Étienne Caire

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Étienne Joseph Caire, I

(Louisiana businessman and politician)

Born September 17, 1868
St. John the Baptist Parish,
Louisiana, USA
Died July 16, 1955 (aged 86)
Edgard, Louisiana.
Political Party Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1928
Spouse Laura Hymel Caire (married 1889-1942, her death)

Etiennette Marie Caire
Denis F. Caire
Sidney Caire, Sr.
James J. Caire
Laurence Caire
Therese Caire
Jean Baptiste Caire
Felicie Burcard (later Mrs. Graugnard)

Étienne Joseph Caire, I, (September 17, 1868 – July 16, 1955), was a merchant, pharmacist, sugar cane planter, and banker from his native Edgard in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. He ran in 1928 as the first Republican nominee for governor of the 20th century, when he challenged populist Democrat Huey Pierce Long, Jr. He received only four percent of the vote. In the 1928 general election, the Louisiana Republican Party ran a slate of candidates for statewide offices for the first time since the late 19th century.


Caire was the son of French immigrant Jean Baptiste Caire (1823-1879) and the former Fėlicie (Burcard) (1841-1911), an American of French descent. His father Jean B. Caire came to Louisiana in 1842 from France. He attended the former Jefferson College in Convent,[1] a census designated place and the seat of government for St. James Parish.

In his career, Caire operated what he named as the E. J. Caire & Company store, a business begun by his father in Edgard. His father had originally called it "Caire's Landing," as it was located at a riverboat landing. In 1860, Jean Caire had adapted a brick structure, built in 1850, for the store. He later added a wooden structure, and used the brick building as a warehouse. The store attracted business from local and regional residents, and customers riding on passing riverboats. Jean Caire died at the age of fifty-five, when Étienne was only ten years old.

His mother kept the business going until Caire was old enough to take it over. They developed a multi-purpose general store, including a pharmacy, a dry goods store, and a hardware store. Caire later turned the business into an early department store. For a time, the store also operated as the pay station for area sugar cane tenant farmers and sharecroppers. After many changes in venue, it closed in the middle 1970s.[2]

In 2001, the buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Surviving Caire family members want to convert the two buildings into a museum. The former store is located on a stretch of River Road in Edgard that also contains the historic St. John the Baptist Parish Court House and St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church.[2]

Caire was a trustee of the church and active in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He was a grand knight of the Catholic men's organization, the Knights of Columbus. In 1922, he established the Jesuitnspiritua retreat program for Catholic laymen called Manresa, which was located in Convent, Louisiana. In 1929, Pope Pius XI declared Caire a Knight of St. Gregory.[1]

In addition to operating the store, E. J. Caire was one of the state's leading sugar cane planters.[3] He frequently took over ownership of failing southern plantations.[2] Caire was also president of the Bank of St. John and the Bank of Ascension Parish, as well as a director of the former Hibernia National Bank in New Orleans.[1]

Political career

Caire had joined the Republican Party in Louisiana, although the great majority of whites belonged to the Democratic Party in those years. During the Reconstruction era, the Republican Party was made up both black and white members, as well as formerfree people of color or of mixed race. Following the passage of a new state constitution in 1898, which raised barriers to voter registration, most blacks in Louisiana were disenfranchised for decades into the late 20th century. The much smaller party that survived consisted mostly of whites.

As Caire became more successful in his businesses, he was approached to run for office in 1928. The state Republican Party planned to run a full slate of Republicans for statewide office, for the first time since Democrats had regained power after Reconstruction. They nominated Caire to run for governor.

Other candidates for office included John Ellett Jackson, Sr. (1892-1989), a New Orleans lawyer who ran for lieutenant governor and thereafter becamethe state party chairman.[4] against Democrat Paul Cyr, a dentist from Jeanerette in Iberia Parish. Judson M. Grimmet of Shreveport ran for Louisiana secretary of state, J. A. Peyrefitte of New Orleans sought the office of state treasurer, John P. Conway of New Orleans ran for state auditor, U. G. Neuhauser (1864-1941) of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish for register of the state land office, Mary Ann "Molly" Hans Janssen (1875-1945) of New Orleans[5]sought the position of state education superintendent against incumbent Democrat T. H. Harris, and E. J. Rodrigue (1878-1970) of Assumption Parish opposed the Democrat Harry D. Wilson for state agriculture commissioner.[6]

Caire polled 3,733 votes (4 percent) of the ballots cast in the 1928 general election compared to the overwhelming 96,941 (96 percent) for Huey Long]].[7] Long had already become known for his flamboyant, popular oratory while serving as a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

One of Caire's grandsons, Dr. Warren Francis Caire (born January 1934), later recalled that his grandfather often talked about the gubernatorial race: "He would recall the story with sincerity, but we all knew that he knew he had no chance of beating Huey."[8]

Caire was the last Republican gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana for twenty-four years. Early in 1952, Harrison Bagwell, a Baton Rouge lawyer, carried the party's banner in the general election against Democrat Robert F. Kennon, a judge from Minden in Webster Parish in north Louisiana.[9]

But Louisiana was still part of the Solid South and an overwhelmingly Democratic state among most voters who were allowed to vote. (Disenfranchisement still kept most African Amercans out of politics.) Like Caire, Bagwell polled 4 percent of the vote, in a low-turnout contest.[10]

Death and family

Caire and his wife, the former Laura Hymel (1869-1941), are entombed at the St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Edgard, along with two of their children, Étiennette Marie Caire (1889-1970), and Dennis F. Caire (1899-1974).

Another son, the late Sidney Caire, Sr., married and had twelve children, including his father's namesake grandson, E. J. Caire, II (1921-2012). Caire, II, graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and served as a United States Navy aviator in World War II. He was a long-term resident of Metairie, a large census-designated place in Jefferson Parish. He and his wife, the late Inez Sylvia Songy, had seven children.[11]

Another grandson, Gerard Walton Caire (1931-2018),one of the sons of Sidney Caire, kept the Republican affiliation of his grandfather. An attorney, he lived in St. John the Baptist Parish and was a judge of the 40th Judicial District Court.[8] Judge Caire in 1986 ordered former Louisiana state Senator George T. Oubre, a Democrat from St. James Parish who ran unsuccessfully in 1971 for state attorney general, to represent John Francis Wille pro bono in a murder case because of Oubre's conviction for bank fraud.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Caire, Étienne J.. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography from Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on January 28, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 David Vitrano (July 31, 2010). E. J. Caire's legacy lives on: Historic Edgard store turning 150. Lobservateur.com. Retrieved on January 7, 2015.
  3. (July 5, 1913) The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, Vols. 50-51. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer. Retrieved on January 24, 2015. 
  4. Jackson, John Ellett. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on January 27, 2015.
  5. 5. Mary Ann "Molly" Hans. freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on May 14, 2015.
  6. Ballots Cast in Louisiana: General Election of State and Parish Officers For Four-Year Terms Being Held Today. The Biloxi Daily Herald (April 17, 1928). Retrieved on January 27, 2015.
  7. Milburn E. Calhoun (2008). Louisiana Almanac, 2008-2009. Pelican Publishing Company. Retrieved on November 29, 2013. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Robin Shannon (August 3, 2010). Historic Edgard family remembers its roots. L'Observateur. Retrieved on January 7, 2015; no longer on-line..
  9. Christopher Freeman (formatter) (2006). Bagwell Collection. lib.lsu.edu. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  10. Michael J. Dubin. United States Gubernatorial Elections, 1932-1952: The Official Results by State and County. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 103–104. ISBN 978-0-7864-7034-1. Retrieved on January 6, 2015. 
  11. Étienne Joseph Caire, II. New Orleans Times-Picayune (June 3, 2012). Retrieved on January 7, 2015.
  12. G. Walton Caire and George Oubre. topics.nola.com (May 1, 2014). Retrieved on January 7, 2015.