From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thomas Jerald Huckaby, usually known as Jerry
Huckaby (born July 19, 1941), is a Virginia real estate
executive who was a Democratic U.S. representative from the northeastern
portion of the U.S. state of Louisiana between 1977 and 1993. He lost
his position as a result of congressional reapportionment in 1992, when
Louisiana forfeited one of its eight seats in the United States House of
Representatives because the state grew in population at less than the
national average during the 1980s.
1 Early years and family history
2 Unseating Otto Passman
3 Defeating Frank Spooner
4 Louisiana's jungle primary
5 Huckaby on Agriculture Committee
6 Huckaby on Budget Committee
7 Huckaby on Interior Committee
8 A casualty of reapportionment, 1992
9 Huckaby in Virginia
Early years and family history
Huckaby was born to Thomas Milton Huckaby (1907-1973) and the former Eva
Butler (1911-1990) in Hodge in Jackson Parish. Both of Huckaby's parents
graduated from Bienville High School in the town of Bienville in
Bienville Parish in north Louisiana. Huckaby is descended on both sides
from two original Bienville Parish families. In the 1840s, two brothers,
Green and James Huckaby, settled in the community of Sparta, which was
the seat of Bienville Parish from its founding in 1848 until 1893, when
the courthouse was relocated to the larger Arcadia, located off
Interstate 20. Nothing remains of Sparta, which is located between
Bienville and Ringgold except for two nearby cemeteries. Green Huckaby's
son was John Tom Huckaby, and his son, William Huckaby, was Huckaby's
paternal grandfather. These Huckabys are buried in the Old Sparta
Both Jerry Huckaby and former Arkansas Governor Michael Dale "Mike"
Huckabee, a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination,
trace their original American ancestor to a "Thomas Huckaby", who lived
Charles City, Virginia, in the early seventeenth century. Jerry Huckaby
has an elderly aunt who claims that Huckaby is a fourth cousin of Mike
Huckabee, despite the different spellings of the surname. Jerry Huckaby
has never met Mike Huckabee and is uncertain if his aunt is correct
about the distant family tie.
In 1942, the Huckabys moved to Minden, the seat of Webster Parish, when
Jerry was six months old. His father operated a real estate and
insurance business; the family resided at 1104 Victory Drive. Huckaby
graduated fifth in his class in 1959 from Minden High School. He played
on the basketball team, performed in the band, was elected to the
student council, and edited the school newspaper. In 1963, he received a
bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana
State University in Baton Rouge. He was student body president of the
college of engineering and a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Five years later, he obtained an Master of Business Administration from
Georgia State University in Atlanta. He was a management executive for
Western Electric Company in Chicago from 1963 to 1973. He returned to
Louisiana from Illinois and entered business and farming. For a time, he
owned and operated Hallmark Farms in Ringgold.
Unseating Otto Passman
In 1976, Huckaby was elected to Congress from the Monroe-based Fifth
Congressional District. First, he unseated incumbent Otto Ernest Passman
in a hard-fought Democratic primary held on [[August 14]. Huckaby
received 45,589 votes (52.7 percent) to Passman's 40,888 (47.3 percent).
Passman, a 30-year conservative lawmaker was a native of Franklinton in
south Louisiana and a long-term Monroe resident. Passman had been a
steadfast supporter of the Vietnam War. A World War II Navy lieutenant,
Passman was particularly known for his support of veterans causes as
well as his opposition to most foreign aid programs, positions that
contributed to his popularity in the district.
However, Passman was under an ethical cloud. He was engulfed in a
bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and influence peddling scandal involving his
acceptance of $213,000 from the South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park.
Passman had not, however, been indicted of anything at the time of the
primary. The indictments came two years later, but he was acquitted in a
high-profile trial in 1979 in which he retained the services of
high-powered Alexandria attorney and gubernatorial advisor Camille
Francis Gravel, Jr.
Huckaby, who was forty-one years Passman's junior, used the
"time-for-a-change" theme with great success. Park also gave $20,000 to
Louisiana Governor Edwin Washington Edwards, when Edwards had been a
congressman between 1965 and 1972.
Huckaby said in a 2008 interview that the embittered Passman never
spoke to him after the primary election.
Defeating Frank Spooner
Huckaby then faced a determined Republican challenge from William Frank
Spooner, a conservative Monroe oilman who had been his state's GOP
national committeeman. Spooner was the first Republican even to contest
the Fifth District seat since 1900, when Henry E. Hardtner polled 628
votes (9.2 percent) against the Democrat Joseph E. Ransdell of East
Carroll Parish, who was elected with 6,172 votes (90.8 percent).
Ransdell would later serve in the United States Senate.
Spooner (born 1937) hoped to assemble a winning coalition based on a
strong showing in Monroe (Ouachita Parish) and Ruston (Lincoln Parish),
along with Morehouse, Richland, Natchitoches, and Winn parishes.
Former Texas Governor John B. Connally came to Natchitoches to speak for
Spooner and the Gerald R. Ford-Robert J. Dole ticket. Former California
Governor Ronald W. Reagan, Ford's unsuccessful opponent in the 1976
presidential primaries, appeared at a fundraiser on Spooner's behalf.
After his failure to gain renomination, Passman "threatened" to endorse
Spooner as his successor, but he never did so. Huckaby ran advertising
which criticized Republican leaders from other states from coming into
the Fifth District of Louisiana to impact the voters' decisions.
Huckaby won the exchange, helped in part by the popularity of Jimmy
Carter in Louisiana and throughout the South. Huckaby received 83,696
votes (52.5 percent) to Spooner's 75,574 ballots (47.5 percent). Spooner
outpolled Passman's primary showing by 0.2 percent. In a much higher
general election turnout, Spooner received some 35,000 more votes than
Passman had netted in the primary. Spooner polled 59 percent in Ouachita
Parish and also won in Lincoln, Morehouse, Union, and Richland, but his
strength was insufficient to overcome the hefty Democratic margins in
rural districts stretching from Huckaby's Ringgold on the west to
Vidalia on the east and the most northern precincts of Rapides Parish on
the south. Spooner polled only 27 percent in Bienville Parish and under
40 percent in Madison (Tallulah) and Winn parishes, the latter the
ancestral home of the Long political dynasty.
Louisiana's jungle primary
The 1976 congressional elections were the last in Louisiana under the
previous closed primary system. Starting in 1978, when Huckaby was
reelected, congressional elections went to the nonpartisan blanket
primary (or jungle primary, which had already begun for state elections
in 1975. In the primary, candidates run in the same initial election
regardless of party label. The only labels permitted in Louisiana are
"Democrat," "Republican," and "No Party." There is a runoff between the
top two candidates if no one wins a simple majority in the first round
of balloting. That runoff constitutes the general election under
Louisiana law even if the "general election" has two candidates of the
same party. This plan is used only in Louisiana for regular elections.
It is also used in Texas and some other states in special elections.
This peculiar open primary, also called the jungle primary, was adopted
by the legislature at the insistence of Governor Edwin Edwards as a way
to reduce growing Republican strength in traditionally Democratic
Louisiana. The plan, in the long run, did not achieve that particular
purpose, but it did keep candidates from having to undergo three
possibly contested elections to win office. The plan proved very
beneficial for the popular Huckaby, who was re-elected seven times over
the next fourteen years, often with landslides of more than 80 percent.
He only had to run once in each of those elections against a combined
field of mostly his fellow Democrats.
In 1978, he polled some 57 percent over several Democratic rivals,
including then Louisiana State Senator James H. "Jim" Brown, then of
Ferriday in Concordia Parish. The next year, Brown was elected Louisiana
secretary of state, when incumbent Paul J. Hardy ran unsuccessfully for
In 2008, Louisiana will drop the jungle primary for U.S. House and U.S.
Senate elections and return to the previous closed primaries. However,
the jungle primary format will continue for state and local races.
Huckaby on Agriculture Committee
For ten years, Huckaby was chairman of the subcommittee on cotton, rice
and sugar. His marketing loan legislation was credited with bringing
American agriculture out of a major recession during the 1980s. His
controversial legislation defining elgibility for farm payments and
limiting the amount of the payments a farmer could receive withstood the
test of time and was still in effect twenty years after it was enacted.
Huckaby was a key defender of the sugar industry in the 1990 debate over
the farm bill. Louisiana is a major sugar cane state, with some 750
farms that produce hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar. He was even
called "Mr. Sugar" in the House. In his last campaign for Congress,
Huckaby collected more than $50,000 from sugar interests. "I was in the
race of my life, and I went out everywhere soliciting funds," Huckaby
recalled. Huckaby said that raising money from Political Action
Committees is a necessary evil. "It would be nice if the PAC system
didn't exist. It is the most distasteful thing in politics," he said.
Huckaby on Budget Committee
Huckaby was the Boll Weevils' choice in 1989 for a slot informally
designated for a Southern Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
Huckaby did not shy from highly technical issues, was not afraid to cut
deals, and could serve as a bridge to conservatives of both parties. The
Budget Committee assignment came during his last two terms in Congress.
Huckaby on Interior Committee
Huckaby introduced House-passed legislation in 1988 to require
commercial nuclear plants, during any unusual event, to transmit
electronically data on pressure, temperature, and water levels to the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., so that its experts
may monitor and advise on the situation. The national monitoring center
has prevented other "Three Mile Island" threats.
Huckaby's seat on the Interior Committee enabled him to secure
legislation through the years that created the Tensas National Wildlife
Refuge, the Upper Darbonne National Wildlife Refuge, the Poverty Point
National Monument in West Carroll Parish, the Saline Bayou Wild and
Scenic River, and the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness, all in his
A casualty of reapportionment, 1992
Louisiana lost a district when the 1990 United States Census revealed
sluggish population growth. Complicating matters further, the Justice
Department issued a directive requiring Louisiana to create a second
African-American district. The legislature responded by creating a new
Fourth District (temporarily as it turned out), which received most of
the black voters in Huckaby's former district. Huckaby's district
absorbed a large portion of the former Shreveport-based Fourth District,
represented by Republican Representative James Otis "Jim" McCrery, III,
who will retire from Congress in January 2009.
Although the new Fifth District was geographically in line with the
earlier boundaries, 60 percent of the registered voters in the revised
district had been represented by McCrery. In addition, the minority
population was reduced from 30 percent to less than 5 percent. Thus,
despite Huckaby's geographic advantage, the district was
Republican-leaning, and McCrery was an overwhelming favorite. National
Democratic officials told Huckaby that he was in a winless situation,
along with seven other southern Democrats whose districts had been made
considerably more Republican in reapportionment. Huckaby had the option
of retiring and keeping $250,000 in campaign funds (Nineteen ninety-two
was the last year that members of Congress could retire and keep surplus
campaign funds for personal use.) However, Huckaby chose to stay in the
race despite the difficult odds.
McCrery won in a route, taking 153,501 votes (63 percent) to 90,079 for
Huckaby (37 percent). Huckaby won only a few small parishes, including
his Bienville Parish.
Huckaby in Virginia
Huckaby is married to the former Suzanna Woodard "Sue" Huckaby (born
1943), the daughter of E.S. "Scotty" Woodard (born 1921) and the former
Mollie Covey (1923-1987), originally from Gentry in Benton County in the
northwestern corner of Arkansas. Scott Woodard, at eighty-seven, still
operates a farm in his native Ringgold.
The Huckabys did not return to Louisiana after his congressional defeat.
Instead Huckaby became a lobbyist but left after two months. "I was
never comfortable sitting on the other side of the table," he said. "I
wasn't comfortable asking members like (former U.S. Senator) John Breaux
to see such and such a person or (former U.S. Representative) Bob
Livingston to go to such and such a reception."
Huckaby instead became president of his wife's thriving McLean,
Virginia, residential real estate business. They reside in Great Falls
in Fairfax County near Washington, D.C. The Huckabys are Methodists.
Their daughter, Michelle Huckaby Lewis (born 1967), and their
son-in-law, Todd Lewis, are physicians currently living in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, where Todd has a cardiology fellowship at the Penn State
University Hospital. Both have undergraduate degrees from Stanford
University in Palo Alto, California, and medical degrees from Tulane
University in New Orleans. Both were previously on the staff of Johns
Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. Michelle also has a law degree
from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her specialty centers upon
legal issues involving genetic testing of newly-born babies. The Lewises
have two sons, Carter (born 2002) and Spencer (born 2005).
The Huckabys also had a son, Thomas Clay Huckaby (January 2, 1975 - June
The Huckabys are building a second home in Ruston. As they reach
retirement, they plan to live both there and in Great Falls.
Billy Hathorn, email interviews with Jerry Huckaby, January 2008