Robert Max Ross

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Robert Max Ross (August 5, 1933–September 15, 2009) was a small businessman from Mangham in Richland Parish in northeast Louisiana who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for governor, U.S. senator, state senator, and mayor during a time when two-party competition was rare in his state.


Contents

Background

Ross was born in Baskin, a village in Franklin Parish, to Robert States Ross and the former Ruby Seymour (1911-2002), but he resided in Mangham most of his life. In 1951, he graduated from Mangham High School. In 1956, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in agriculture, from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was commissioned through Reserve Officers Training Corps as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, served in the Vietnam War, and was a major in the Air Force Reserves. After his military service, he returned to Mangham, where he engaged in a number of businesses, including the ownership of a mobile home park.

Ross's stepfather was Terry Clingan (March 24, 1918–December 3, 2007), the Mangham town barber. After the death of Clingan's first wife, the former Vera Wallace, he married again in 1949 -- to Ross' mother. The marriage lasted fifty-three years until her death. Clingan was a master Mason and a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Mangham. Robert States Ross was killed in an accident in a shipyard in Galveston, Texas, when Ross was a boy.

Political races

Ross first ran for office in December 1971 in the only Republican gubernatorial closed primary ever held in the history of Louisiana. He was soundly defeated for the GOP nomination by the Metairie attorney David C. Treen, who had run unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives from suburban New Orleans in 1962, 1964, and 1968. Treen had the support of the party leadership, including chairman Charles C. de Gravelles, Sr., of Lafayette. Ross was the "outsider"; party leaders and voters preferred the "insider" Treen.

Ross also filed as a candidate for the Louisiana State Senate in the February 1, 1972, general election but was easily defeated, 78-22 percent, by incumbent Democrat Charles M. Brown of Tallulah, the seat of Madison Parish in northeastern Louisiana. While Ross was opposing Charles M. Brown, his stepfather, Terry Clingan waged an unsuccessful Republican campaign against Democratic State Representative Lantz Womack of Winnsboro, the seat of neighboring Franklin Parish.

After the 1971-1972 campaigns, little was heard of Ross again for a decade. In 1983, he filed for the nonpartisan blanket primary, also called the jungle primary, for governor and polled a minuscule 7,625 ballots. The other Republican candidate that year was David Treen, by then the embattled incumbent governor, who failed in his bid for a second term. Treen received 588,508 ballots, but the easy winner was the Democratic choice, former Governor Edwin Edwards, with 1,006,561 votes.

In 1984, Ross challenged the two-term incumbent U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport. Several minor candidates filed against Johnston in the primary but none made a showing. Some Republicans had encouraged Treen to make the race, but he demurred after his lopsided loss the previous year for governor. Ross therefore ran as the best-known of the Republican candidates against Johnston. The tally was 838,181 votes (85.7 percent) for Johnston and 86,546 votes (8.9 percent) for Ross.

When U.S. Senator Russell B. Long retired, Ross entered the primary in September 1986 to choose a successor. He finished far to the rear, as two members of the United States House of Representatives, Republican W. Henson Moore, III, of Baton Rouge and Democrat John B. Breaux of Crowley, the seat of Acadia Parish, secured general election berths. Breaux went on to defeat Moore and held the seat for eighteen years until he retired in January 2005.

In October 2002, Ross ran for mayor of Mangham, but he polled only ten votes, or 7 percent of the total against the incumbent Democrat, Robert Neal Harwell, who received 141 votes (93 percent). Ross had quarreled with Harwell and the town council over water-related issues when he made his mayoral bid. In 1990, a Republican, Royce V. Lowery, was elected to the Mangham Town Council, while the Republican Mayor Frellsen Reese was retiring. In addition to Lowery, the council then had two Democratic members and two no-party aldermen.

In 2007, Ross resurfaced with an advertisement in the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate which urged that a candidate, presumably a Republican, step forward to challenge the reelection of Democratic Attorney General Charles C. Foti, Jr., in the October 20, 2007, jungle primary. Ross listed a mailing address in the ad, but no telephone number or email address. Shortly after Ross' ad appeared, District Attorney James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Jr., of Tallulah, a Democrat, announced that he would challenge Foti in part as a reaction to Foti's arrest of of a doctor and two nurses in connection with deaths in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Foti was narrowly eliminated in the 2007 primary. Caldwell handily defeated Republican Royal Alexander of Shreveport in the November 17, 2007, general election.

Death and legacy

Ross died from a lengthy illness at the home of his daughter, Cathy Ross Mitchell, and her husband, Patrick Mitchell, in Baton Rouge. In addition, he is survived by his wife of fifty-one years, the former Barbara Paul (born 1939) of Simmesport in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana; a son, Kenneth Ross and wife, Lottie Fields Ross, of Covington, the seat of St. Tammany Parish, and two other daughters, Tricia Ross Guidry and husband, Ricky Guidry, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Christy Ross Maier of Montgomery, Alabama; nine grandchildren, two sisters, Maxine Smart of Vidalia, the seat of Concordia Parish, and Terry Jean Agnew and husband, Raymond Agnew, of Monroe. Ross's late brother, Jimmy Dale Ross, was a Republican leader in Jonesville in Catahoula Parish. He also had a third, sister, the late June Ross Rowland of Alto, Louisiana.

Ross's graveside services were held on September 18, 2009, at Gwin Cemetery in Mangham under the direction of Mulhearn Funeral Home in Rayville. The Clingans are also interred there.

Bennie Hixon of Monroe, Louisiana, a former principal at Mangham High School, said that Ross may have been the first Republican in Mangham. "He helped break ground for the growth of the Republican Party in Richland Parish," said Hixon, the author of The History of Mangham and the Big Creek-Boeuf River to 1940.


References

Billy Hathorn, "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980" (M.A. thesis, Northwestern State University at Natchitoches, 1980)

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