J. Emile Verret
|J. Emile Verret|
41st Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
May 9, 1944 – May 11, 1948
|Preceded by||Marc M. Mouton|
|Succeeded by||Bill Dodd |
Member of the
Iberia Parish School Board
1912 – 1944
|Born|| September 13, 1885|
Iberia Parish, Louisiana
|Died||February 29, 1965 (aged 79)|
|Resting place|| St. Peter's Cemetery|
in New Iberia
|Political party||Democrat |
|Spouse(s)||Katherine Laura Markham Verret|
|Residence||New Iberia, Louisiana|
|Alma mater||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
J. Emile Verret (September 13, 1885 – February 9, 1965) was the 41st lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana, a Democrat who held the position from 1944 to 1948, during the first of the two nonconsecutive gubernatorial terms of Jimmie Davis.
Verret defeated former Governor Earl Kemp Long in the party's runoff election for the second-ranking office in state government. He and Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish both denied Long victory in races for lieutenant governor: Verret in 1944 and Aycock in 1959. Earl Long had been elected lieutenant governor in 1936 and succeeded to the governorship for a year in 1939. Long was defeated for a full gubernatorial term in 1940 but staged impressive comebacks to win the top office in 1948 and 1956.
Verret was born in Iberia Parish and educated in local schools. He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1905 (then Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute). He also attended Soule Business College in New Orleans. He returned to New Iberia and opened a general store. He was also an independent insurance agent from 1928 until his death. Verret was married to the former Katherine Laura Markham (1889-1970).
Verret was a Roman Catholic and a third degree member of the Catholic men's order, the Knights of Columbus. He served as a president of the Louisiana School Board Association and held membership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Rotary Club in New Iberia.
In politics, Verret was first elected to the Iberia Parish School Board in 1912 and was the board president from 1914 to 1943, when he ran for lieutenant governor.
Many found it unusual that a candidate whose only elective office had been on a parish school board could defeat a legendary Long to gain the state's second highest office. Verret trailed Long in the first primary but defeated him in the second balloting, when anti-Long elements coalesced behind Verret Another candidate seeking the lieutenant governorship was then freshman state Senator Frank Burton Ellis (1907-1969) of Covington in St.Tammany Parish, later a short-term U.S. District Court judge in New Orleans appointed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Had Lewis Lovering Morgan (1876-1950), a judge from Covington, not entered the 1944 gubernatorial runoff against Jimmie Davis, Long would have automatically become the lieutenant governor nominee without a runoff contest. At the time, Louisiana law provided that there would be no runoffs for "down-ballot" races if there was no second gubernatorial contest. Had Morgan deferred to Davis as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Long would have hence been slated for the general election ballot as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor at a time when Republicans were non-competitive in the South.
According to Bill Dodd, a nearly lifelong observer of Louisiana politics, several Democratic figures, including Lucille May Grace, the register of the state lands, and Secretary of State Wade Omer Martin, Jr. (1911-1990), privately urged Morgan to make the race against Davis, not because they opposed Davis per se, but because they wanted Earl Long to face Verret, a largely unknown anti-Long candidate. Dodd said that "Miss Grace" and Martin believed that two consecutive defeats for Earl Long (governor in 1940 and lieutenant governor in 1944) might doom his political career. Morgan was indeed said to have seriously considered not pursuing the runoff, but his decision to enter the second round of balloting hurt Earl Long. Long, however, was undeterred by the defeat for lieutenant governor. He set his sights on the governorship again in 1948.
On September 18, 1947, Lieutenant Governor Verret became acting governor while Jimmie Davis was out of state. Facing the threat of a hurricane, closed the state offices to allow those who were in Baton Rouge and Lafayette the opportunity to return to their homes to prepare for the storm. Verret's proclamation read, "Until further notice, the official office of the state will be 215 Julia Street, New Iberia," Verret's private residence, which is still standing. The Daily Iberian reported, "New Iberia Serving As State Capital For the Day!"
Patrick Stevenson "Pat" Onellion (born 1952) discovered that New Iberia had been the state capital for a day while he was examining microfilm of The Daily Iberian in preparation for writing a history of the New Iberia High School football team. Professor Glenn Russell Conrad (1932-2003), who published two books on the history of New Iberia, had missed the designation of a one-day state capital. The football team was playing a game on September 19, 1947, a Friday, the same day that New Iberia was the state capital for a day. Many New Iberians had forgotten that their city was so honored. The First Baptist Church had purchased property with an intent to demolish the Verret House. Fifty years later on September 19, 1997, The Daily Iberian republished its article from 1947, along with a biography of Verret.
The Verrets are interred at St. Peter's Cemetery in New Iberia.
In 2020, long after many in Louisiana had heard of Verrett, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser "pardoned" a a crustacean which he naed for Verret. The creature was placed in ideal surroundings in a state park.
- Lafayette Daily Advertiser, February 10, 1965.
- Verret, J. Emile. Louisiana Historical Association: A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- Katherine Laura Markham Verret. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- Lieutenant Governor (Billy Nungesser) pardons one lucky crustacean (named for former Lieutenant Governor J. Emile Verret). The Westside Journal (March 11, 2020). Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- Bill Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics (Baton Rouge: Claitor's, 1991).
- Long, Earl Kemp. Louisiana101.com. Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- Minden Herald, January 16, 1948, p. 2.
- "New Iberia Serving as State Capital for the Day!," New Iberia Daily Iberian, September 19, 1947, p. 1.
- Patrick Onellion. mylife.com. Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- The Daily Iberian, September 19, 1997.