Paul N. Cyr

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Paul N. Cyr
33rd Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
1928–1931
Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr.
Preceded by Philip H. Gilbert
Succeeded by Alvin O. King
Personal details
Born Paul Narcisse Cyr
(1878-09-09)September 9, 1878
Jeanerette, Iberia Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died August 24, 1946(1946-08-24) (aged 67)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary McGowen Cyr
Children Louie Cyr
Marjorie Cyr ___
Emily Cyr Bridges
Charles M. Cyr
Alma mater Atlanta Dental College
Profession Dentist; Geologist
Businessman
Religion Presbyterianism

Paul Narcisse Cyr (September 9, 1878 – August 24, 1946) was the elected lieutenant governor in the Huey Pierce Long, Jr., gubernatorial administration who quarreled with the self-designated "Kingfish" throughout most of their tenure. In 1931 and 1932, Cyr twice proclaimed himself the legitimate governor when Long delayed vacating the office to assume his elected seat in the United States Senate.

Early years, family, education[edit]

Cyr (pronounced SEER) was born in Jeanerette, a small town in Iberia Parish, to Joseph Cyr and the former Emilie Julie Hoffer. On February 6, 1907, he married the former Mary McGowen, and they had four children named Louie, Marjorie, Emily, and Charles M. Cyr (1915–2001).

He graduated from Atlanta Dental College and became a practicing dentist in Jeanerette in 1900. He was sufficiently regarded by his peers that he was named president of the Louisiana Dental Examining Board for 1916 to 1917.

Business interests[edit]

Besides being a dentist, Cyr was a surface geologist who had worked for Humble Oil Company and knew that large petroleum deposits existed below salt domes from Plaquemines Parish in south Louisiana to the Texas state line. Cyr found that several independent oil developers who contributed to Long for governor had received prosperous oil leases on state lands after the Kingfish took office.

Cyr was also a director of the First National Bank of Jeanerette and Consolidated Grocery Store. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, and the Elks Club. He was Presbyterian.

The split with Huey Long[edit]

Cyr was elected lieutenant governor on the Long intraparty ticket in 1928. He defeated the physician Felix Octave Pavy, later a state representative for St. Landry Parish and a brother of Judge Benjamin Pavy, the father-in-law of the Long assassin, Dr. Carl Weiss.

Cyr also faced a Republican opponent that year, John E. Jackson, a New Orleans lawyer who ran on the gubernatorial ticket headed by Etienne J. Caire of St. John the Baptist Parish. Jackson subsequently became the state GOP chairman from 1929 to 1934, and thereafter a long-term party national committeeman.[1]

Within months of taking office, Cyr split permanently with Long. The historian Richard D. White, Jr., found that fewer rivals irritated Long more than did Cyr. Long and Cyr had first openly quarreled in February 1929 over a controversial murder case in which a St. Mary Parish physician, Thomas E. Dreher, hired his handyman, Jim Beadle, to murder the electrician James LeBoeuf (pronounced LEBUFF), the husband of the doctor's lover, Ada LeBoeuf. Long favored the execution of the couple, but Cyr wanted leniency. Dr. Dreher confessed to the crime. Mrs. LeBoeuf had lured her husband to a lake in Morgan City, where he met his death. Ultimately, the two were hanged on makeshift gallows — Ada thus became the first white woman ever to have been hanged in Louisiana. Long said of the crime: "Never had a more conscienceless murder been known."[2]

Long also loathed Cyr because the lieutenant governor would declare himself acting governor every time Long left the state, even for a day or two. Cyr was committed to reversing Longism if Long stayed away from Louisiana for any length of time. Fifty years later, that same scenario threatened David C. Treen, Louisiana's first Republican governor since Reconstruction; if Treen left the state, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Robert "Bobby" Freeman, a staunch partisan, would assume acting duties and attempt to thwart Treen.

Long also chided Cyr regarding a minor drilling contract:

On another occasion the greatest publicity was given to a charge made by Lieutenant Governor Cyr that I had performed a swindle worse than that of Teapot Dome in the execution of an oil lease. ... The oil lease in question had been made by Governor Parker, and no act had been taken by me, except to permit the holder to enter into a drilling contract. Our reply was practically buried by most of the newspapers.[3]

Succession dispute[edit]

In 1930, in the middle of his term as governor, Long was elected to the United States Senate term beginning on March 4, 1931, but chose to delay resigning as governor and taking up the Senate seat until he had accomplished some remaining state goals. He resigned as governor on January 25, 1932. In 1905, U.S. Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., had similarly delayed his departure from the Wisconsin governorship until January 1, 1906, to assure enactment of part of his Wisconsin Idea platform.[4]

After Long's Senate seat became available, Cyr drove to Shreveport and took the oath of office as governor. Long subsequently met Cyr in Baton Rouge, placed guards around the state House and the governor's mansion, and ordered Cyr's arrest "as an impostor". By taking the gubernatorial oath, Long claimed that Cyr had merely vacated his own office of lieutenant governor, which would then be filled by Senate President Pro tempore Alvin O. King, who succeeded Long as governor for a few months prior to the election of Oscar K. Allen as the popular successor.[5]

In October 1931, Cyr filed suit in a bid to oust Long as governor and declared himself governor. He had a justice of the peace in Shreveport give him the oath of office in the Caddo Parish Courthouse. Cyr arrived in Baton Rouge and threatened to take over the governor's mansion. Long ordered the Louisiana National Guard to mobilize, and troops surrounded the capitol with strict orders not to admit Cyr. After a few days, state police replaced the guardsmen. For a time, the city was an "armed camp", with both Long and Cyr carrying pistols.

Without police power, Cyr was defeated and returned to Jeanerette. Long dubbed Cyr the "tooth puller from Jeanerette" and declared that his nemesis is "no longer lieutenant governor, and he is now nothing." Long ordered that Cyr be removed from the state payroll. Cyr tried again to take the governorship in January 1932, while the gubernatorial campaign that year between Oscar K. Allen and Dudley J. LeBlanc was well underway. He established "executive offices" in the then named Heidelberg Hotel in Baton Rouge and took a second oath as governor. When Long learned of the turn of events, he called the manager of the Heidelberg and requested that Cyr be evicted. Cyr then moved to the Louisiana Hotel but thereafter was forced to return in defeat to Jeanerette.

Forced out as lieutenant governor[edit]

When Cyr declared himself governor, Long insisted that the rightful claimant as lieutenant governor was not Cyr but Alvin O. King, a state senator from Lake Charles whom Long had appointed as lieutenant governor when Cyr allegedly bowed out. Cyr did not resign as lieutenant governor, but the Louisiana courts agreed with Long that by declaring himself governor, he had in effect vacated the lieutenant governorship. The pro-Long Bienville Democrat newspaper in Arcadia opined that Cyr had "about as much chance being installed or elected governor of Louisiana as a Texas billy-goat had of making a nonstop jump to the planet Mars."

Enduring anti-Long sentiment[edit]

Despite Long's control over Louisiana as governor and while in the Senate too, his opponents often seemed fearless at the odds against them. In a speech in Baton Rouge in 1934, former Lieutenant Governor Cyr declared that Senator Long "belongs to the hog family, and the piney woods, razorback type at that." Cyr earlier called Long "the worst political tyrant to rule the state."

Years later, Cyr's reclusive daughter, Emily Cyr Bridges, banned the name "Huey Long" from being spoken at her Albania Plantation House near Jeanerette.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jackson, John Ellett". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ Huey Pierce Long, Jr., Every Man a King: The Autobiography of Huey P. Long (New Orleans: National Book Club, Inc., 1933), p. 127.
  3. ^ Huey Long, Every Man a King, p. 146.
  4. ^ "Robert M. LaFollette". sjsu.edu. Retrieved January 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ Huey Long, Every Man a King, p. 250.
Political offices
Preceded by
Philip H. Gilbert of Assumption Parish
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor
1928–1931
Succeeded by
Alvin Olin King of Calcasieu Parish