|Earl Guyton Williamson, Sr.|
Mayor of Vivian, Louisiana
|Succeeded by||James H. "Jimmy" Wilson|
Member of the Caddo Parish
|Succeeded by||James Whitfield Williamson|
|Born|| November 15, 1903|
Carthage, Leake County
|Died|| December 9, 1992|
Vivian, Caddo Parish
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Mamie A. Greer Williamson (married 1922-1948, her death)|
(2) Mary Jane Hearne Williamson (died March 1992)
|Children|| From first marriage:|
Earl G. Williamson, Jr.
Earl Guyton Williamson, Sr. (November 15, 1903 – December 9, 1992), was a prominent businessman and politician from the 1930s to the 1970s in Vivian in northern Caddo Parish in far northwestern Louisiana. He was originally affiliated with the Long faction within his state's dominant Democratic Party and was a personal friend of both Governors Huey Pierce Long, Jr., and Earl Long.
Early years, self-education, family
Williamson was born in tiny Carthage in Leake County in central Mississippi near the larger city of Kosciusko, to John and Mary Bertha Williamson. When his father died, Earl, went to work as a laborer to help support his mother and siblings. He was self-educated, even in the field of law. "He was always reading, studying, he was a great speaker and his English diction was perfect," recalled Donald Wayne "Don" Williamson (born 1927), one of his seven children and the one who established a lengthy political career of his own. For a time, the Vivian attorney Jasper K. Smith (June 20, 1905 – May 18, 1992), a subsequent member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, tutored Williamson and others in the law. Though Williamson never became a lawyer himself, his legal studies proved invaluable in the three political offices, two elected and one appointed, which he held.
On August 3, 1922, Williamson wed the former Mamie A. Greer (February 28, 1904 – July 9, 1948). In addition to Don Williamson, they had three other sons: Earl G. Williamson, Jr. (born 1923), James Whitfield Williamson, and David Williamson (born 1930) of Orange, Florida, and a daughter, Velma Jean Williamson Bright (born 1932) of Longview, Texas. Williamson joined the United States Army Air Corps after World War I ended, and he learned to be a pilot. Thereafter, he and a brother-in-law, Joe Greer, entered the crop-dusting business. After living for a time in Memphis, Tennessee, Williamson relocated his family to Vivian, north of Shreveport, where there was a demand for crop dusting. Thereafter, he became the Chevrolet dealer in Vivian and successfully operated Williamson Motors for several decades.
During World War II, Williamson worked for a time at the ammunition plants in Minden in Webster Parish, and in Karnack, Texas. James Williamson recalled that his father drove a nine-passenger Chevrolet station wagon to and from the plant to provide transportation for other workers as well as himself. It was in part Williamson's way of supporting the war effort, James Williamson said. Don Williamson also noted that the dealership was losing money during World War II, and Earl Williamson had little choice but to work outside the business. James Williamson also recalled his father as a "humorous person who could tell jokes and draw crowds."
Revitalizing Vivian, Louisiana
After service on the Vivian Town Council, Williamson was elected mayor and served for twelve nonconsecutive years, 1938 to 1946 and 1962 to 1966. During his tenure, the town built its city hall, community center, swimming pool, and paved its streets. Early in his mayoral career, Williamson carried a gun for self-protection, for he had angered the criminal element by cleaning up rowdy conditions in certain Vivian bars. James Williamson, like his father, also served as Vivian mayor for nonconsecutive terms—between 1972 and 1986 and again for an interim period in 1998. James Williamson, like his father, was also a former alderman prior to his mayoral tenure.
Forty years on the Caddo Parish Police Jury
Earl Williamson was elected in 1933 to the Caddo Parish Police Jury, later the Caddo Parish Commission, the governing board of the parish. He served for thirty-nine years. At the time, there was no salary for police jury service but per diem pay when on official business. He did not seek a ninth four-year term in the 1971 Democratic primary election. He was president of the police jury for eight one-year terms and was a staunch champion of rural development. He was also a vice president of the Louisiana Police Jury Association. After retiring in 1972, Williamson served an additional year on the jury from 1979 to 1980 to fill a vacancy. In total, he served forty years. When he finally left the police jury early in 1980, son James Williamson succeeded him for a single term from 1980 to 1984.
In 1962, Earl Williamson, still a police juror, regained the mayor's office for another term, but in 1966, he was defeated by fellow Democrat (later Republican) James H. "Jimmy" Wilson, a Vivian grocer and banker. Then when Wilson became state representative in 1972 as the successor to Don Williamson, James Williamson succeeded Wilson as mayor. In the 1975 primary, Don Williamson turned back Wilson's challenge to Williamson's own state Senate seat.
Williamson served simultaneously in the part-time positions of Vivian mayor and the Caddo Parish Police Jury. The mayor's office paid a small salary, and the jury paid for per diem service when on official business. A court challenge clarified his right to hold both positions.
Williamson's ties to the Longs
Don Williamson served on the Caddo Parish School Board (1958–1968) and was a Louisiana state representative (1968–1972) and a state senator (1972–1980). He was an unsuccessful candidate for Louisiana insurance commissioner in 1979 and twice for mayor of Shreveport — 1982 and 1986. Don Williamson recalled his father's friendship with both Huey and Earl Long. Williamson, then no more than six years of age, said that he can recall Huey Long, with his entourage, driving into Vivian, picking up Don's father, Earl Williamson, and heading to the racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He remembers his father going with Earl Long to Long's "pea-patch farm" home in Winnfield. Earl Williamson always stayed in the (former) governor's mansion during the Long administrations whenever he visited Baton Rouge. After the shooting of Huey Long in 1935, Earl Williamson rushed to Baton Rouge to be a part of what turned out to have been the death vigil of his fallen friend and political ally. Williamson said that some of these recollections were refreshed by family political stories. Don Williamson said that he did not share his father's commitment to Longism, that he was more independent and reform-minded than his father and tried to look at issues and candidates on their merits without regard to overreaching factional or partisan concerns. Still, Don Williamson said that he understood how his father and others of that generation were attracted to Longism with its promise of homestead exemptions and populist programs. Earl Williamson supported the States' Rights Party presidential nominee, then South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, in 1948. Thurmond was actually the official Democratic nominee in Louisiana. Don Williamson said that he believes his father voted for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election over the successful Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, but unlike other Caddo Parish Democrats, such as state Senator Jackson Beauregard Davis, who served from 1956 to 1980, and Sheriff J. Howell Flournoy, who openly endorsed Goldwater, Williamson remained officially silent. And in 1992, Earl Williamson wore a button and carried a placard while in his wheelchair for the independent presidential candidate Ross Perot. Don Williamson also recalled that his father, unlike most Democrats, strongly opposed U.S. President Harry Truman's dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur from the U.S. Army command in the Korean War.
As regional highway director
In 1948, when Earl Long returned to the governorship after having decisively defeated former anti-Long Governor Sam Houston Jones of Lake Charles, Williamson was named the director of highways for the Fourth Congressional District. He was actually offered the state highway directorship, which would have required relocation to Baton Rouge, but instead accepted the Shreveport-based position because of Mrs. Williamson's declining health at the time. Williamson hence simultaneously promoted state highway development through his appointed position as he did parish road building and grading through his part-time police jury duties. In 1952, when Earl Long was succeeded as governor by the anti-Long Robert F. Kennon of Minden, Williamson tendered his resignation as highway director to allow the new governor to choose his own appointee.
Running for Louisiana Public Service Commission
Also in 1948, Earl Williamson waged an unsuccessful race for the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He polled enough votes to enter the Democratic runoff primary but withdrew because he believed that he was too far behind the frontrunner, Shreveport attorney Harvey Broyles, to close the gap. Broyles was a nephew of former Longite Governor Oscar Kelly Allen of Winnfield. This particular north Louisiana-based PSC seat would be taken in 1954 by the Long-backed John J. McKeithen, a young attorney from Columbia in Caldwell Parish, and the future governor from 1964 to 1972. In 1963, Mayor and Police Juror Earl Williamson would work actively for McKeithen's election as governor. Coincidentally, one of Don Williamson's Shreveport neighbors is a relative of Harvey Broyles.
A second family
After the first Mrs. Williamson died, Earl Williamson remarried. The second match to the former Mary Jane Hearne (September 12, 1926 – March 26, 1992), also her second marriage, produced Earl Williamson's two younger sons. Tedford Fielden Williamson (born 1957), is a businessman and a former city council member in Round Rock, Texas, coincidentally located in populous Williamson County north of Austin. Clayton Lamar Williamson (born 1952) of Montgomery, Texas, in the Houston metro area, is a counselor and a former city manager of three small Texas communities. Both Tedford and Clayton Williamson share the interests of their father and half-brothers in government and politics. With his second marriage, Earl Williamson switched membership from the Baptist Church to her preferred Methodist denomination. In addition to her homemaking duties, the second Mrs. Williamson was a school secretary and a McKeithen-appointed member of the Caddo Parish Levee Board.
Williamson spent his last years in declining health in a Shreveport nursing home. Some nine months after Mrs. Williamson died, Earl Williamson expired in North Caddo Memorial Hospital after a long illness. Services were held in the McGuire Funeral Home Chapel in Vivian, with the Reverend Richard Beeman, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Vivian, officiating. Burial was in Pine Park Cemetery in Vivian, with Masonic rites. Pallbearers were grandsons: Steve Williamson, Stan Williamson, Mark Bright, Guy Williamson, Randy Williamson, and Sol Hook. "Mr. Earl", as many affectionately knew him, is buried between his two wives in the Vivian Cemetery. His epitaph reads "A servant of the people." A park in nearby Oil City honors his memory.
- 1. Billy Hathorn, "The Williamsons of Caddo Parish: The Unfolding of a Political 'Mini-dynasty'", North Louisiana History (publication of the North Louisiana Historical Association, Winter 2008, hereinafter cited as Hathorn 2008), pp. 25-43.
- 2. Hathorn 2008, pp. 26–27.
- 3."James Williamson obituary," The Shreveport Times,, November 17, 2008.
- 4. Hathorn 2008, pp. 27–28.
- 5. Hathorn 2008, p. 28.
- 6. Veta Samuels, History of the Caddo Parish Commission, Caddo Parish Courthouse, Shreveport, Louisiana.
- 7. Hathorn 2008, p. 29.
- 8. Hathorn 2008, p. 33.
- 9. Hathorn 2008, pp. 29–30.
- 10. Hathorn 2008, p. 36.
- 11. Hathorn 2008, pp. 30–31.
- 12. Hathorn 2008, pp. 31–32.
- 13. Hathorn 2008, p. 32.
- 14. Hathorn 2008, pp. 32–33.
- 15. "Earl G. Williamson obituary," The Shreveport Times," December 10, 1992.