Jack Keahey

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Jack Lynn Keahey, Jr.
Political party Democrat

Born August 24, 1935
St. Joseph, Tensas Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died May 4, 2007 (aged 71)
Spouse Marie Herring Keahey (married c. 1957 – 2007, his death)
Religion Church of Christ

Jack Lynn Keahey, Jr. (August 24, 1935 – May 4, 2007), was a businessman, boat builder, welder, mechanic, politician, and civic leader from Columbia in Caldwell Parish in northeastern Louisiana. He was best known as the president of the Tensas Basin Levee Board.[1] Having joined the district in 1992, he served as its president from 2000 until his death.


Keahey (pronounced KAY HE) was born to Jack Keahey, Sr. (1908–1995), and the former Rayma Lorena George (1912–2011)[2] St. Joseph in Tensas Parish, the smallest parish in population in Louisiana, located adjacent to the Mississippi River in the northeastern portion of the state. The senior Keahey relocated to Louisiana Cairo, Illinois, to assist in the construction of the Mississippi River levee. Rayma Keahey's family moved Yell County in northern Arkansas to Newellton in northern Tensas Parish. Interest in levees hence spanned two generation of Keaheys.[3]

Levee district

Keahey was a visible spokesman for his levee district operation, which earned repeated "Outstanding Maintenance Awards" from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Tensas district appeared strong amid questions having been raised about the preparedness of other levee districts in the wake Huricanes Katrina and Rita.[4]

"I would say that we're the best run district in the state. We ought to be the model. Our board welcomes any scrutiny and will pass the test." Keahey told the Monroe News Star in 2006.[4] John Stringer, the Tensas Levee District executive director, told the The News-Star that Keahey was "a fine public servant and an even better friend. He was dedicated to the levee board and a wonderful steward of the public's money."[4]

A pilot, Keahey founded crop dusting company, Keahey Flying Service, in 1964. The firm remains operational under the direction of Keahey's son, Drew Keahey, also of Columbia. Keahey previously served as president of both the Louisiana and National agricultural aviation associations, and Drew has headed the Louisiana association.[4] Jack Keahey also built his own boat. He was a former member and president of the Caldwell Parish School Board. He was also affiliated with the Louisiana Pesticide Advisory Committee.[3]

In 1991, Keahey made a failed bid for the statewide position of Louisiana commissioner of agriculture and forestry, having lost to the incumbent, his fellow Democrat, Robert 'Bob" Odom. He ran third and received 146,256 votes (11 percent) to Odom's 824,167 (60 percent). Republican Don Johnson finished second with 199,688 votes (15 percent). Two other candidates, one Democrat and one Republican, shared the remaining 14 percent of the vote.[5]

Death and aftermath

Keahey was a founding member of the Columbia Church of Christ and taught Sunday school there.[3] He died of cancer. In addition to his mother, who still resided at the time of his death in St. Joseph, and his son Drew and Drew's wife, Becky, Keahey was survived by his wife of a half-century, the former Marie Herring; son, Cash Keahey of Richardson, Texas; daughter, Margo Keahey of Gallatin, Tennessee, and five grandchildren.[3] His younger brother, Boyd Farrel Keahey (1937-1994), who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Tensas Parish in 1971 against the incumbent Theo "Bill" Poe, is interred in Newellton beside their parents.[2]

Services were held in the First Baptist Church in Columbia. Interment was at the large Columbia Hill Cemetery in Columbia.[3] Keahey's friend, Dave Norris, then the long-term mayor of West Monroe in uachita Parish, wrote in a personal letter that Keahey was "a fine, unselfish public servant — and those are not too common."[4]

Keahey was succeeded as board president by Andrew Harris Brown (born June 1965) of Monroe, the sitting vice president and son of the late Louisiana State Senator William Denis Brown, III. Andrew Brown ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Louisiana's 5th congressional district seat in a special election held in 2013. Drew Keahey was nominated to fill the seat previously held by his father.


  1. Deaths elsewhere. Houston Chronicle, May 6, 2007. Retrieved on August 8, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Legion Memorial Cemetery interments. findagrave.com. Retrieved on August 8, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Obituary of Jack Keahey, The Monroe News-Star, May 6, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 News article on death of Levee District President Jack Keahey, Monroe News Star, May 6, 2007.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Statewide primary election returns, October 19, 1991.