Frank Spooner

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William Franklin Spooner​

Louisiana Republican
National Committeeman
In office
1976–1985
Preceded by John Hamilton Cade, Jr.
Succeeded by James Bryan Wagner

Born September 9, 1937​
Stephens, Ouachita County
Arkansas, USA​
Died
Resting place
Spouse(s) Mary Flippo Spooner​
Children Three daughters
Residence Monroe, Ouachita Parish
Louisiana​
Alma mater Stephens High School

Southern Arkansas University
University of Oklahoma

Occupation Oil and natural gas businessman
Religion United Methodist

William Franklin Spooner, known as Frank Spooner (born September 9, 1937), is an oil and natural gas producer in Monroe in Ouachita Parish in northeastern Louisiana, who has been active since the early 1970s in his state's Republican Party. In the fall of 1976, Spooner waged a strong but losing race for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 5th congressional district in a bid to succeed incumbent Otto Ernest Passman (1900-1988), who had been unseated in the Democratic primary by farmer/businessman Thomas Jerald "Jerry" Huckaby, then from Ringgold in Bienville Parish. Therefore, instead of facing Passman, as he had expected, Spooner competed with Huckaby for a relatively rare open seat in the state's congressional delegation.​

Background

Spooner's father, Harry Spooner, Sr. (1893–1964), originally from Buffalo, New York, was injured in France during World War I. The senior Spooner came to Texas with the petroleum industry and settled in Arkansas, first El Dorado, Smackover, and finally Stephens in Ouachita County. He married the former Willie Green (1905–2000). Frank Spooner was born in Stephens[1] and graduated in 1955 from Stephens High School] For two years thereafter he attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and then transferred to the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma, from which in 1960 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Land Management. After college, Spooner served in the United States Army and the Army Reserves, pre-Vietnam War. From 1960 to 1965, he worked for Humble Oil Company.​[2]

After several years in Shreveport, Spooner moved to Monroe in 1967, and entered into a partnership with his brother, Harry Spooner, Jr. They discovered several natural gas fields in Northeast Louisiana. After 1971, Spooner operated under his own name until 1980, when he formed Spirit Petroleum Company. The company name was changed to Mark V Petroleum Company in 1997.​ Over the years these entities were successful in developing additional gas and oil fields, including the first commercial coal seam methane gas production in Louisiana in 2004.​[3]

In 1971, Spooner was the chairman of the Ouachita Parish Young Republicans and directed the Monroe-area campaign of the party's gubernatorial nominee, David C. Treen, an attorney then from Metairie in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans. Treen was defeated in this first bid for governor by Democrat Edwin Edwards. Later in 1972, Treen was elected to the U.S. House, and four years thereafter, Spooner sought to join Treen in Congress when he opposed Jerry Huckaby for the seat Otto Passman was compelled to vacate.[4] Treen left Congress in 1980, when he was inaugurated as the first Republican governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction.​

1976 congressional campaign

Spooner was the first Republican in seventy-six years even to contest the 5th district seat. The previous GOP candidate, Henry Ernest Hardtner (1870-1935) of LaSalle Parish, had polled a mere 628 votes (9.2 percent) in 1900 against the Democrat Joseph Eugene Ransdell (1858-1954) of Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish, who was elected with 6,172 votes (90.8 percent). Hardtner later became a Democrat and served in the Louisiana House of Representatives.[5] Ransdell thereafter served in the United States Senate until he was unseated in the 1930 primary election by Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr.[6]

In preparation for his race and when he expected to face Passman, Spooner attended a Republican candidate training school in Washington, D.C. The Republican National Committee sent John Bruce Hildebrand, former editor of the party's First Monday newsletter who had written speeches for vice-presidential candidate Bob Dole, to work on Spooner's behalf. Jennie Carroll Casey, a reporter at the time for The Monroe News-Star, worked as an unpaid public relations specialist.[7]

Top-name Republicans, including former Governors Ronald W. Reagan of California and John B. Connally, Jr., of Texas, later rivals for the party's presidential nomination in 1980, came into the sprawling district, with a large agricultural component, to urge voters to elect Spooner. Connally lashed out at the increased power of the House Democratic Caucus, which he maintained had undermined the influence of the more moderate party members, such as then U.S. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana.[8] Connally did not know Spooner, but he had known Mrs. Spooner, the former Mary Flippo, when she was a child in the Connally neighborhood in Fort Worth in the 1950s. Reagan and Connally gave the race a high profile and helped to provide critical financial support for Spooner[9]

Reagan appeared in Monroe and Connally in West Monroe and Natchitoches, the oldest city in the state. Huckaby, who like Spooner was a political newcomer, nevertheless developed effective television advertising critical of out-of-state politicians trying to influence voters in an otherwise unnoticed Louisiana district.[10][11]

Spooner hoped to poll convincing majorities in urban areas of the district to offset expected losses in rural regions, where voting Republican was still comparatively rare at the time except for the presidential level on occasion. He aimed particularly at winning in his own Monroe and West Monroe as well as Natchitoches, Ruston, Bastrop, and Winnfield. The general election turnout was more than double that of the Passman-Huckaby race because, while Huckaby and Spooner sought the House seat, in the same November 2 election, Jimmy Carter and the unelected incumbent, Gerald Ford, were the nominees for U.S. President.[12]

After his primary defeat, Passman "threatened" to endorse Spooner in the general election but never did so. Passman had run mostly without opposition after his initial primary victory in 1946, when he had unseated Charles Edgar McKenzie (1896-1956). He was unopposed in his last successful general election on November 5, 1974. Passman was particularly known as a critic of foreign aid and a supporter of farm subsidies and the recently concluded Vietnam War.[13]

Carter's statewide victory in Louisiana (and in nine other former Confederate states) worked to Huckaby's advantage. Huckaby received 83,696 votes (52.5 percent); Spooner, 75,574 ballots (47.5 percent). Spooner surpassed Passman's primary showing by 35,000 votes, which translated only into a 0.2 percent gain over Passman's primary share of the vote because of the much larger turnout in the general election. Spooner polled 59 percent in Ouachita Parish and also won in the parishes of Lincoln (Ruston), Morehouse (Bastrop), Union (Farmerville), and Richland (Rayville), but his strength was insufficient to overcome large Democratic margins stretching from Huckaby's Bienville Parish on the west to Madison Parish (Tallulah) on the northeast, Concordia (Vidalia) on the southeast, and the most northern precincts of Rapides Parish (Alexandria) on the south. Spooner received just 27 percent in Bienville Parish and less than 40 percent in Madison and Winn parishes, the latter the ancestral home of the Long political faction.[14][15]

Later political activities

Right after his congressional campaign, Spooner became the Louisiana Republican National Committeeman. He did not seek office again though he remained active in the GOP. In 1979, Spooner was uncommitted between Treen and U.S. Representative William Henson Moore of Baton Rouge, who then held Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat, as the Republican choice for governor. His stance brought criticism from his predecessor as national committeeman, the Treen aide John Hamilton Cade, Jr. (1928-1988), of Alexandria. In 1983, Spooner was chairman of the Platform Committee for the Louisiana State Republican Convention that nominated Treen in an unsuccessful bid for reelection as governor.[16]

In 1984, Spooner spearheaded an unsuccessful movement to draft Treen to run against Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. Spooner was also chairman of security for the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. In 1986, Spooner devised an effective "Get Out The Vote" plan that has been used by a number of Northeast Louisiana Republicans to win elective offices. In 1996, two decades after his own congressional race, Spooner was the campaign chairman for Republican John Cooksey, a Monroe ophthalmologist, in a successful bid for the 5th congressional district seat.​[17]

Spooner found himself at odds with Treen and Cade in 1985 regarding the removal of state Party Chairman George Joseph Despot (1927-1991) of Shreveport. Spooner, and then State Representative Charles Lancaster, of Jefferson Parish, stood with Despot, whom Spooner called "the best chairman we ever had". Such divisions hurt the state party in 1986, when Henson Moore opposed Democrat John Breaux in the U.S. Senate race to succeed Russell Long, who retired after thirty-eight years in office. Spooner later said that Moore's defeat for the Senate was his own "greatest disappointment" in politics.[18]

Over the years, Spooner has supported former Governor Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Senator David Vitter, elected as Breaux's successor in 2004, and former U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander, who held the seat that Spooner contested from 2003 to 2013, by which time the district had expanded far south into Rapides and Avoyelles parishes and even into the Florida Parishes east of Baton Rouge. In 2004, Spooner contributed to Alexander's unsuccessful intraparty rival, former state Representative Jock Scott of Alexandria.[19] In 2007, Spooner donated to the presidential campaign of former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas because he wanted a candidate with executive experience.[20]

Personal life

Spooner is a United Methodist[21] and a donor to the Louisiana Methodist Children's Home orphanage in Monroe.[22]He was a member of the Optimist Club.[1]He and his wife have three daughters and eight grandchildren.​[23]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Louisiana: Frank Spooner", Who's Who in American Politics, 2007–2008 (Marquis Who's Who: New Providence, New Jersey, 2007), p. 672.
  2. Billy Hathorn, "Otto Passman, Jerry Huckaby, and Frank Spooner: The Louisiana Fifth Congressional District Election of 1976", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, LIV No. 3 (Summer 2013), p. 346.
  3. Louisiana History, p. 346.
  4. Louisiana History, p. 346.
  5. Anna C. Burns, "Henry E. Hardtner (1870–1935): Louisiana's First Conservationist," Journal of Forest History Vol. 22 No. 2 (April 1978)
  6. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 1900–1976, U.S. House races from Louisiana.
  7. Louisiana History, pp. 348–349.
  8. The Alexandria Town Talk, October 26, 1976.
  9. Louisiana History, p. 348.
  10. Kathy Spurlock (September 24, 1976). At Monroe Motel, Reagan Views Debate. 'The Monroe News-Star'.
  11. Louisiana History, p. 348.
  12. Louisiana History, p. 349.
  13. Louisiana History, pp. 334, 337, 343.
  14. Office of the Louisiana Secretary of State, Congressional Election Returns, 1976
  15. Louisiana History, p. 349.
  16. Louisiana History, p. 347.
  17. Louisiana History, p. 347.
  18. Louisiana History, p. 348.
  19. Monroe, Louisiana (LA) Political Contributions by Individuals. city-data.com. Retrieved on September 17, 2013.
  20. Louisiana History, p. 353.
  21. Louisiana History, p. 343.
  22. Donors: January 1, 2006 – April 30, 2006. Louisiana Methodist Children's Home. Retrieved on September 17, 2013.
  23. Louisiana History, p. 354.

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