R. Harmon Drew, Sr.

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Richard Harmon Drew, Sr. (February 5, 1917 December 18, 1995) was a fourth generation judge and a former Democratic state representative who was descended from pioneer families of Webster Parish in north Louisiana. The first Drew in the area, Newitt Drew, a Welshman who was born in Virginia in 1772, established a grist mill on Dorcheat Bayou in the early 1800s before a town yet existed. Drew's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all held judicial positions in either the city of Minden, or Webster and surrounding parishes. His son, Richard Harmon Drew, Jr. (born 1946), of Minden is currently serving a 10-year term on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, based in Shreveport.

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Education and early years

Drew was born in Minden to Judge Harmon Caldwell Drew (died 1950) and the former Lucile Grigsby. He graduated from Minden High School in 1933. He attended Kemper Military Institute in Boonville, Missouri. (The school closed in 2002.) He then obtained his bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University (then Louisiana Polytechnic Institute) in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish. He graduated from the law school of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and was admitted to the bar in 1941.

Thereafter, Drew was a sergeant with the 13th Air Force Service Command during World War II. He was stationed in the southwest Pacific theater.

After military service, Drew served simultaneously from 1945-1948 as the Minden city attorney and the assistant district attorney to District Attorney Arthur Wallace of Benton for the 26th Judicial District (Webster and Bossier parishes).

In 1948, Governor Earl Kemp Long, winner in the first Democratic primary, appointed Drew to the Minden city judgeship, which had become vacant by the death of Judge Robert "Rob" Watkins. Drew had supported Long in the 1948 gubernatorial primary though the Drews had previously been identified with anti-Long elements in the Democratic Party. After he secured the position by appointment, Drew was elected to a full six-year term. Drew's uncle, A.S. "Skeet" Drew, was the first judge of the Minden City Court, having taken office in 1928.

In 1954, Drew did not seek reelection as city judge but instead ran for Bossier-Webster district attorney. He lost in the Democratic primary to Louis Padgett (1913-1980) of Bossier City. Drew won his native Webster Parish but trailed in the more populous Bossier Parish. He therefore resumed his private practice in Minden from 1955-1978.

In 1960, Drew ran for the state district judgeship but lost to fellow Democrat Enos Carr McClendon, Jr. (1917-2003), of Minden, originally from Claiborne Parish. Again, Drew won in Webster Parish but lost to McClendon in Bossier Parish. The sons of Drew and McClendon, Harmon Drew and Carr McClendon, were schoolmates but their friendship survived their fathers' conflicting political ambitions.

In 1968, Drew was elected to the first of three terms on the Democratic State Central Committee. Even though he was a party official, Drew was "pretty independent and very conservative" and supported Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in 1980 and 1984, respectively, said his son Harmon, Jr. Yet, in the 1963 Democratic primary, Drew had backed then New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr., considered the most liberal of the major primary candidates. Morrison lost to John McKeithen, who polled a large majority in both Minden and Webster Parish in the Democratic runoff primary. A former Minden resident, former Governor Robert F. Kennon, was also running in the 1963 primary. He finished in fourth place statewide. In 1940, Kennon had defeated Drew's father, Harmon Caldwell Drew, for the appeal court position now held by Harmon Drew, Jr.

Legislative service

In 1972, Drew was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives to succeed fellow conservative Democrat Parey P. Branton, Sr., of Shongaloo, in central Webster Parish. Branton did not seek a fourth term in the state House but instead ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor. Drew faced a crowded field in the 1971 Democratic primary. He went into a second primary with the late Springhill (northern Webster Parish) attorney Charles McConnell, who had also unsuccessfully challenged Branton in 1967.

As a lawmaker, the fiscally prudent Drew warned his colleagues of the limits of excessive spending. He supported the state's right-to-work law. He also worked to raise the minimum compensation for workers injured on the job even though he was not considered a favorite of organized labor. Drew, Jr., said of his father: "He made several lists of 'Outstanding Legislators'. He did it the old-fashioned way: He read every bill and voted his conscience. From what I can tell, he was universally admired as an honorable legislator." According to his son, Drew particularly admired two legislative colleagues, Charles D. Lancaster, Jr., a Metairie Republican lawyer, and Democrat Forrest Dunn, a Shreveport businessman, who served in the legislature from 1972-1984. In 1975, Drew was unopposed for his second term in Louisiana's first jungle primary, in which all candidates regardless of party appear on the same ballot.

A year after he entered the legislature, Representative Drew was also elected on a nonpartisan ballot as a Webster Parish delegate to the 1973 Louisiana constitutional convention held in Baton Rouge. The convention wrote the document that voters approved in 1974 to replace the Constitution of 1921. The convention included some political figures who would later beome major players in Louisiana politics, including future Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner James H. "Jim" Brown, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish, and future Governor Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III, of Bossier Parish. Also in the delegation from Webster Parish was the Republican mayor of Minden, Arthur Thomas "Tom" Colten. The convention adopted a streamlined constitution that modernized governmental procedures and largely strengthened executive power. It was strongly supported by then Governor Edwin Washington Edwards. Ironically, both Drew's father and grandfather had been delegates to the two previous constitutional conventions, respectively.

Drew did not complete his second term in the legislature. Judge Drew, Jr., said that his father was "sick of the [second] Edwards administration and its hayride mentality." Therefore, Drew, Sr., ran once again for Minden city judge, the post that he had left twenty-four years earlier. He defeated Minden attorney Henry Hobbs, a fellow Democrat, for the position in 1978. He did not seek reelection in 1984 and was succeeded by his son, Harmon Drew, Jr.

Drew was succeeded in the legislature by a 28-year-old Minden attorney, Bruce M. Bolin (born 1950), the son of another former state representative and judge, James E. Bolin (1914-2002). Bruce Bolin won a special election in 1979. In 1990, Bolin also resigned from the legislature to become a judge. After leaving the city judge's position for the second time, Drew resumed his law practice. Then in 1988, when his son vacated the city judgeship for the district court, Drew, Sr., returned to the city bench as an interim appointee selected by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Previously governors had made such appointments, but the new state constitution placed that decision in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Drew's obituary and legacy

Drew was a quiet, soft-spoken man who strived to help his friends, legislative constituents, and those appearing before his court whenever and wherever he could. He tried to temper justice with mercy in the court.

He spent more than four decades assisting those who were attempting to recover from alcoholism. He founded the Minden Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. Each year, the AA held a dance at nearby Caney Lake. Drew's niece, Katie Lucile Carey Sims (born 1948), a Houma (Terrebonne Parish) businesswoman, said that her uncle "spent his whole life helping others achieve sobriety. Henry Fomby (1919-1978) did a lot with [Uncle Harmon] also. I think that he always felt Harmon saved his life, as did many [others]." Katie Sims, who affectionately called Drew "Bubbie", said that her uncle was "the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known."

Drew, Jr., recalled that his father often required attendance at AA as a condition of probation for those brought before his court for alcohol abuse: "He turned around countless folks via Alcoholics Anonymous . . . [He] had forty-one years of sobriety when he died. I was sworn in as city judge on November 1, 1985, thirty years to the day when my father stopped drinking."

Drew was twice married. His first wife, the former Margaret Taylor Elam (1919-1977), was a native of Mansfield, the seat of De Soto Parish. Margaret's father, Joseph Barton Elam, Jr., was a lobbyist in Shreveport for Standard Oil Company. The Elams moved from Mansfield to Shreveport when Margaret was eight years old. They lived in the Fairfield neighborhood. After Elam's premature death of a heart attack in 1932, Mrs. Elam, the former Margaret "Maggie" Taylor, relocated the family to Baton Rouge so that they would be near LSU to provide more easily for her four children's education. Margaret Drew was the youngest of Maggie's children.

Harmon and Margaret hence met at LSU. She was an undergraduate in education and a cheerleader, and he was in law school. They were married in St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge on December 7, 1940, exactly one year before a cataclysmic event would forever change their generation.

Margaret bore Harmon's three children: Judge Drew, Jr., of Minden (married to the former Jean Talley of Bogalusa in Washington Parish), Elizabeth Drew Weaver (born 1942) of Minden (married to Harold Weaver), and Margaret Caldwell Drew Colvin (born 1950) of Springhill (married to James W. Colvin). Margaret, who did substitute teaching for years in Minden schools, died of lung cancer, the same affliction that took the life of her father-in-law.

In November 1978, Drew married Chloe Waters Powell (1919-1991), who had worked for more than three decades for the former Minden Bank and Trust Company. She was the widow of Ralph Powell (1911-1977) of Minden. Drew acquired a stepdaughter through the second marriage, Sue Powell Kincaid (born 1948) of Burkburnett, Texas, (Wichita County) and her husband, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel James W. Kincaid.

Drew died of stroke and heart disease at his Minden residence after a lengthy illness. Memorial services were held at Rose Neath Funeral Home on December 20, 1995, with the Rev. T.W. Barnes (1913-2006), the pastor of Minden's First Pentecostal Church, and the Episcopalian priest William R. Bryant officiating. Burial was in Minden Cemetery. Drew was a Presbyterian.

He was preceded in death by a sister, Katie Drew Carey (1915-1971), a Minden real estate operator. Other survivors included eight grandchildren and two nephews, Richard Drew Carey, a Minden businessman, and Dr. Thomas Drew Carey (born 1947), a dermatologist in Ruston.

Pallbearers were Harry Stahl, Bob Dickson, Sam Walker, Webster Parish Police Juror Charlie Odom, Carroll Toms, Deputy Steve Fomby (son of Henry Fomby), Marshal John Walker, Sr., and Judge John C. Campbell. Honorary pallbearers were former Representative and Shongaloo Mayor Parey Branton, David Williams, Norman McGuire, Harry McInnis, Sr. (1913-2003), Warren E. Dietrich (1912-2002), Cecil P. Campbell (1909-1996), Jack Howe, and the Webster Parish Bar Association.

Drew was a charter member of the Minden Jaycees, a charter member and a past president of Minden Civitan Club, past post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a member of the American Legion, and a past president of Minden Riding Club.

In 1976, he was named "Alumnus of the Year" from Sigma Nu fraternity at Louisiana Tech. In 1977, he was honored as Minden's "Man of the Year." The family suggested memorial donations to either Minden's Alpha House to aid alcoholics or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. For a city of limited size, Minden is known as one of the strongest supporters of St. Jude Hospital through annual community-wide fundraising projects.

References

Billy Hathorn, email interview with Drew's niece, Katie Carey Sims of Houma, June 22, 2006

Billy Hathorn, email exchange with Caldwell Drew Colvin and Judge R. Harmon Drew, Jr., of Shreveport, June 23, July 5-9, 2006

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:qhIkpbXTUycJ:homepages.rootsweb.com/~celam/obits.htm+Harmon+Drew&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=18R. (Harmon Drew, Sr., obituary, Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, December 20, 1995)

Drew's obituary, Minden Press-Herald, December 19, 1995.

http://www.press-herald.com/news/Feb02/0221news.html

http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi

http://www.mindenmemories.com/Thirties%20-%20Minden%20High%20School%20Girg.htm [contains photo of Drew at age 16, Class of 1933]

http://www.kemper1844.org/history.html

http://www.mindenmemories.com/Drew%20Family.htm (History of the Drew family)

Preceded by
Robert Watkins
Minden, Louisiana, City Judge
19481954
Succeeded by
Cecil Lowe
Preceded by
Parey Branton
State Representative from Webster Parish
19721978
Succeeded by
Bruce M. Bolin
Preceded by
Graydon K. Kitchens, Jr.
Minden, Louisiana, City Judge
19781984
Succeeded by
Richard Harmon Drew, Jr.
Preceded by
Richard Harmon Drew, Jr., (D)
Minden, Louisiana, City Judge
19881988 (interim)
Succeeded by
John C. Campbell