Don Kelly

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Donald Gene "Don" Kelly​

Louisiana State Senator for District 31 (Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides,
Red River, Sabine, and Winn parishes)​
In office
1976​ – 1996​
Preceded by Paul Foshee
Succeeded by Kenneth Michael "Mike" Smith

Born May 23, 1941
Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Patricia A. Kelly​
Relations Taylor Townsend (nephew)

John Kenneth and Imogene Mangham Kelly

Residence Natchitoches, Louisiana​
Occupation Attorney;

American Quarter Horse breeder​​

  • Don Kelly could presumably have become president of the Louisiana State Senate for the asking, but instead he concentrated on steering dozens of projects to his north central Louisiana district.​

Donald Gene Kelly, known as Don Kelly (born May 23, 1941), is an attorney and American Quarter Horse breeder in Natchitoches, Louisiana, who served as a Democratic state semator for District 31 from 1976 to 1996. His tenure covered three of the four terms of Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards and the single gubernatorial term of Republican David C. Treen and Democrat-turned-Republican Buddy Roemer.​


Kelly was born in Coushatta in Red River Parish to John Kenneth Kelly (1909-1998) and the former Imogene Mangham (1912-2000). His great-grandfather was the first judge in Red River Parish. His older sister, Dorothy "Dot" Kelly Townsend Holladay (1932-2020), was a teacher at the former Coushatta High School prior to 1979. She then became a recruiter for Northwestern State University and was the owner of The Village Ladies & Childrens Shop in Natchitoches.[1]

Kelly graduated from Red River Senior High School, then known as Coushatta High School. He attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford and then Northwestern State in Natchitoches. He obtained his law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law School at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[2]

Kelly practices in the firm Kelly, Townsend & Thomas at 137 St. Denis Street in Natchitoches. He specializes in criminal law and retirement issues. The Townsend in the firm is William Lloyd Townsend, III, the brother of Taylor Townsend and the nephews of Don Kelly's nephew. He and his wife, Patricia A. Kelly (born February 1943), reside in Natchitoches.[3]

Political life

Kelly's nephew and law partner, Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008, having been defeated in a race for Kelly's former Senate seat in 2007 by Gerald Long of Natchitoches, the only member of the Long family thus far to have been elected as a Republican. Long was term-limited in the seat in 2019 and will be succeeded by Republican Louie Bernard. Kelly is a brother of Townsend's mother, Dorothy Kelly Townsend. In the 1999 election for state representative, Townsend unseated Gerald Long's older brother, Jimmy Dale Long, Sr. (1931-2016), of Natchitoches.

In the 1975 nonpartisan blanket primary, also known as the jungle primary, the first ever held in Louisiana in which all candidates regardless of party appear on the same primary ballot, Kelly upset freshman Senator Paul Foshee, of Natchitoches. In Louisiana congressional, state and local elections, the winner of the primary, or the runoff election (called the general election even if both finalists are of the same party designation), hence wins the office. In 1979, Kelly won a second term by defeating Foshee's 23-year-old son, Democrat George Barnes Foshee (1956–2000). In 1987, Foshee unsuccessfully challenged Kelly. In 1991, Kelly defeated 19-year-old Republican (later Libertarian) Randall Todd Hayes (born 1972) of Atlanta in Winn Parish, 29,410 votes (75.4 percent) to 9,599 (24.6 percent).[4]

In 1995, Kelly did not seek a sixth term and was succeeded by fellow Democrat Kenneth Michael "Mike" Smith of Winnfield, the traditional home of the Longs.[5]

Kelly worked closely with the Edwards administration to upgrade Northwestern State University and to bring public works projects to his north central Louisiana district, which includes Natchitoches, Winn, Grant, Rapides, and Red River parishes. For a time DeSoto Parish was also in District 31, but no longer. Kelly was considered such a political powerhouse that he could have on more than one occasion become state Senate President for the asking, but he instead concentrated on his district.[6]

In 1981, Governor Treen appointed Kelly to the board of the newly established Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Natchitoches.[7]

In 2003, the Democrat Kelly contributed to the reelection campaign of Moderate Republican U.S. Representative James Otis "Jim" McCrery, III, whose then 4th congressional district includes Natchitoches Parish. In 2004, Kelly gave the maximum $2,000 permitted under federal law to the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was defeated by George W. Bush.[8]

On February 2, 2008, Kelly was among nine inductees, along with environmental journalist John LaPlante, Jr., and former Lieutenant Governor Robert Freeman, into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, located in Senate District 31. A previous state senator from Natchitoches Parish, Sylvan Friedman, was posthumously inducted into the organization in 2006.[9]

Kelly's quarter horse specimens have brought him substantial earnings through the American Paint Horse Association of Fort Worth, Texas. One of his former legislative colleagues, B. B. "Sixty" Rayburn of Bogalusa in Washington Parish, was also active in Louisiana horse racing.[10] Kelly is also active in the Natchitoches chapter of the sportsmen's organization Ducks Unlimited.[11]


  1. Dorothy Holladay obituary. The Shreveport Times (June 1, 2020). Retrieved on June 3, 2020.
  2. Senator Donald G. "Don" Kelly. Louisiana State Senate. Retrieved on December 7, 2019; page no longer updated.
  3. Louisiana Lawyer Directory, Donald G. Kelly, Attorney at Law - Criminal Law - Natchitoches, Louisiana.
  4. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 19, 1991.
  5. Membership of the Louisiana Senate, 1880 - Present (Natchitoches Parish). Louisiana State Senate. Retrieved on December 7, 2019.
  6. Don Kelly. Alexandria Town Talk (February 1, 2008). Retrieved on February 9, 2008; no longer on-line.
  7. Louisiana Boards and Commissions Louisiana Boards and Commissions. Louisiana House of Representatives. Retrieved on December 7, 2011; no longer on-line.
  8. Natchitoches, LA Political Contributions by Individuals. Retrieved on December 7, 2019.
  9. Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame. Louisiana Political Museum. Retrieved on December 7, 2019.
  10. Press Release: PaintRacing.Com. Retrieved on July 29, 2008; no longer on-line.
  11. Ducks Unlimited Sponsors [1], no longer accessible.