Hall M. Lyons
Hall McCord Lyons (December 22, 1923—July 22, 1998) was a Shreveport and, later, Lafayette oilman who for a short time was a pioneer in the establishment of a competitive Republican Party in Louisiana. He was the son of the party's 1964 gubernatorial nominee, Charlton Lyons. However, in 1972, despite his father's wishes, Hall Lyons left the GOP to run as the American Independent Party—the former George Wallace organization—nominee for the United States Senate.
Early years, education, military
Lyons was born in Shreveport to Charlton Havard Lyons, Sr. (1894-1973), and the former Marjorie Gladys Hall (1895-1971), an actress originally from Wisconsin. He attended the private Southfield School in Shreveport. He then transferred to the Lawrenceville School, in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and then attended Louisiana Tech University (at the time "Louisiana Polytechnic Institute") in Ruston.
Lyons volunteered for the U.S. Navy in World War II. Commissioned an ensign, Lyons was posted in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines and participated in the liberation of Okinawa. After the war ended, he returned home to attend Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, from which he obtained a degree in arts and sciences in June 1949.
He was a partner in C. H. Lyons Petroleum in Shreveport. He moved to Lafayette in 1960 to become an independent operator there. His father in 1964 lost the governor's election that year to the Democrat John J. McKeithen, but the family retained a keen interest in promoting the Republican Party in Louisiana.
Challenging Edwin Willis for Congress
In 1966, Hall Lyons challenged the reelection of veteran Third District Democratic Congressman Edwin Edward Willis, a member of the Long political faction. The atmosphere of 1966 seemed encouraging to Republicans in Lafayette. Roderick Miller of Lafayette had just become only the third Republican in modern times to win a state legislative seat in a special election. Lyons painted Willis as subservient to President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society programs. Willis nevertheless won, but never before had he faced such a competitive Republican. Willis received 46,533 votes (59.7 percent) to Lyons' 31,444 (40.3 percent).
Do conservatives have a home in the GOP?
In 1968, Charlton Lyons attended the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida and thereafter headed the Louisiana campaign to elect Richard Nixon as president; He had similarly worked for Barry M. Goldwater in 1964. Hall Lyons, however, favored former Alabama Governor George Wallace, a populist-style Democrat and then segregationist, who was running under his own "American Independent Party" label. Wallace won Louisiana's ten electoral votes, and Nixon ran a weak third in the state, losing out even to Democratic national nominee Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
In the 1972 governor's race, Charlton Lyons, who had served as state Republican chairman after his own loss for governor, supported David C. Treen as his party's gubernatorial candidate. Charlton Lyons was embarrassed because Hall Lyons was running for governor too, not as a Republican primary rival to Treen, but as the projected AIP candidate on the general election ballot. Lyons convinced his son to withdraw so that conservatives could unite behind Republican Treen. This campaign was some nine months before Treen would be elected to Congress in November 1972.
Hall Lyons questioned whether the GOP could be the permanent home of conservatives such as himself. He had grown disillusioned with the Nixon administration even before the Watergate affair triggered a collapse in Republican popularity. He also opposed many of the nationally known Republican senators, such as Minority Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, Charles H. Percy of Illinois, and Jacob Javits of New York, who had voting records only slightly to the "right" of many Democratic senators.
In the fall of 1972, Hall Lyons emerged as the AIP candidate for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Allen J. Ellender, who died during the Democratic primary campaign, and the nomination, still equivalent to election in Louisiana, went to former state senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. Johnston, also a native of Shreveport, had initially been elected to the Louisiana House on the same day that McKeithen had topped Charlton Lyons for the governorship. The Republican U.S. Senate nominee in 1972 was Ben C. Toledano, who had lost the mayoral election in 1970 in New Orleans. Moreover, McKeithen, unable to enter the Democratic primary after Ellender's death, filed to run as an Independent in the general election.
This time, Hall Lyons did not yield to his father but remained in the Senate campaign even though Toledano was arguably as conservative as Hall Lyons himself. Hall Lyons' total vote was meager: 28,910 votes (2.6 percent). Hall Lyons found that voters would not seriously consider "fringe" candidates for major or even minor offices but would restrict themselves to the major parties. Johnston won the seat, with 598,987 votes (55.2 percent); McKeithen drew 250,161 (23.1 percent), and Toledano finished third with 206,846 (19.1 percent). Toledano's vote was not even as strong in terms of percent as that of Taylor W. O'Hearn of Shreveport, who had unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Russell Long in 1962.
Charlton Lyons died on August 8, 1973, and the Lyons family role in Louisiana politics subsided thereafter. Charlton Lyons was so highly regarded that his funeral was televised on a statewide hookup.
Hall Lyons not only left his father's political party but also his Episcopal Church. At the time of his death, Hall Lyons was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Houma in Terrebonne Parish.
By 1984, Lyons had become a donor to the Lyndon LaRouche Democratic presidential campaign.
Hall Lyons died in Jefferson, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish after a brief illness. He had been in semi-retirement on Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico for a number of years. While Lyons was in Shreveport, he had been active in the musical community. A former president of the Shreveport Symphony, he sang numerous principal and supporting roles in operas produced by the symphony. He was an optimistic person with a big smile and a pleasant personality.
Lyons was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty Sue Buffington McKeever (1925-1993). Survivors included his third wife, Rosamond Rosholt Lyons (born 1922) of Grand Isle; they were married on July 31, 1975. He was also survived by his brother, Charlton Havard Lyons, Jr. (born 1921), of Shreveport; three daughters, Marjorie Scott Lyons (born 1951) of Fort Bragg, California (named for her paternal grandmother), Cheryl Despain (born 1955) of Salt Lake City, and Blythe Ann Randall of Lafayette, later Blythe Ann Lyons (born 1968), a veterinarian in Baton Rouge; three sons, Culver Hall Lyons, Sr. (born 1950), of Alpharetta, Georgia, Michael Glen Lyons (born 1958) of Humble, Texas, and Troy Dominic Lyons (born 1965) of Centreville, Mississippi; two stepsons; his second wife, Ann B. Barras (born 1936) of Lafayette, former sister-in-law Susybelle Lyons of Shreveport, and a large number of grandchildren.
Services were held at a Latter Day Saints meetinghouse in Shreveport. Burial was in the Lyons family plot at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport.
Billy Hathorn, "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980", Master's thesis at Northwestern State University at Natchitoches, 1980
Hall M. Lyons obituary, Shreveport Times, July 26, 1998