George Reese

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For other Republicans named "Reese", see Bob Reese, Frellsen Reese, and Jim Reese.
George Wilson Reese, Jr.

(Louisiana attorney and
Republican political activist)


Born August 10, 1923​
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA​
Died January 22, 1998 (aged 74)​
New Orleans, Louisiana​
Spouse Mary Ann Z. Reese​:

Parents:
George, Sr., and Marcelle Josephine Jacquet Reese

George Wilson Reese, Jr. (August 10, 1923 – January 22, 1998),[1] was an attorney from New Orleans, Louisiana, who was a leading figure in the development of his state's Republican Party during the 1950s and the 1960s. He ran in the 1st congressional district for the United States House of Representatives against Democrat Felix Edward Hébert in 1952 and 1954 and for the United States Senate in 1960 against incumbent Allen J. Ellender. He was prior to 1960 the state's Republican national committeeman.

Background

Reese was the only son of George Reese, Sr. (1886–1952), a native Californian who worked for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, and the former Marcelle Josephine Jacquet (1891-1973), who died in Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish.[2] He had two sisters, Marcelle Reese LeBlanc Couhig (1916-1985) and Rosemary Reese (1922-2000), who like her mother died in Donaldsonville.[3]

Marcelle Reese was first married to Sam LeBlanc, Jr., who was killed during World War II; the couple had a daughter and a son, Sam A. LeBlanc, III, who served as a Democrat in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1972 to 1980 and practices law in St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish. From her second marriage to Robert E. Couhig, Sr., Marcelle began working in the hospitality business and wrote The Asphodel Plantation Cookbook, with regional recipes. Robert and Marcelle Couhig had, among several children, two other sons who entered politics as Republicans, Robert E. "Rob" Couhig, Jr., a New Orleans businessman and former candidate for the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district and for mayor of New Orleans, and Kevin H. Couhig, the first president of West Feliciana Parish.[4] LeBlanc and the Couhigs are hence maternal nephews of George Reese, Jr.​

In the 1940 census, Reese was listed as a resident of 1125 Royal Street in Ward 6 in New Orleans.[5] After two years of college, Reese served from 1942 to 1945 during World War II in the United States Army Air Corps, the forerunner to the Air Force.[6]

He thereafter graduated from Tulane University and the Tulane Law School of Law in New Orleans. He was a member of Phi Delta Phi.[7]

Political life

In the 1952 U.S. House election, Reese polled a third of the vote against Representative Hébert; he ran with Dwight D. Eisenhower at the top of the Republican ticket. In 1954, a mid-term election year, Reese again challenged Hébert but polled only one-sixth of the votes cast, with no presidential contest on the ballot.[8]

In 1959, Reese, as the Louisiana Republican national committeeman, and LeRoy Smallenberger, a Shreveport attorney who was elected the state party chairman in 1960, became involved in an intra-party feud with Thomas Eaton "Tom" Stagg, Jr. (1923-2015), another Shreveport lawyer and subsequent judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, and Charles Thomas Beaird (1922-2006), the later publisher of the defunct Shreveport Journal and a then Republican member of the Caddo Parish Police Jury. Stagg and Beaird objected when Reese endorsed, with Smallenberger in agreement, a slate of candidates for party position on both the state and parish committees. Stagg argued that Reese had attempted to assemble a group of "yes-men" and had hence "earned the enmity of a large number of fair-minded Republicans".[9] Reese, however, defended his endorsements, most of whom won their primary races, on the premise that he as a statewide party leader was obligated to recommend suitable candidates to the rank-and-file.[10] At the time, Reese appointed Smallenberger as the "assistant national committeeman for North Louisiana".[11]

Along with his senatorial campaign manager Richard Lowrie Hagy (1921-1992), also of New Orleans,[12] Reese and Tom Stagg were among the Louisiana delegation to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago.[13] Smallenberger and Harrison Bagwell, the Baton Rouge lawyer who was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1952 against Robert F. Kennon, were alternate delegates to the Chicago conclave.[14]​ The party nominated Vice President Richard M. Nixon to run in the presidential election against U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, who subsequently handily won all of Louisiana's then ten electoral votes.​

Two days before the Republican convention in Chicago began its proceedings, Reese won a low-turnout senatorial closed primary victory over William Dane (1893-1966) of New Orleans.[15][16] With just over 1,000 votes cast, Reese received 762; Dane, 278.[17] Reese then attended the convention and thereafter campaigned across the state in the fall. In Lake Charles, he claimed that Senator Ellender had been lax in protecting military installations in Louisiana from being downsized or dismantled, with the impacted military services sent to bases in other states. "There has been inadequate representation of the state in these matters," Reese said.[18]

Ellender had been critical of the investigations into communist infiltration of the U.S. government waged in the 1950s by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. Reese even accused Ellender of being "soft on communism". The Democrat retorted that Reese's allegation came with "ill grace for the spokesman for the member of a party (the Eisenhower administration) which has permitted the establishment of a Red-dominated beach head (Cuba) only ninety miles from our shores to attack my record against the spread of communism."[19]

In a Republican campaign rally in Lafayette, national party nominee Richard Nixon claimed that "those who adopted the Democratic platform in the Los Angelesconvention forfeited the right to ask millions of Democrats to be loyal to their party." Yet Nixon failed even to introduce Reese as Ellender's opponent before the Lafayette gathering.[20]

Reese polled 109,698 votes (20.2 percent) in the general election; Ellender, 432,228 (79.8 percent). Reese polled less than half the vote that Nixon received in Louisiana, whereas Ellender outpolled Kennedy by nearly 25,000. Some 266,000 who voted in the presidential contest skipped the Senate race altogether.[20][21] Ellender held the seat from 1936 until his death in office in the summer of 1972.​

In the summer of 1977, U.S. Senators Russell Long and J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., Ellender's long-term successor, submitted Reese's name to U.S. President Jimmy Carter to become the U.S. attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, based in New Orleans. Some African-Americans objected because of Reese's former activities in the Republican Party. The Federal Bureau of Investigation notified Reese of "allegations" that he drank and gambled and once procured a loan from a financial institution with mob ties. A shocked Reese withdrew his nomination, and John Volz was proclaimed the Carter administration's preferred candidate. A Democrat at the time, Volz subsequently switched his registration to Republican and was held over by the Ronald W. Reagan administration. Thereafter, Volz prosecuted Mafia figure Carlos Marcello (1910-1993) and a number of Democratic office holders,[22] including former Commissioner of Administration Charles E. Roemer, II, Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick Sr., state Senate President Michael Hanley O'Keefe, Sr., and Governor Edwin Edwards.[23]

Later years

Reese moved in 1996 to Poplarville in Pearl River County in southwestern Mississippi.[24] He died in New Orleans early in 1998 at the age of seventy-four.[1] His surviving widow, Mary Ann Z. Reese (born November 1939), is a Republican voter in Metairie in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans.[25] A 1957 graduate of Academy of Holy Angels in New Orleans, she formerly resided in Prentiss and Poplarville, Mississippi.[26]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 George Wilson Reese Jr.. search.ancestry.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  2. Reese - Orleans Parish, 1940 Census. Louisiana.genealogy.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  3. Reeses of the Felicianas in Louisiana. genforum.genealogy.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  4. Robert E. "Bob" Couhig Sr. Obituary. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
  5. Marcelle Reese in the 1940 Census. ancestry.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  6. George W. Reese Jr.. search.ancestry.com. Retrieved on January 7, 2015.
  7. George Wilson Reese, Jr.. Phideltaphi.org. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  8. Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, November 4, 1952 and November 2, 1954.
  9. "GOP Faction Fight Erupts Over Primary: 4th District Head Charges Attempt to Pack Committee", The Shreveport Times, December 2, 1959, p. 1.
  10. "Endorsements Defended by GOP Leader: Reese answers attack by Stagg as Faction Fight", The Shreveport Times, December 3, 1959, pp. 1, 4.
  11. "Attorney Here Appointed to GOP Position", The Shreveport Times, December 2, 1959, p. 4-A.
  12. Richard Lowrie Hagy. findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  13. George W. Reese Jr.. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  14. Louisiana delegation to the 1960 Republican National Convention. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  15. William Dane. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 7, 2015.
  16. Primary election preview. Lake Charles American-Press (July 21, 1960). Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  17. Louisiana Secretary of State, Republican primary returns, July 23, 1960.
  18. The election of a Republican senator from Louisiana can reverse the trend of removal of federal installations from the state .... Lake Charles American-Press (October 26, 1960). Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  19. The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, November 5, 1960, p. 19.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Billy Hathorn, The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980, (Natchitoches: Northwestern State University, 1980), pp. 102-103.
  21. Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, November 8, 1960.
  22. Mark Moseley (December 18, 2012). With Letten gone, 'tis the season for intrigue and wild rumors. thelensnola.org. Retrieved on January 6, 2015.
  23. John Pope (February 13, 2011). John Volz: Prosecutor took on powerful foes. New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on April 4, 2019.
  24. George W. Reese Jr.. search.ancestry.com. Retrieved on January 7, 2015.
  25. Mary Reese. Mylife.com. Retrieved on April 4, 2019.
  26. Mary Z. Reese. intelius.com. Retrieved on January 7, 2015.

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