Jerry Huckaby

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Thomas Jerald "Jerry" Huckaby

United States Representative for
Louisiana's 5th congressional district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Otto Passman
Succeeded by James Otis "Jim" McCrery, III

Born July 19, 1941
Hodge, Jackson Parish
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) (1) Suzanna Woodard "Sue" Huckaby (married 1962–2008, her death)

(2) Marie Hammon Huckaby (married 2010)

Children Michelle Huckaby Lewis

Thomas Clay Huckaby (1975–2002)

Alma mater Minden (Louisiana) High School

Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge)
Georgia State Universit] (Atlanta)

Occupation Businessman
Religion United Methodist

Thomas Jerald Huckaby, usually known as Jerry Huckaby (born July 19, 1941), is a retired businessman who served from 1977 to 1993 as a Democratic U.S. Representative fror Louisiana's 5th congressional district, at the time mostly in the northeastern quadrant of the state. He lost his position as an indirect result of reapportionment in 1992, when Louisiana forfeited one of its eight seats in the United States House of Representatives because the state grew in population during the 1980s at less than the national average.


Huckaby was born in Hodge, adjacent to Jonesbor in Jackson Parish to Thomas Milton Huckaby (1907–1973) and the former Eva Butler (1911–1990). Huckaby is descended on both sides by pioneer families. In the 1840s, two brothers, Green and James Huckaby, settled in the since disbanded community of Sparta, which was thn the parish seat for Bienville Parish from its founding in 1848 until 1893, when the courthouse was relocated to Arcadia. James Huckaby was the great-great-grandfather of Jerry Huckaby. After Thomas' death, Eva married Minden businessman Cecil C. Toland (1905-1976), but he died soon into their second marriage.[1]

In 1942, when Jerry was six months old, the family moved to Minden in Webster Parish, where his father operated real estate and insurance businesses. Huckaby graduated fifth in his class in 1959 from Minden (Louisiana) High School. He was on the MHS Crimson Tide basketball team, played in the band, was elected to the student council, and edited the school newspaper. He then studied electrical engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, from which in 1963 he received the Bachelor of Science degree. He was student body president of the college of engineering and a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity. Five years later, he obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University in the capital city of Atlanta, Georgia.[2]

From 1963 to 1973, Huckaby was a management executive for the Western Electric Company, which later became Alcatel-Lucient. He was in Atlanta from 1963 to 1969, and then in Chicago, Illinois, from 1970 to 1973. After he left Atlanta, with his MBA in hand, Western Electric dispatched him to complete a nine-month non-degree program at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1973, he left Western Electric and returned to Louisiana to become a dairy farmer at his former Hallmark Farms in Ringgold in Bienville Parish.[3]

Unseating Otto Passman

In 1976, Huckaby was elected to Congress from the Monroe-based 5th district. First, he unseated incumbent Otto Passman in a hard-fought Democratic [[primary] held on August 14. Huckaby received 45,589 votes (52.7 percent) to Passman's 40,888 (47.3 percent). A 30-year [conservative]] lawmaker, Passman was a native of Franklinton in Washington Parish in southeastern Louisiana and a long-term Monroe resident. Passman had been a supporter of the American involvement in the Vietnam War. A World War II United States lieutenant, Passman was particularly known for his support of veterans causes and his fervent opposition to most foreign aid programs.[4]

However, Passman was under an ethical cloud. He was engulfed in a bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and influence peddling scandal known as "Koreagate" that involved his acceptance of $213,000 from the South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park (born 1935). Passman had not, however, been indicted of anything at the time of the primary. The indictments came two years later, but he was acquitted in a high-profile trial in 1979 in which he retained the services of high-powered Alexandria attorney and gubernatorial advisor Camille Gravel.[5]

Defeating Frank Spooner

Huckaby then faced a determined Republican challenge from Frank Spooner, a conservative oilman from Monroe who had been his state's GOP national committeeman. Spooner was the first Republican to contest the Fifth District seat since 1900, when Henry E. Hardtner polled 628 votes (9.2 percent) against the Democrat Joseph Eugene Ransdell of East Carroll Parish, who was elected with 6,172 votes (90.8 percent). Ransdell later served in the United States Senate until defeated by Huey Pierce Long, Jr.[6]

Spooner worked to assemble a potentially winning coalition based on a strong showing in Ouachita and Lincoln parishes, along with Morehouse, Richland, Natchitoches, and Winn parishes. Former Governor John Connally of Texas came to Natchitoches and Monroe to speak for Spooner and the Ford-Dole ticket. Former [California]] Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California, Ford's unsuccessful opponent in the 1976 primaries, appeared in Monroe at a fundraiser on Spooner's behalf. After his failure to gain re-nomination, Passman never again spoke to Huckaby and even "threatened" to endorse Spooner as his successor but never did so.[7]

Huckaby won the exchange, helped in part by the popularity of Jimmy Carter in Louisiana and throughout the South. Huckaby received 83,696 votes (52.5 percent) to Spooner's 75,574 ballots (47.5 percent). Spooner outpolled Passman's primary showing by 0.2 percent. In a much higher general election turnout, Spooner received some 35,000 more votes than Passman had netted in the primary. Spooner polled 59 percent in Ouachita Parish and also won in Lincoln, Morehouse, Union, and Richland, but his strength was insufficient to overcome hefty Democratic margins in rural districts stretching from Huckaby's Ringgold on the west to Vidalia on the east and the most northern precincts of Rapides Parish on the south.[8]

The 1976 congressional elections were the last in Louisiana under the longstanding closed primary system.[9]

Later races

Starting in 1978, when Huckaby was reelected, congressional elections went to the nonpartisan blanket primary, which had already begun for state elections on November 1, 1975. This kind of primary proved beneficial for the popular Huckaby, who was re-elected seven times over the next fourteen years, often with landslides of more than 70 percent. In those elections, most of his opponents were other Democrats.

In 1978, Huckaby polled some 57 percent of the vote over several Democratic rivals, including then state Senator]] James H. "Jim" Brown, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish. The next year, Brown was elected Louisiana secretary of state, when incumbent Paul Hardy ran unsuccessfully for governor.[10] Perennial candidate L. D. Knox of Winnsboro in Franklin Parish opposed Huckaby in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1990, and 1992. He even changed his legal name to "None of the Above Knox" to support his call for the "None of the Above" option being offered on ballots to enhance voter choice. No such option was ever approved in Louisiana.[11]

In the 1986 congressional race, Huckaby, with 96,200 votes (68.5 percent) defeated two other Democrats, State Representative Thomas "Bud" Brady of Olla in LaSalle Parish, who finished second with 32,284 ballots (23 percent), and the Monroe businessman Fred Huenefeld, Jr., who trailed with 11,966 votes (8.5 percent).[12]

In 1988, Huckaby, with 51,113 votes (71.1 percent) again handily prevailed over two opponents, Democrat Jack Wright, who polled 14,343 ballots (20 percent), and Republican Bradley Thomason Roark, who trailed with 6,403 votes (8.9 percent).[13]

In 1990, in his last successful election, Huckaby polled 128,117 votes (73.7 percent) over L. D. Knox, Democrat Carl Batey, and again the Republican Bradley Roark, who collectively split the remaining 26.3 percent of the ballots.[14]

Agriculture Committee

For ten years, Huckaby was chairman of the subcommittee on cotton, rice and sugar. His marketing loan legislation was credited with bringing American agriculture out of a major recession during the early 1980s. His controversial legislation defining eligibility for farm payments and limiting the amount of the payments a farmer could receive withstood the test of time and was still in effect twenty years after it was enacted.[15]

Huckaby was a key defender of the sugar industry in the 1990 debate over the farm bill. Louisiana is a major sugar cane state, with some 750 farms that produce hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar. He was even called "Mr. Sugar" in the House. In his last campaign for Congress, Huckaby collected more than $50,000 from sugar interests. "I was in the race of my life, and I went out everywhere soliciting funds," Huckaby recalled. Huckaby said that raising money from Political Action Committees is a necessary evil. "It would be nice if the PAC system didn't exist. It is the most distasteful thing in politics," he said.[15]

Budget Committee

In 1989, Huckaby was the ]]Boll Weevils]]' choice for a seat informally designated for a Southern Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Huckaby did not shy from highly technical issues, was not afraid to work out compromises, and could serve as a bridge to lawmakers in both parties. The Budget Committee assignment came during his last two terms in Congress.[15]

Interior Committee

Huckaby introduced House-passed legislation in 1988 to require commercial nuclear plants, during any unusual event, to transmit electronically data on pressure, temperature] and water levels to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., so that its experts may monitor and advise on the situation. The national monitoring center has prevented other "Three Mile Island" threats.[16]

Huckaby's seat on the Interior Committee enabled him to secure legislation through the years that created the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, the Upper Darbonne National Wildlife Refuge, the Poverty Point National Monument, the Saline Bayou Wild and Scenic River, and the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness, all in the Fifth District.[17]

A casualty of reapportionment, 1992

Louisiana lost a district as a result of the 1990 United States Census. The United States Department of Justice issued a directive requiring Louisiana to create a second African-American district, a temporary requirement. The legislature responded by creating a new 4th District that stretched from Shreveport to Baton Rouge, absorbing most of Huckaby's black constituents in the process. Huckaby's revised district absorbed a large portion of the former Shreveport-based Fourth District, represented by three-term Republican James Otis "Jim" McCrery.[18]

On paper, Huckaby appeared to have an advantage, as geographically the new Fifth was more his district than McCrery's. However, the demographics of the revised Fifth District worked against Huckaby. The new district was considerably more urban than its predecessor; because of the inclusion of Shreveport, McCrery retained 55 percent of his former constituents. The minority population in the district was reduced from 30 percent to 16 percent. Thus, McCrery was heavily favored in a head-to-head race, even though it was expected to be a very Democratic year nationally. National Democratic leaders concluded Huckaby had almost no chance and urged him to retire. Had he done so, he could have kept $250,000 in campaign funds, as 1992 was the last year that members of Congress could retire and keep surplus campaign funds for personal use. However, Huckaby chose to stay in the race despite the obstacles.[19]

McCrery won in a rout, taking 153,501 votes (63 percent) to 90,079 for Huckaby (37 percent). Huckaby carried only one parish in the district.[20]

Move to Virginia

On December 21, 1962, Huckaby married the former Suzanna "Sue" Woodard (October 12, 1943 — September 9, 2008), at the Ringgold Methodist Church in Bienville Parish. The two were then LSU students.[21] She was the daughter of farmer and oil/natural gas proprietor Ernest Scott "Big Scotty" Woodard (1921-2013) and the former Molly Covey (1923–1987), originally from Gentry, in Benton County, in northwestern Arkansas. Sue died after a four-year fight with colon cancer. She had a brother, Scott Woodard, Jr., of Sherman, Texas, and a sister, Stephanie Woodard of Phoenix, Arizona.[22]

Jerry and Sue Huckaby did not return to Louisiana after his congressional defeat. Instead Huckaby became a lobbyist but left after two months. "I was never comfortable sitting on the other side of the table," he said. "I wasn't comfortable asking members like (former U.S. Senator) John Breaux to see such and such a person or (former U.S. Representative) Bob Livingston to go to such and such a reception."[20]

Huckaby instead became president of his wife's residential real estate business in McLean, Virginia. Nationally, Mrs. Huckaby was ranked No. 10 of more than two million Realtors in the United States in sales. For many years, she was the leading Realtor in northern Virginia. In her 30-year career, which began when he became a congressman, Mrs. Huckaby sold more than one thousand homes valued in excess of a billion dollars. She graduated from Ringgold High School in 1961 and attended Stephens College in Columbia,Missouri and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She graduated with a degree in human ecology from Louisiana Tech in Ruston, where the Sue Woodard Huckaby Endowed Professorship honors her memory. At the time of her death, the Huckabys lived in Great Falls in Fairfax County]], Virginia. They had been active members of Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean for some three decades.[23][24]

The Huckabys' daughter, Michelle Huckaby Lewis (born 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia), and their son-in-law, Todd Lewis, are physicians who live in the same house in Great Falls in which Jerry and Sue Huckaby had resided. Todd Lewis is a cardiologist in private practice in Fairfax County, and Michelle is on the staff of Johns Hopkins University Hospital] Both have undergraduate degrees from Stanford University in [Palo Alto, California, and medical degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans. Michelle Lewis also has a law degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her specialty centers upon legal issues involving genetic testing of newly-born babies. The Lewises have two sons, Carter (born 2002) and Spencer (born 2005).[25]

The Huckabys also had a son, Thomas Clay Huckaby (January 2, 1975 – June 1, 2002), who was born in Ringgold while his father operated the dairy farm and his mother taught school.[25] Mrs. Huckaby's funeral services were held on September 14, 2008, at the First United Methodist Church of Ringgold. She is interred at the Woodard family plot at Providence Cemetery in Ringgold.[24]


In April 2010, Huckaby married the former Maria Hammon, a retired English professor at Louisiana Tech University and the widow of Donald Gene Hammon, a former Ruston police chief who died in 2005. The couple resides near the Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant (pronounce SHEW DRANT) in Lincoln Parish]].[25]

On January 28, 2012, Huckaby, along with his friend E. L. "Bubba" Henry, and the late Adras LaBorde, former managing editor of The Alexandria Town Talk, was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. A banquet at the Winnfield Civic Center honored the inductees, three living and three deceased.[26][27]


  1. 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. 344.
  2. Louisiana History," pp. 342, 345.
  3. Louisiana History, p. 345.
  4. Louisiana History, pp. 336-337, 343, 345.
  5. Louisiana History, p. 341-342.
  6. Louisiana History, pp. 345-346.
  7. Louisiana History, pp. 343, 348.
  8. Louisiana History, p. 349.
  9. Closed congressional primaries in Louisiana returned in 2008 and 2010 but were again dropped in 2012 and thereafter.
  10. Louisiana History, pp. 349-350.
  11. Index to Politicians: Knox. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on April 9, 2021.
  12. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, September 27, 1986.
  13. Louisiana primary election returns, October 1, 1988. Retrieved on December 6, 2012.
  14. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 6, 1990.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Louisiana History, p. 350
  16. Louisiana History, pp. 350-351.
  17. Louisiana History, p. 351.
  18. Louisiana History, p. 351.
  19. Louisiana History, pp. 351-352
  20. 20.0 20.1 Louisiana History,p. 352.
  21. "Miss Woodard, Mr. Huckaby Betrothed; Wedding to be Event of Friday, December 21", Minden Herald, November 8, 1962, p. 9
  22. Ernest "Scotty" Woodard, Sr. (1921-2013). the Shreveport Times. Retrieved on September 4, 2013.
  23. Louisiana History, pp. 352-353
  24. 24.0 24.1 Susanna Woodard "Sue" Huckaby obituary. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on June 21, 2014.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Louisiana History, p. 353
  26. Avoyelles Today, January 4, 2012
  27. La. Political Hall inducts former Pineville mayor, 5 others. Alexandria Town Talk (January 29, 2012). Retrieved on January 30, 2012.