Captan Jack Wyly
| Captan Jack Wyly, Sr.
(Attorney and political activist in Lake Providence, Louisiana)
|Born|| December 30, 1917 |
East Carroll Parish
|Died||July 14, 2006 (aged 88) |
|Spouse|| Elaine Harris Wyly|
Captan Jack Wyly, Sr. (December 30, 1917 – July 14, 2006), was a colorful attorney in Lake Providence, Louisiana, who in the 1960s and 1970s was a leader of conservatives within his state's then dominant Democratic Party. He was known for his 1960s-style suits and hats. His massive wealth enabled him to act as a power broker over nearly every aspect of affairs in Lake Providence.
Wyly was born to James Grady and Mattie Wyly in Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana. He attended public schools there but graduated at the age of fifteen from high school in Clinton, Iowa, where he lived with the Clark family, who had temporarily spent time in Lake Providence when Mr. Clark had worked on the levees of the Mississippi River. Wyly first attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston but transferred to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, at which he was president of Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. He graduated from both LSU and the LSU Law Center. He enlisted in the United States Navy and was present at the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. He returned to East Carroll Parish after serving five years and set up his law practice.
Wyly was active in the American Legion, and he was an organizer of the Lake Providence Country Club, having served as its first president. He was also a president of the Louisiana Bar Association. He was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Lake Providence, where he taught Sunday school to young people and to adult men.
Poverty in Lake Providence
Lake Providence is arguably, according to Time magazine, the poorest city in the United States. Wyly found that Lake Providence had "no colored leadership. When I came home from the Army in 1945, 20 to 25 percent of our land was owned by blacks. But the welfare system has just undermined the incentive to work. When [their fathers] die, they sell their property, buy a Buick and go out west to Las Vegas, Nevada, or somewhere. They lost their discipline with all this gimme stuff. Who would have thought that Negro girls would get pregnant to get on food stamps? Now they do it all the time...If we have two races exploding, that's the end of America!"
Attempts to promote tourism in Lake Providence, despite the proximity of attractive lakes, have fallen flat. Wyly blamed mosquitoes in part for the lack of tourism in the hot, humid summer months, when temperatures are often stinging and overpowering to most individuals. Similarly, consideration of an enterprise zone, an idea initially championed by the late Jack Kemp, seems grandiose and unlikely to yield results for Lake Providence.
Perhaps the best known Lake Providence native is former U.S. Representative William J. Jefferson, not from the 5th congressional district which includes East Carroll Parish but from inner-city New Orleans. He was defeated for reelection in 2008 and indicted and convicted in 2009 of receiving a bribe. Jefferson was sentenced to thirteen years imprisonment, the longest time ever meted to a congressman or former congressman for extensive public corruption.
Wyly himself was convicted of bribery as a result of a business deal with Dale Sanders Rinicker (born 1939), then the sheriff of East Carroll Parish. As a result, Wyly spent time in a minimum security facility in Texas and was disbarred. He was released by the Bureau of Prisons on October 26, 2001.
In 1990, Rinicker asked Wyly to finance the construction of a private prison to house inmates for whom reimbursements would come to the parish from the state. Wyly agreed to do so and to lease the facility to the sheriff's office. Rinicker testified that Wyly offered him 38 percent (later reduced to 30 percent) of the profits from housing the inmates. Wyly established ECCS as a corporation to run the jail, with himself as president and his legal secretary, Dorothy Morgel, then sixty-two, as secretary-treasurer. Thirty-five of the one hundred shares of ECCS were issued in her name (five for her, and thirty for the sheriff). The remainder went to Wyly, his family members, and a local businessman, Jack Hamilton. An attempt was undertaken to keep Rinicker's name out of the financial arrangements, which involved making deposits in a bank in Oak Grove in neighboring West Carroll Parish. As the scheme was unveiled, Rinicker pleaded guilty to mail fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to sixty months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Rinicker was released on May 19, 2000, first to a halfway house in West Monroe in Ouachita Parish. He is forbidden to seek office again.
In February 1972, Wyly sought the position of Louisiana Democratic national committeeman to succeed J. Marshall Brown of New Orleans, who stepped down after eight years. He lost 69–50 to the national Democratic choice, Leon Irwin, III (1938–2006), a New Orleans insurance agent who enjoyed the backing of Governor-elect Edwin Edwards, Mayor Moon Landrieu of New Orleans, Alexandria lawyer Camille Francis Gravel, Jr., and AFL-CIO President Victor Bussie (1919-2011). Most of the members of the Democratic State Central Committee from north Louisiana and the Florida Parishes supported Wyly, who had previously been allied with the candidacies of the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater of Arizona, and then Governor George Wallace of Alabama, who ran in 1968 as the nominee of the American Independent Party. Wyly said that he sought the position only because he considered himself "the average Louisiana Democrat." He had sought the support of party chairman Arthur Chopin Watson (1909-1984) of Natchitoches, who remained uncommitted but predicted that Irwin would win if Edwards worked actively for Irwin's candidacy. In the same meeting, the Democratic committee named Mary Lou Winters (1935-2014) of Columbia in Caldwell Parish, then a favorite of outgoing Governor John J. McKeithen, as the national committeewoman.
In 1976, Wyly ran for district attorney of the 6th Judicial District in a bid to succeed the retiring Thompson Lanius Clarke (1910-1995) of St. Joseph in Tensas Parish. He lost to fellow Democrat John T. "Bud" Seale of Tallulah, a heavily African-Americn town in Madison Parish, 4,991 (53.8 percent) to 4,292 (46.2 percent).
Death and family
Wyly died of Alzheimer's disease. He and his wife, the former Elaine Harris, had two daughters: Honda W. Killen and her husband, Kenneth Knight Killen, Jr., of Waterproof in southern Tensas Parish, and Bahia W. Brown and husband, Paul Brown, of Lake Providence. Their son is Jack Wyly, Jr., and wife Kristi, also from Lake Providence. The Wylys had five grandchildren. In addition to his wife, Wyly was predeceased by two brothers, James Grady "Bub" Wyly, Jr. (1912–2001) of Tallulah in neighboring Madison Parish and William N. "Bill" Wyly (1920–2006) of Lake Providence, and two sisters, Martha Wyly Brown (1910–1984) and Anne Ethel Wyly. Bill Wyly died one month before his brother. Wyly's obituary does not indicate his place of death or disposition of his remains.
Wyly is apparently unrelated to the wealthy businessmen brothers Samuel E. Wyly (born 1934) and Charles Wyly, Jr. (1933-2011), who were also born in Lake Providence. Some often mistakenly referred to Wyly as "Captain Jack" because of his unusual first name.
- Social Security Death Index. ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 7, 2010; under pay wall.
- The family obituary gives Wyly's date of birth as January 1, 1918, two days later than the date listed in the Social Security Death Index.
- Captan Jack Wyly. Lake Providence Girl (April 23, 2010). Retrieved on August 7, 2010.
- Obituary of Captan Jack Wyly. Cox Funeral Home. Retrieved on August 7, 2010.
- Jack E. White (August 15, 1997). The Poorest Place in America. Time. Retrieved on August 7, 2010.
- William Jefferson sentenced to thirteen years in prison. New Orleans Times-Picayune (November 13, 2009). Retrieved on August 7, 2010.
- Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. bop.gov. Retrieved on August 7, 2010.
- "Wyly Seeking Democratic Committeeman Post," Minden Press-Herald, February 18, 1972, p. 1.
- "Irwin Is Named Louisiana Democratic Committeeman," Minden Press-Herald, February 20, 1972, p. 1.
- "Edwards Win Test," Minden Press-Herald, February 21, 1972, p. 1.
- Tensas Gazette, (St. Joseph, Louisiana), August 26, 1976, p. 2.
- Thompson Lanius Clarke. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on December 23, 2016.