Taylor W. O'Hearn
|Taylor Walters O'Hearn|
|Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish (at-large)|
|Preceded by||4 at-large members:
|Succeeded by||7 at-large:
July 6, 1907|
Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
|Died||April 2, 1997
Granbury, Texas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Gladys Bookout O'Hearn|
|Children||Son Patrick T. O'Hearn
Daughter Jerry O'Hearn Meier
|Alma mater||Centenary College of Louisiana|
|Occupation||Attorney; Certified Public Accountant|
Taylor Walters O'Hearn (July 6, 1907–April 2, 1997) was a pioneer in the rebirth of the Republican Party in Louisiana during the mid-20th century. He and Morley A. Hudson, both of Shreveport in Caddo Parish, were the first two Republicans elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives since Reconstruction. The pair served single terms from 1964 to 1968. O'Hearn and Hudson were joined in the Caddo delegation by Democrats Algie D. Brown, Frank Fulco, and newcomer J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., later a member of both the Louisiana State Senate and the United States Senate.
O'Hearn was born in Shreveport to Ernest O'Hearn (1880–1972), a railroad worker, and Mattie W. O'Hearn (1886–1982). Ernest O'Hearn, who was probably born in New Orleans, had been orphaned as a child when both of his parents died of yellow fever. In 1948, Taylor O'Hearn became a self-employed CPA in Shreveport. In 1957, he passed the Louisiana bar exam, having studied at night at Centenary College in Shreveport. He was a United States Navy veteran with service during World War II. He was a former commander of the American Legion Post 14 in Shreveport.
Like most Louisiana Republicans of his era, Taylor O'Hearn started political life as a Democrat. In 1959, he supported the segregationist gubernatorial candidate William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish in the Democratic primary. Rainach finished a weak third, and the governorship went to Jimmie Davis, a former Shreveporter who had also served as governor from 1944-1948.
Challenging Russell B. Long, 1962
Having grown disenchanted with the national Democratic administration of President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, O'Hearn switched parties to run in 1962 for the U.S. Senate. He challenged incumbent Democrat Russell B. Long, who as the oldest son of the legendary Huey Pierce Long, Jr., was already himself a near political icon in Louisiana.
O'Hearn charged that Long was practicing "the same old pork barrel. He's promising everybody everything with their own money." O'Hearn further claimed that Long was attempting to take credit for all political progress in the state. Long refused to debate O'Hearn, who charged that the senator "doesn't have the guts to talk to the people about campaign issues." Long replied that he was "not ashamed I've fought to get things for Louisiana. I'm not ashamed to go to the White House to talk to the president to get things done for my state and its people."
Critical of the Kennedy Cuban policies, O'Hearn called the failed Bay of Pigs operation a "desertion of Cuban patriots . . . It's odd to me that Russell Long and Jack Kennedy were the only two persons in the country who did not know about the Cuban arms buildup." He claimed that the Cuban blockade was "timed perfectly with the political campaign."
O'Hearn also claimed that Long voted 75 percent of the time for Kennedy policies: "These bills are not just socialistic but radical!" Long denied O'Hearn's contention that he was automatically in lockstep with Kennedy policies. Long voiced opposition for instance, to Kennedy's intervention in the desegregation of the University of Mississippi at Oxford that fall, which had led to a violent confrontation.
O'Hearn said that he opposed foreign aid until neutral countries committed themselves to the West. He proposed that the United States withdraw from the United Nations until "the communist bloc pays its share." In appealing for support, O'Hearn said that his "honor and integrity [are] the only things I own. No one is going to buy it, bargain for it, or obtain it in any other matter."
In a newspaper advertisement, Long declared himself an "Independent Thinker" who is "unalterably opposed to federal control of state education, foreign aid to Russia's satellites, unnecessary federal spending, and increased taxation." He also claimed to be a "leader in the fight to preserve our traditional southern way of life." Long noted that he had kept open Fort Polk near Leesville in Vernon Parish and had fought for assistance to underprivileged children, the needy blind, small business, and farmers.
Long first easily turned aside a challenge from the "right" in his own party in the summer of 1962 against the retired lieutenant colonel Philemon "Phil" St. Amant of Baton Rouge. He then defeated O'Hearn, 318,838 votes (75.6 percent) to 103,066 (24.4 percent). O'Hearn carried seven north Louisiana parishes, where conservatism was running strongly at the time. He polled a clear majority in Louisiana's 4th congressional district. He fared best in his own Caddo Parish, where he polled 64.7 percent. He also received 58.7 percent in Madison Parish (Tallulah) in northeast Louisiana. O'Hearn carried Webster (Minden), Morehouse (Bastrop), Bossier (Bossier City and Benton), Claiborne (Homer), and La Salle (Jena) parishes. Madison and Claiborne parishes, however, became staunchly Democratic after the implementation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 added large numbers of African Americans to their voter rolls. In ten other parishes, all in north Louisiana, O'Hearn drew more than 40 percent of the vote.
Election to the Louisiana legislature
In 1964, O'Hearn ran for one of five then at-large seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives from Caddo Parish. The seats were made single-member after the 1970 census. Morley A. Hudson and O'Hearn both won, finishing ahead of three Democrats, who won the other positions. Three other Caddo Republican legislative candidates who lost in 1964 included Billy J. Guin, later a city commissioner; Edd Fielder Calhoun (1931–2012), an insurance agent and civic figure originally from Oklahoma City, and Art Sour, who made his livelihood in the oil business. Sour lost again for the legislature in 1968 but rebounded in 1972 to win a seat in the state House, which he held for twenty years.
Hudson and O'Hearn were the only Republicans anywhere in Louisiana to win legislative seats that year, when fellow Shreveporter Charlton Lyons waged an active Republican gubernatorial campaign. Hudson in jest declared himself "minority leader" of the Louisiana House in that he led the vote totals in Caddo Parish. O'Hearn joked that he must be the "minority whip" in that he had the second-highest Republican tally. In the 1964 session of the Louisiana House, their page was a 17-year-old high school student named Louis E. "Woody" Jenkins of Baton Rouge. In 1972, Jenkins won election as one of the youngest legislators in state history. In 1996, as the Republican nominee, he was the narrow loser to Mary Landrieu in the race for the U.S. Senate.
O'Hearn's priority as a legislator was to promote the construction of a north-south interstate highway link in Louisiana, later the popular I-49. Billy Guin recalled that it was O'Hearn who first proposed the highway. Later, state Senator Johnston proposed road tolls to move the project forward, but eventually the superhighway was built and operates without tolls.
In 1966, O'Hearn lost an attempt to win a newly created judgeship in Caddo Parish. He was defeated, 64-36 percent, in the general election by Democrat James A. "Dee" Alexander. After Republicans scored gains in Caddo Parish in 1964, the Democrats took successful steps to drive them from local office. The vehicle used was the Caddo Democratic Association, which supplied campaign funds for any local Democratic nominee facing GOP opposition in a general election. The association had total success in its mission for five years—from 1966 until 1971. Woody Jenkins said that he remembers O'Hearn and Hudson as men of high principles and solid role models for future generations of conservative legislators.
Defeat in 1968
After his failure to win the judgeship, O'Hearn served the year and a half left in his legislative term. He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1968. O'Hearn polled 15,150 votes to lead the Republican ticket in the at-large state House races in Caddo Parish, but he was 5,475 votes below the lowest-ranking Democratic candidate. Two other unsuccessful Republican state House candidates from Caddo Parish in 1968, Benjamin Franklin O'Neal, Jr., and Art Sour, would return to reverse their defeats and win House seats from single-member districts in 1972. Morley Hudson, who did not seek reelection in 1968, issued a statement on behalf of all the losing Republican candidates: "We did not lose; we taught thousands of our voters that they could vote for two-party government." In Baton Rouge, another Republican legislator, Edward Clark Gaudin, also was defeated, but he too rebounded to victory in 1972.
O'Hearn charged that election laws had been violated at three black precincts in Shreveport—that Democrats passed out campaign literature at the door of one polling place and were less than the required 200 feet minimum from the two other precincts. O'Hearn said that he contacted Caddo Parish Sheriff James M. Goslin, and the Shreveport public safety commissioner, George W. D'Artois, both Democrats. Each told him that the matter was out of his jurisdiction. O'Hearn never again sought public office.
A balded, bespectacled man with black-rimmed eyeglasses and a stern facial expression, he bore a striking resemblance to the popular comic character actor Richard Deacon (1921–1984), who starred as "Fred Rutherford" on Leave It to Beaver and as "Mel Cooley" on the original The Dick Van Dyke Show.
O'Hearn died, aged 89, in Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth. Survivors included his wife of fifty-two years, Gladys Bookout O'Hearn (June 20, 1910 — September 6, 2001); one son, Patrick T. O'Hearn (born 1930) of Palm Springs, California; one daughter, Jerry O'Hearn Meier and husband Kenneth Fredrick Meier (both born 1932) of Granbury; nine grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. Gladys O'Hearn, a Shreveport native and a graduate of Northwestern State University (then College) in Natchitoches, was the executive secretary for many years of the Arkansas-Louisiana Citgo Company. Mrs. O'Hearn was also preceded in death by Paul A. Kennon, her son from a previous marriage.
Taylor and Gladys O'Hearn are interred at Forest Park Cemetery on St. Vincent Avenue in Shreveport. O'Hearn's parents are also buried in Forest Park but not in the same section of the cemetery.
- "Senatorial Candidate Plans Appearance Here", Minden Herald, September 27, 1962, p. 1
- "O'Hearn Blats Long's Record in Speech Before Local Group", Minden Herald, November 1, 1962, p. 1
- Long advertisement, Minden Herald, November 1, 1962, p. 12
- State of Louisiana, Secretary of State, 1962 general election returns
- Minden Herald, November 8, 1962, p. 1
- "Obituary of Fielder Calhoun". Shreveport Times. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
- Hathorn, Billy, "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980," Master's thesis (1980) at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches
- Alexandria Daily Town Talk, November 2, 3, 6, 7, 1962
- Shreveport Journal, March 4, 1964, February 7, 1968
- Gladys O'Hearn obituary, Shreveport Times, September 7, 2001
- Taylor O'Hearn obituary, Shreveport Times, April 3, 1997
4 at-large delegation:
|Louisiana State Representative from Caddo Parish (at-large)
Taylor Walters O'Hearn
7 at-large members: