a coalition that led to a 4-3 majority of younger judges who began the implementation of the United States Supreme Court's civil rights decisions.
A member of that new majority, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr., called Barham "one of the most industrious judges I came to know." Calogero added: "He was very progressive in supporting process changes on the Supreme Court. He was very capable and he contributed to the evolving jurisprudence. He came on the state court when an extremely conservative court was just beginning to respect the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional matters." Calogero said that he had last seen Barham when the state Supreme Court dedicated the newly renovated courthouse in the 400 block of Royal Street in the French Quarter in 2005.
Subsequent Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball did not serve with Barham but sat on the bench when former Justice Barham argued cases before the court. "He was extremely well prepared and obviously intelligent in presenting his client's position. It was immediately apparent that he was a true student of the law and mastered even the most difficult of concepts with relative ease. He was indeed a brilliant jurist and lawyer," Kimball said.
U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge James L. Dennis, a Monroe native living in New Orleans, followed Barham to the state Supreme Court in 1975. Dennis described the former justice as "a true and dear friend, but beyond that he was one of the brightest and most courageous judges I have ever known. I was never privileged to serve on a bench with him, but I followed in his path on the district court to the state Supreme Court. He swore me on at every one of those points."
Dennis continued: "I learned from his writings and his examples. He was an outstanding leader in the Louisiana judiciary. He was at the forefront of the civil law renaissance."
After leaving the court, Barham went into the private practice in New Orleans and partnered from 1990 to 2000 with Robert Elton Arceneaux (1957-2016), a Lafayette native who graduated in 1982 from the LSU Law School as managing editor of the LSU Law Review and was a clerk for the Louisiana Supreme Court.
While Barham specialized in appellate practice, administrative law, expropriation, environmental law, and commercial litigation, Arceneaux focused on local government, property, and commercial and personal injury.
One of Barham's most public roles was defending the state of Louisiana in the college desegregation lawsuit. He worked to negotiate a settlement with the United States Department of Justice that led to enhanced funding for historically black institutions.
Mack Barham was a member of the Order of the Coif (as was law partner Arceneaux), Omicron Delta Kappa, Blue Key, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Alpha Delta, Phi Delta Phi, and authored numerous legal scholarly articles. He also taught at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. In 1987, Barham wrote an article on the legal contributions of Chief Justice Tate (1920–1986) for the Louisiana Law Review.
A cousin of two state senators
Barham was a distant cousin of two Republican state senators, Robert J. Barham and Edwards Barham, both form Oak Ridge in Morehouse Parish. Robert Barham described Mack Barham as "a very distant cousin. We were closer friends than relatives. Mack Barham set the bar for integrity, ability and intellectual capability on the state Supreme Court. He was always a gentleman and an inspiration to anyone connected with the legal profession."
Barham died in a Covington hospital after a lengthy illness. Survivors include his wife, the former Ann Lavois; son, Bret Lane Barham (born 1947), then an attorney in Lake Charles; daughter, Megan Richardson (born 1950) of Covington; a sister, Ertie Mae Bowdon of Birmingham, Alabama; five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Barham was cremated.