Robert J. Barham

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Robert Jocelyn Barham
Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
In office
January 2008 – January 11, 2016
Preceded by Bryant Hammett
Succeeded by Charlie Melancon
Louisiana State Senator for District 33 (Claiborne, Morehouse, Union, and West Carroll parishes)
In office
Preceded by Willie E. Crain
Succeeded by Mike Walsworth
Personal details
Born (1949-01-25) January 25, 1949 (age 67)
Monroe, Louisiana, USA
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (c. 2002)
Spouse(s) Melba Pipes Barham
Relations Edwards Barham (brother)

Robert Erle Barham
Rebecca Barham

Henry Barham
Parents Erle McKoin and Rosalie Smith Barham
Residence Oak Ridge
Morehouse Parish
Occupation Farmer
Religion Southern Baptist
Military service

United States Army

Louisiana National Guard


Promoted to Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Robert Jocelyn Barham (born January 25, 1949) is an American large-scale farmer from Morehouse Parish in northern Louisiana who served for all eight years under former Governor Bobby Jindal as the secretary of his state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. He is a Republican former member of the Louisiana State Senate for District 33 (Claiborne, Morehouse, Union, and West Carroll parishes), all of which border Arkansas in the northeastern section of his state.

In an interview published on January 1, 2008, Barham listed his major LDWF issues would be coastal restoration and controlling invasive aquatic vegetation in lakes and waterways: "We'll be on the front lines of coastal restoration. It's a huge project. It's going to have an impact on fisheries, oyster leases, the environment — but we have no choice. We have to do it."[1]

Though he left Wildlife and Fisheries in January 2016, Barham has returned to employment by state government. Later in the same month, he was named director of state parks and historic sites under new Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, a friend with whom Barham worked in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.[2]


Barham was born in Monroe to Erle McKoin "Ninety" Barham (1916–1976) and Rosalie Smith Barham (1913–1999). He grew up on the family plantation in Oak Ridge in Morehouse Parish along with older brother, the late Erle Edwards Barham, who held this same Senate seat as a Republican from 1976 to 1980. Edwards Barham was the first Republican elected to the Louisiana Senate since Reconstruction. Edwards and Robert Barham were cousins of the late Democratic State Senator Charles C. Barham, who represented an adjoining district based about Ruston from 1964 to 1972 and again from 1976 to 1988.[3]

Barham graduated from Oak Ridge High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In 1970, he entered the United States Army for a two-year stint as a medic in South Vietnam. In 1999, he became a colonel in the Louisiana National Guard. Barham also obtained a master's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana State University). In 1994, he completed the "Agricultural Leadership Program" at LSU. He began full-time farming, Robert Barham Farms, Inc., in Oak Ridge in 1972. Barham and his wife, the former Melba Pipes (born 1954), have three children, Robert Erle, Rebecca, and Henry. His son, Robert Erle, is on faculty at Covenant College as an English professor.[4]

Environmental interest[edit]

As LDWF secretary, Barham succeeded Bryant Hammett, a Democrat from Ferriday, who served as a state representative from 1992 to 2006. Hammett had been named to the position late in 2006 by then Governor Kathleen Blanco.[1]

When Barham was a boy, his father organized a group of Morehouse Parish landowners who established the Cooley Wildlife Refuge, which became the biggest bird-banding site in Louisiana. Barham fished, hunted, and explored the rivers, streams, lakes and woods of northeastern Louisiana as a teenager and later the entire state as an adult. [1]

Leslie Glasgow, the assistant United States Secretary of the Interior in the administration of U. S. President Richard M. Nixon, chose young Barham to work at Glacier National Park in northernmost Montana. Earlier, Glasgow had been a reform director of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (1966–1968) and a biology professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Barham told the Monroe News-Star that his experience at Glacier park was "amazing. I was mentored by people like my dad and (Glasgow), who knew the importance of our natural resources. Louisiana has 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) of Wildlife Management Areas.[1]

Another early mentor of Barham was Grits Gresham, the sports journalist who once hosted ABC's The American Sportsman and was a long-time advocate of saving the Louisiana wetlands.[5]

Barham received the 2009 Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the 1999 National Award for Conservation of Natural Resources from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He received the John D. Newsom Award for Wildlife Stewardship.

At the conclusion of his last regular legislative session in 2007, Barham told an interviewer that Louisiana should concentrate on anti-litter efforts and highway construction. He lamented that his state is one of the most littered in the nation and urged a public education and law enforcement angle to tackle the problem. He also said that the state should pave the first mile of each highway connecting to Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas to the highest grade possible so as to give travelers coming into Louisiana a favorable first impression.

Barham will be succeeded in 2016 as wildlife and fisheries secretary by Charlie Melancon, a former member of the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 3rd congressional district, who has been selected by incoming Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Coincidentally, Melancon lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Republican David Vitter, who was defeated for governor in the runoff election held on November 21, 2015, by Edwards.

Barham in municipal and state politics[edit]

Barham was elected mayor of Oak Ridge in 1983 and served until 1988, when he became a village council member instead. He vacated the municipal post when he took his state Senate seat late in 1994. His affiliations include Ducks Unlimited, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Rifle Association, Louisiana Cotton Producers, and the American Legion. He is a member of the Masonic lodge and a Shriner. Barham is a Baptist.

Barham was first elected as a Democrat in a special election for an unexpired state Senate term held on November 8, 1994, a heavily Republican election year nationally. He defeated then fellow Democrat Johnny Dollar, 13,932 votes to 10,765.[6] He was reelected with 93 percent of the vote in the fall of 1995 for a full four-year term and was unopposed in 1999. Thereafter, he switched parties and ran in 2002 as a Republican for the vacant Fifth District U.S. House seat. He was unopposed again for the state Senate in 2003. Barham was term-limited and was ineligible to have sought reelection to the Senate in 2007.

As a lawmaker, Barham was particularly identified with efforts to halt the dissolution of Louisiana's coastal wetlands. He and other members of his family are known as strong conservationists. His father helped to establish the Tensas Wildlife Refuge near Delhi in Richland Parish.[1]

The congressional race of 2002[edit]

In 2002, Barham was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 5th congressional district, a position won by Rodney Alexander, a state representative from Jackson Parish, who in 2004 switched to Republican affiliation[7] and remained in Congress until his retirement in 2013. Among Barham's congressional campaign donors were later State Representative Frank A. Hoffmann and former state Senator Billy Boles, both of Monroe, the Alexandria timberman Roy O. Martin, Jr., the Bastrop architect Hugh G. Parker, Jr., and the Lamar Advertising Company executive and former legislator Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., of Baton Rouge,[8]

Mike Walsworth, the Republican District 15 state representative from West Monroe, was elected to succeed Barham in the state Senate in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 20, 2007; he defeated the outgoing Democratic representative from District 14, Charles R. McDonald of Bastrop.[9]

In the congressional primary, Barham had sought to succeed U.S. Representative John Cooksey of Monroe, who made an ill-fated run in 2002 for the U.S. Senate against Mary Landrieu. Barham entered the primary against two other major Republican candidates, former U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway of Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded, a businessman from Forest Hill in Rapides Parish, andn Lee Fletcher, a young Monroe businessman who had been Cooksey's former chief of staff. Barham ran fourth in the primary, with 34,522 votes (19 percent), a relatively strong showing in a multi-candidate field.


  1. ^ a b c d e Greg Hilburn (January 1, 2008). "Barham says love of nature runs deep: New LDWF secretary to focus on coastal erosion". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ Greg Hilburn (January 26, 2016). "Nungesser taps former LDWF secretary to lead state parks". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Senate to consider honor for Barham", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, May 5, 2010
  4. ^
  5. ^ Philip Timothy, Death of Grits Gresham", Alexandria Town Talk, February 19, 2008
  6. ^ "Official Election Results: 11/8/1994". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Official Election Results: 11/5/2002". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Campaign Contributions to "Robert J. Barham". Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Official Election Results: 10/20/2007". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Willie E. Crain
Louisiana State Senator for the 33rd District (Claiborne, Morehouse, Union, and West Carroll parishes)

Robert Jocelyn Barham

Succeeded by
Mike Walsworth
Preceded by
Bryant Hammett
Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Robert Jocelyn Barham

Succeeded by
Charlie Melancon