Francis Grevemberg

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Francis Carroll Grevemberg​

Louisiana State Police Superintendent​
In office
May 13, 1952​ – March 1955​​

Born June 4, 1914​
Biloxi, Harrison County,
Mississippi, USA
Died November 24, 2008
(aged 94)​
New Orleans, Louisiana
Resting place Urn in St. Martinville, Louisiana​
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (1959) ​
Spouse(s) Dorothy Maguire Grevemberg (1917–2010)​
Children Francis J. Grevemberg​

Carroll S. Grevemberg​

Occupation United States Army colonel; Businessman
Religion Roman Catholic
  • Grevemberg's crusading work as superintendent of the Louisiana state police prompted his memoirs, a film about his career, and two unsuccessful attempts to be elected governor.​
  • Grevemberg was a highly decorated United States Army officer during and after World War II.​>br>
  • Actor Keith Andes played Grevemberg in the 1958 crime film, Damn Citizen.
  • Grevemberg was a pioneer in the establishment of the modern Republican Party in Louisiana.​
  • Grevemberg's memoirs are titled My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling & Corruption - Col. Francis C. Grevemberg Remembers, published by attorney W. Thomas Angers.​

Francis Carroll Grevemberg (June 4, 1914 – November 24, 2008),[1] was the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police from 1952 to 1955, best remembered for his fight against organized crime.​

Grevemberg was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, to Francis Bartholomew "Frank" Grevemberg and the former Onita Coulon Jumonville deVilliers, members of two prominent families in south Louisiana. He twice ran for governor, as a Democrat in the 1955 party primary and as the Republican nominee in the general election held on April 19, 1960.​

Military service

​ A decorated United States Army officer in World War II, Grevemberg served twenty-eight months in the European Theater of Operations. He made five amphibious landings and participated in nine combat campaigns. He went overseas as a captain commanding an anti-aircraft artillery battery in the 1st Infantry Division. He received a combat promotion from General George S. Patton, Jr., to the rank of major in Tunisia, and five months later, at the age of twenty-nine, during the beachhead campaign in Sicily, he received from General Omar Bradley a second combat promotion, to the rank of Lieutenant colonel.[1]

In 1951, Grevemberg was promoted for a third time, to the rank of colonel, and became the group commander of the 204th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He returned to active duty during the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961. His previous command was changed to the 204th Transportation (Truck) Battalion of the state National Guard, which was temporarily stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia.[1]

During his military service, Grevemberg received the Soldier's Medal for Heroism, the Legion of Merit for outstanding performance during the invasion at Anzio, the Croix de Guerre with silver gilt star awarded by the French government for exceptional war services rendered in the liberation of France, the Army Commendation Medal, the Italian Military Valor Cross, the European-African Middle Eastern Medal with nine bronze campaign stars, and a bronze arrowhead signifying participation in five amphibious landings against the Axis powers.[1]

Louisiana state police superintendent

Grevemberg was appointed in May 1952 to head the state police, based in Baton Rouge, by newly elected Governor Robert F. Kennon. Grevemberg's autobiography, My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling and Corruption,[2] tells about his experiences with the Mafia, which he said tried to kill him and bribe him and to kidnap his sons. The mob sent him a death-threat letter. Illegal gambling had existed in Louisiana for a century, and the mob began operating there during the administration of Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr., when New York City mobster Frank Costello (1891-1973) brought slot machines into the state. Grevemberg's book chronicles his fight against gambling and vice. Slot machines and casino devices, illegal in Louisiana at the time, were operated by the Mafia and other criminal elements.​

Grevemberg defied the opposition and conducted more than one thousand lightning raids that shut down much of the illegal gambling. Most of the gamblers then moved to Nevada. He destroyed 8,229 slot machines. Grevemberg vastly reduced the amount of narcotics sold on Louisiana streets, dismantled an eight-state sexual slavery ring, and modernized the Louisiana state police into a premier law-enforcement agency.[1]

Grevemberg said that he could not have carried on under constant threats from the mob without the inspiration of his wife, nee Dorothy Maguire (September 1, 1917 – December 9, 2010), a New Orleans native whom he called "the love of my life." The couple had identical tiwn sons born in 1949 – Francis J. "Pete" Grevemberg, married to the former Melissa Coleman, of Conyers, Georgia, and and Carroll S. Grevemberg, wed to the former Alice Henderson of New Orleans – two grandchildren, David Grevemberg of Bonn, Germany, later Killearn, Scotland, and Elisa Grevemberg of Reims, France, and two great-grandchildren.[3] In his fight against the lawless elements, Grevemberg was aided by journalists such as Jim McLean, as well as pastors and citizens from the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation, who helped to give Grevemberg the will to persevere.​

Democratic U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the Influence of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, credited Grevemberg with transforming Louisiana from being one of the most corrupt states to one of the cleanest during the 1950s. Gambling spots across south Louisiana were closed en masse, and the raids on illegal liquor sales even touched Kennon's hometown of Minden in Webster Parish. On a Saturday in November 1954, the day of the traditional Louisiana State University v. University of Arkansas at Fayetteville football game in Shreveport, a state police raid in Minden resulted in the arrest of several local residents on charges of ootlegging, including the then-Democratic mayor, John T. David.[4] David had to step down as mayor, but voters quickly elected him to the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing council akin to the county commission in most other states.​

When state officials first considered legalizing gambling, Grevemberg said:

I think that if they want gambling, it must be legal. However, legal or illegal gambling corrupts public officials, especially police. It's a breeding ground for other kinds of vice. I think it would hurt our state immeasurably. The state has gone down the drain for the umpteenth time in my lifetime. I just think it's pathetic!"[1]

Grevemberg's crusade was the subject of a 1958 film by Universal Studios titled Damn Citizen. John Charles "Keith" Andes (1920-2005) played Grevemberg, and Margaret Hayes was cast as Dorothy. Gene Evans (1922-1998) played incorruptible police Major Al Arthur. Evans is, however, most remembered as the role of the father, Rob McLaughlin, on My Friend Flicka, a western television series in which Johnny Washbrook played Rob's son, Ken, who rides and trains the horse Flicka.[5]

Democratic gubernatorial campaign, 1956

​ In 1955, Grevemberg left the state police position to seek the Democratic nomination to succeed Governor Kennon. He finished fourth in the race, with 62,309 votes (7.6 percent). Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr., of New Orleans polled 191,576 (23.4 percent). The winner in the first round was Huey Long's younger brother, Earl Kemp Long, with 421,681 (51.4 percent). Two other contenders, Fred Preaus of Farmerville in Union Parish in north Louisiana and James M. McLemore of Alexandria, divided the remaining 18 percent of the vote. Earl Long was then unopposed in the general election held in the spring of 1956. Never did Earl Long face a Republican candidate for any office.[6]

Questions arose in the campaign about Grevemberg's purchase of the Mirimar Hotel on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an establishment which sold liquor and operated slot machines. Grevemberg, who himself denied drinking or gambling, said that he should not have bought into the business and sold his interest in the hotel at a loss of $10,000.[7]

Grevemberg's choice for lieutenant governor on his statewide intra-party ticket, was the Democrat Wesley H. Clanton (1906–1986) of Eunice. Clanton faced Mayor Morrison's choice, incumbent C. E. "Cap" Barham and Preaus's preference, A. Brown Moore, a member of the New Orleans City Council since 1950 and a decorated World War II veteran. Grevemberg's candidate for state attorney general, Ben C. Bennett, Jr., was eliminated when victory went to the Earl Long choice, Jack P. F. Gremillion. Grevemberg's candidate for state auditor, Robert Lindsey, was defeated, and former Lieutenant Governor Bill Dodd toppled the incumbent Allison Kolb in that race.​ ​

Republican gubernatorial campaign, 1960

​ In July 1959, Grevemberg rejected cries of "It can't be done" and switched parties in[8] preparation for another run for governor, this time as a Republican. He challenged former Governor Jimmie Davis, winner of a hard-fought Democratic primary and runoff against Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr. of New Orleans. Grevemberg called for abolition of useless positions in state government and industrial recruitment efforts. Among his supporters were Charles and Virginia de Gravelles.​

His candidacy offered the state something that it had not seen since the 19th century, an actually contested general election for governor.[9]"Never before have the voters in this state been given such an opportunity for self-expression," opined The Alexandria Town Talk on Grevemberg's candidacy. "It is a rare opportunity for us to take part in an advanced course in government and politics." Town Talk managing editor Adras LaBorde gave more attention to the Davis-Grevemberg contest than did most of the other Louisiana newspapers.

Democrats were sufficiently confident of overwhelming victories to restrict their general election activities to a few party-harmony speeches. Davis had stopped campaigning after he defeated Morrison and did not return to active campaign status until a few weeks prior to the general election. National Republicans had promised financial help to Grevemberg, but none arrived.​

Grevemberg polled only 86,135 votes (17 percent); Davis, 407,907 (81.5 percent). Grevemberg scored his highest percent, 39.9 in Terrebonne Parish, and his second-best showing was the 27.2 percent in Lafayette Parish. In several parishes, including Kennon's Webster Parish, Grevemberg polled less than 2 percent of the ballots.

Grevemberg was outraged at newspaper editorials against him. "My main purpose for entering this race was toward a two-party system.... I hope I have convinced a sizable number of people we do need two parties." Grevemberg was particularly hostile toward The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which called him a "turncoat" after he left the Democratic Party, adding: "I risked my life and those of my family in attempts to rid this state of racketeers.... These newspapers have lived up to the reputation given them by Huey Long that they were yellow journals."​

The GOP was still four years away from offering voters a more competitive choice in a Louisiana gubernatorial general election, when John J. McKeithen defeated the Republican pioneer Charlton Lyons . At the close of the campaign, Grevemberg called upon President Dwight D. Eisenhower to investigate Mafia figure Carlos Marcello of Gretna in Jefferson Parish, in light of failed efforts to have Marcello deported.[10] Grevemberg said that he harbored no ill will toward Davis but was merely trying to plant the seeds of a two-party system in Louisiana.[11]

As a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Grevemberg was among ten delegates who still cast their votes for U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, after Goldwater had lectured conservatives "to grow up" and support Richard M. Nixon for the party's nomination against U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.​

Dodd calls Grevember a "phony"

​ Bill Dodd, a veteran Louisiana officeholder and an observer of the state political scene, had no use for Grevemberg. In his Peapatch Politics,[12] Dodd, without using Grevemberg's name, charged that the former state police superintendent undertook his crusade against gambling to secure maximum political exposure as a reformer running for governor.​ ​ Dodd wrote:​

... Do-gooders, crime commission buffs, and many Protestant preachers joined up with and supported this faker who was acting as a reformer. The biggest drunkard, whoremonger, gambler, and wife-beater can put on a uniform and begin cussing crime by day, while he slips around and commits it by night, and many gullible church people will carry his banner. So it was with that policeman-turned-politician. My own Protestant [ Baptist ] minister preached sermons bragging on him. He told me that he couldn't vote for several of my favorite candidates because they were Roman Catholics, but he was 100 percent for the policeman [Grevemberg], who was a Catholic. He was for him, he said, because he was against crime.​

Controvery over death of Huey Long

​ Grevemberg's memoir, My Wars: Nazis, Mobsters, Gambling & Corruption: Col. Francis C. Grevemberg Remembers describes a ride into north Louisiana, in which state troopers told of the shooting of Huey Long in 1935. They said that Dr. Carl Weiss (1906–1935) was not armed and that Long was in fact shot to death by his own bodyguards. Grevemberg related how the shooting of Long came up during a conversation among four troopers accompanying Grevemberg on a casino raid. Grevemberg said that the troopers told how Weiss' gun had been taken from his car after the shooting. "It appears... that all of the actions following the shooting were a conspiracy to cover up the accidental death of Senator Long and the killing of Dr. Weiss," said Grevemberg. The troopers told Grevemberg that what started out as a fist to Long's lip by Dr. Weiss triggered an accidental shooting that ended in a hail of gunfire.[13] This claim was repeated in a 1990s segment of the NBC series, Unsolved Mysteries. The claim has been rejected by scholars; the troopers were repeating a story that was invented after the fact by anti-Long politicians and spread widely.[14]

Opposition to gambling

During the third term of Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards a state-run lottery and legalized casinos were proposed in the Louisiana Legislature and later generally adopted. Grevemberg opposed these measures, expressing his concern in a number of venues including a 1990 article in the Louisiana Trooper magazine.[15] At the time a decision was made to refer to "gambling" as "gaming."[16]​ ​

Business activities and honors

In 1960, Grevemberg opened a real estate company and was elected president of the Baton Rouge Board of Realtors. In 1961, he received the "Realtor of the Year" designation. After returning again from military active duty in the former West Germany in August 1962, he started United Guaranty Residential Insurance Company, which specialized in the sale of private mortgage insurance.[1]​ ​ Grevemberg received the Patrick Henry Award for outstanding patriotism from the national headquarters of the Military Order of the World Wars and both the Gold and Silver Good Citizenship Medals from the Sons of the American Revolution. He was a member of the American Legion and the New Orleans chapter of the Military Order of The World Wars.[1]

In 2002, Grevemberg was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield[1]


Until Hurricane Katrina, the Grevembergs had resided in New Orleans. Francis Grevemberg died at the age of ninety-four of acute respiratory problems stemming from surgery for a broken hip. After her husband's death, Dorothy Grevemberg entered the Morningside Assisted Care facility in Conyers, Georgia, at which she died in 2010 at the age of ninety-three. Their funeral services were private. The remains of both Grevembergs were placed in an urn in the family tomb in St. Martinville in St. Martin Parish near Lafayette.[1][3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Kevin McGill, "Ex-State Police Chief Francis Grevemberg" ("Deaths"), The New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 26, 2008, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B4.
  2. (Lafayette, Louisiana: Beau Bayou Press, 2004) ISBN 0-935619-01-1, ISBN 978-0-935619-01-0.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dorothy McGuire Grevemberg. Retrieved on December 15, 2010.
  4. John Agan, Echoes of our Past, Minden Press-Herald, October 8, 2004.
  5. Damn Citizen. Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved on November 3, 2020.
  6. The 1956 Louisiana gubernatorial election has been analyzed extensively by Southeastern Louisiana University historian Michael L. Kurtz and the late Louisiana Tech University historian Morgan D. Peoples in their book, Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics.
  7. "Grevemberg Admits Mistake Buying Hotel," Minden Herald, December 1, 1955, p. 1.
  8. Ruston Daily Leader, July 28, 1959, p. 1.
  9. Harrison Bagwell, a delegate for Dwight Eisenhower to the 1952 Republican National Convention, had been on the ballot for governor in April 1952, but he did not campaign, and lost to Kennon, 96-4 percent.
  10. Marcello was later deported during the John F. Kennedy administration but soon slipped back into the United States.
  11. See the article on the 1959 Louisiana gubernatorial election in the Alexandria Town Talk, April 14, 1960, pp. 18, 20.
  12. (Baton Rouge: Claitors, 1991), ISBN 0-87511-932-8, ISBN 978-0-87511-932-8. The subtitle is The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics.
  13. Jim Beam (August 15, 1999). Louisiana 101: Huey Long assassination. Lake Charles American Press. Retrieved on January 12, 2019.
  14. T. Harry Williams, Huey Long (1969) pp. 870-71.
  15. "Francis C. Grevemberg: A Legend Lost," Louisiana Trooper, Summer 1990, pp. 39-59.
  16. L. Nicholas Dean, "Losing in Louisiana: The Legal Problems of Gambling and Edwin Edwards." Gaming Law Review 7(1), February 2003, pp. 57-60.

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