John K. Snyder
|John Kenneth Snyder, Sr.|
June 1973 – June 1977
|Preceded by||Charles Edward "Ed" Karst|
|Succeeded by||Carroll Lanier|
December 1982 – December 1986
|Preceded by||Carroll Edwin Lanier|
|Succeeded by||Ned Randolph|
|Born|| August 29, 1922|
Pineville, Rapides Parish
|Died|| January 11, 1993 (aged 70)|
|Political party|| Democrat|
(Republican from May 2, 1989, to February 23, 1990).
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Wilma Marcella Kinder Snyder (deceased);
(2) Pauline Edwards Snyder (1926-1978)
Children from first marriage:
|Occupation|| Farmer; political consultant|
John Kenneth Snyder, Sr., known as John K. Snyder and sometimes as Tillie or Tilly Snyder (August 29, 1922 – January 11, 1993), was a colorful, outspoken Democratic mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana, with service from 1973 to 1977 and again from 1982 to 1986.
Snyder was an admirer of the late Governor Earl Kemp Long, after whom he claimed to model his quixotic political practice. A tall, physically large man, Snyder smoked cigars, was soft-spoken, and remained relaxed and accommodating unless his temper flared, in which case he might act irrationally.
Early life and education
Snyder was born in Pineville, across the Red River from Alexandria, to Joseph Z. "Joe" Snyder (1886–1971), originally from La Salle Parish, and the former Eva Spotten (1891–1980), a Pineville native. He grew up on Lakeview Street about a block from Fred Baden, who served as mayor of Pineville during the time that Snyder headed the Alexandria municipal government. As a child, Snyder was given the nickname "Tillie" because he liked to play the game "Tiddly-Winks". He graduated in 1940 from Bolton High School and was a United States Navy aviation cadet during World War II. He attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, but did not graduate. He was a speech writer for political candidates in Louisiana and neighboring states and maintained farming operations.
Snyder and Karst
Snyder first won the mayoral election in the spring of 1973, when the incumbent Ed Karst did not seek reelection. Karst was the son-in-law of Alexandria attorney and radio station owner Irving Ward-Steinman and former husband of Judith Ward-Steinman Karst, later Judy Karst Campbell (1941-2020) of Georgia and thereafter North Carolina.
Snyder and Karst had been bitter rivals in the Democratic primary held on April 5, 1969. In that campaign, Karst led with 4,093 votes (36 percent) to Snyder's 3,128 (27.5 percent). The third place candidate, John B. Honeycutt (1911–1998), who like Snyder had run unsuccessfully for sheriff of Rapides Parish, received 2,021 votes (17.8 percent). The 16-year incumbent, W. George Bowdon, Jr., who had first won the position in 1953 to succeed Carl Buell Close, trailed in fourth place with 1,784 votes (15.7 percent). Three other candidates held the remaining 359 votes (3.2 percent).
In the mayoral runoff held on May 17, 1969, Karst prevailed, 6,016 (53.7 percent) to Snyder's 5,188 (46.3 percent). After Karst defeated Snyder, Governor John J. McKeithen cancelled the general election because only Democrats had filed for any of the Alexandria municipal offices.
After his mayoral defeat, Snyder unsuccessfully challenged in the 1970 Democratic primary the renomination of conservative U.S. Representative Speedy Long of Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded. Snyder polled 24,112 votes (29 percent) to Long's 59,032 (71 percent). Then, in 1971, Snyder failed in a bid to oust Sheriff Marshall T. Cappel in the party primary.
In 1972, Karst switched affiliation to the Republican Party and retained the former head of the Louisiana States' Rights Party, Kent Courtney as his administrative assistant. A New Orleans-born attorney, Karst later left the GOP, returned to the Democrats, and thereafter chose the "No Party" label under Louisiana's registration procedure.
Snyder's first term as mayor
In the pivotal 1973 Democratic primary runoff election, Snyder faced former state Representative R. W. "Buzzy" Graham, a favorite of the downtown business establishment and one of the legislative "Young Turks" led by future Louisiana House Speaker E. L. "Bubba" Henry. Snyder's victory was obtained largely through his solid support among blue collar voters and in the large African-American community, which by the year 2000 became the demographic majority in Alexandria. After Snyder's nomination, Governor Edwin Edwards cancelled a general election because of the lack of opposition to the Democratic nominees.
Jackie Pope Adams (1922-2013), a native of Marion County, Mississippi, was the secretary to the Alexandria City Council in the first Snyder administration and the city clerk after adoption of the home rule charter in 1977. She retired in 1980 after twenty-five years in city civil service.
During his first term, Mayor Snyder often quarreled with the media, particularly The Alexandria Daily Town Talk newspaper, published then by a childhood acquaintance and rival, Joe D. Smith, Jr. He attempted to manipulate individual reporters to present the "news" as he viewed it. The reporters in turn would find that their editors did not see the "news" in the same light as the mayor. Snyder, who had experience in the field of public relations prior to his mayoral tenure, would offer interviews to favored reporters and shun those who he thought were opposed to his administration. He would avoid specific questions and try to entice reporters to cover what he wanted to stress. In the tradition of many incumbents, Snyder attempted to take credit for improvements that happened on his watch and to blame others when things went awry.
One of his pet projects was a simple structure near the Red River, completed in 1975, called the "Alexandria Farmer's Market," by which farmers could take their produce directly to the people and avoid middlemen. Interest in the market was strongest in the spring and early summer, but many in time found the hours of operation inconvenient for their own work schedules. Supermarkets were just more accessible than were the farmers waiting patiently for customers.
Snyder also struggled with traffic and drainage, problems common to many municipalities. He secured Governor Edwards' pledge of state assistance to four-lane heavily traveled Bolton Avenue. He also pushed for construction of a new bridge atop the Red River into Pineville. The bridge was delayed for eight years because the cities of Alexandria and Pineville and Rapides Parish could not agree on its height. He helped to engineer the annexation to the city of the heavily African-American and impoverished "Samtown" subdivision in south Alexandria, named for its white developer, Sam Jacobs. In annexing Samtown, Snyder was borrowing a page from Earl Long, who attempted to register black voters in the 1950s in anticipation that most would support him politically.
Snyder also did eccentric things: he tried to raise catfish in the city swimming pool, when the pool was not open to the public, but the fish died. He drove around town in a police car in ways reminiscent of the fictitious Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show. He once showed reporters his arthritic toe by placing his foot on his desk. He installed eavesdropping devices in City Hall, all of which were removed by Carroll Edwin Lanijer (1926-2012), his successor as mayor.
Snyder tapped Morris Shapiro (1910–2008) of Alexandria, the father of the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Alfred Shapiro of Baton Rouge, as one of three city attorneys in his first term, but he sometimes retained the enterprising Lafayette lawyer J. Minos Simon (pronounced SEE MOAN) to represent him either personally or as mayor in controversial legal matters. Snyder would sometimes coerce his opponents by merely the threat of retaining Simon.
A change in Alexandria city charters
Snyder served as mayor during his first term under the commission form of government in which he was the "executive" over the fire, police, and sanitation departments. His city commission colleagues included Malcolm Hébert, a mechanical engineer who was the "executive" over streets and parks, including Alexandria Zoological Park, which had been established in 1926; Hebert unseated incumbent O'Hearn Mathews in the party primary.
The other commissioner, Arnold Jack Rosenthal, an attorney and businessman, was the "executive" over finance and utilities. At the time, a large part of Alexandria's municipal operational funds came from profit in the sale of water and electric utilities. Snyder, along with Hebert and Rosenthal, then acted as a "legislative" council to govern the city as a whole. Under this arrangement, two of the three commissioners could outvote the third and interfere with the other member's administration of his department.
Bickering at City Hall
Frequently hence, Snyder and Hebert joined to block initiatives of Rosenthal. At one point, the two fired Rosenthal's executive assistant, former Pineville Mayor Floyd Smith on a pivotal 2–1 vote. They accused Rosenthal of having virtually turned over the operation of his office to Smith, a native of Winn Parish and also a political fighter in the Long tradition, who called himself a "half-Long" by heritage. In one of his more unusual antics, Snyder compelled city custodians in March 1975 to remove a door to a private restroom used by Rosenthal.
The bickering in Alexandria City Hall provided momentum for a new mayor-council form of government to replace the long-time commission system. Shreveport, Bossier City, Minden, and Monroe similarly at the time changed charters. The cities were practically forced to make such changes by federal courts, which interpreted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to negate the commission system. With the at-large membership on the city commissions, blacks complained that they could rarely win elections because there were no single-member districts incorporating predominantly minority neighborhoods. The Alexandria charter was written by a citizens' panel chaired by a judge, William A. Culpepper. A later state representative, Jock Scott, was also a member of the panel. The blueprint was sent to the voters in a 1974 plebiscite and was approved by a 2-1 margin, 5,032 to 2,393.
Defeat in 1977
Therefore, Snyder would seek reelection in 1977 for a one-time-only 5.5-year term under the new mayor-council form of government, but he had alienated too many voters to be reelected. Rosenthal also ran for mayor but was damaged by his perceived indecisiveness amid the bickering at City Hall. Instead, the new mayor would be Rosenthal's predecessor as the finance and utilities commissioner, an ambitious electrician. Carroll Lanier, who could at that junction in his political career claim to be a political outsider. Rosenthal had unseated Lanier in a bitter 1973 primary runoff election. Malcolm Hebert, meanwhile, covertly supported Lanier for mayor and became head of the new Department of Public Works established by the charter in the Lanier administration. Hebert served until a debilitating stroke forced him into early retirement.
During the campaign, Rapides Parish District Attorney Ed Ware, a long-time Snyder political target, felt compelled to deny a charge by Mayor Snyder that Ware was for all practical purposes "running" the city police department and undercutting the mayor's authority.
The 1977 primary returns, in which all the candidates ran as Democrats, were as follows: Snyder, 3,658; Lanier, 3,085; Champ Baker, former executive director of the Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning Commission and a spokesman for veterans causes, 2,802; businessman Charlie Hickman, 2,128; Judith "Judy" Ward-Steinman Karst, 883; Commissioner Arnold Jack Rosenthal, 429; and the coin merchant and former state Representative Larry Parker, 288 votes.
Lanier prevailed in the June 10 general election, popularly called the "runoff" in Louisiana, by a convincing margin: 8,420 (68 percent) to 3,934 (32 percent). Snyder increased his vote from the primary to the general election by only 276 ballots, whereas Lanier more than doubled his final tally. Baker, who was particularly popular among veterans groups and was the president of the Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning Commission based in Alexandria, narrowly missed the second balloting by just under 300 votes.
Upon taking office as mayor, Lanier removed eavesdropping devices that Snyder had installed throughout Alexandria City Hall. When Snyder refused to surrender his municipal car, Lanier had the payroll office withhold Snyder's final paycheck until the vehicle was properly returned.
Mayor Lanier oversaw the construction of the downtown Alexander Fulton Minipark, named for Alexander Fulton, the founder of Alexandria. He also secured federal grant money that resulted in the establishment of the Alexander Fulton Inn, which includes downtown convention facilities.
Returning Snyder to office, 1982
In 1982, voters had grown weary of the reformer Lanier and, surprisingly to many, called Snyder back to office. The scenario was often like what had happened with Snyder's role model, Earl Long. Long would make enemies in the business community and then step down for four years because he was term-limited. His "reformer" successor, often unable to deliver on his promises, would then turn off many voters, who would instead call Long back to office four years later. Snyder indeed seemed to be vintage Earl Long on the local level. Snyder spent a great deal of time with one of Earl Long's former bodyguards, Ellis "Easy Money" Littleton (1930–2005) of Deville in eastern Rapides Parish.
Back in office, effective December 6, 1982, Snyder again antagonized the business community which opposed his populist philosophy and his disdain for elites. He grew frustrated with the limits and delays that any mayor faces in trying to implement his programs, particularly with too many spending proposals chasing too few dollars. In a feature article on Alexandria dealing with the closing of England Air Force Base, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the "sleepy city criscrossed by muddy bayous and surrounded by miles of cotton and crawfish farms was hardly a model of civic efficiency in the 1980s."
Early in 1986, Snyder was committed for three months to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation after the city council observed irrational behavior. He petitioned a state court for reinstatement, and the council returned him to his post for the seven months left in the second term.
Snyder's political surprises
Early in 1983, Snyder filed suit against the man that he unseated, Carroll Lanier, and then Utilities Director Robert L. "Bob" Lawrence (1922–1997), an Iowa native and later a rare Republican member of the city council, alleging that the defendants failed to implement an energy cost adjustment formula. Thereafter, the Alexandria City Council adopted a resolution which directed Snyder and the city attorneys to dismiss any suits previously filed by the mayor, which had not first received the approval of the council. The court ruled in favor of Lanier and Lawrence.
Later in 1983, Snyder, in another of his political surprises, ran for the Louisiana state Senate though he had been in his second term as mayor for less than a year. He was badly defeated. In the nonpartisan blanket primary in which the incumbent Edward Gordon "Ned" Randolph, Jr., led with 13,501 votes (38.4 percent) to challenger Joseph McPherson, who received 11,032 ballots. (31.4 percent). Former state Senator Cecil R. Blair, whom Randolph had unseated in 1975, polled 6,096 votes (17.4 percent), and Mayor Snyder, in fourth place, received 4,496 votes (12.8 percent). In the runoff —officially the Louisiana general election— McPherson won, 16,360 votes (53.9 percent) to Randolph's 13,973 (46.1 percent). At that point in time, Randolph was a two-time loser, for he had failed in a 1982 bid for the U. S. House against the late Gillis Long, then lost his Senate seat the next year, and his future political prospects seemed uncertain.
Randolph succeeds Snyder
Snyder surprised observers again by deciding not to seek a third term in 1986. Former state Senator Randolph, an attorney, who was strongly supported by "Main Street" business interests, was the convincing winner for mayor. Randolph defeated a field of seven opponents in a high turnout of 16,787 Alexandria voters. Randolph polled 8,934 (53.2 percent) votes to 2,717 (16.2 percent) for Anthony S. "Tony" D'Angelo (1917-2012), and 2,623 (15.6 percent) for the third-place candidate, black activist Charles Frederick Smith, Jr. In fifth place was former Mayor Carroll Lanier, with a meager 912 votes (5.4 percent), who made a vain comeback attempt. Lanier was as repudiated in the 1986 balloting as his old rival Rosenthal had been in 1977.
Calm and deliberate in demeanor, Randolph would hold the mayoral office for five terms. He worked well with most groups within the city and never had serious opposition in Louisiana's unique jungle primary system. In the spring of 2006, Randolph announced that he would not seek a sixth term as mayor. He vacated the position in December 2006. His successor was fellow Democrat, attorney Jacques M. Roy, who defeated Randolph's former administrative assistant, Delores Brewer, a Republican, in the November 7 general election. Roy was born the year that Snyder made his first unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Congress.
In 1990, Snyder announced that he would challenge Randolph for re-election, but he never filed for the office. Randolph won again with two-thirds of the ballots cast.
Snyder's final years
In 1988, former Mayor Snyder ran as a Democrat for the now defunct 8th congressional district seat then held by freshman Republican Clyde Cecil Holloway (1943-2016) of Forest Hill in south Rapides Parish. He polled only 1,205 votes (1 percent), as Holloway was reelected to the second of his three terms.
In his later years, Snyder supported the unendorsed "anti-establishment" Republican gubernatorial candidate David Duke, who lost by a wide margin to Edwin Edwards in the hot-contested 1991 general election. On May 2, 1989, Snyder switched his registration to Republican, but he returned to the Democrats less than a year later on February 23, 1990.
Snyder was first married to the late Wilma Marcella Kinder (born December 30, 1921), originally from Smackover in southern Arkansas. After his divorce from Marcella, Snyder married the former Pauline Edwards (1926-1978), who is interred at Flatwoods Cemetery in Rapides Parish. He adopted Pauline's daughter, Cynthia "Maria-Grace" Roszell (born c. 1959) of Pineville. In 1980, Snyder wed the former Ann Lambert (March 12, 1935 – January 19, 2018), a member of the Rapides Parish Republican Women's Association who served as his first lady in the second term as mayor. She was divorced from Maxie Van Herring (1934-2015), a small businessman who was the father of her two daughters, Snyder's step-children, Sheryl Ann Lambert and Karen Sue Herring Munsterman. Ann Snyder was employed for thirty years as a certified dietitian at Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria and held membership at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria. She is interred at Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.
Snyder was found dead at his Pineville home at the age of seventy, He is interred on the front row of the left side of the Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville.
- Jodi Belgard, "John Snyder seemed to relish controversy", The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, April 29, 2007, accessdate=December 18, 2009
- John K. Snyder v. Edwin Ware, III. leagle.com (October 13, 1970). Retrieved on May 26, 2015.
- Louisiana Almanac, 2006
- Jackie Pope Adams. findagrave.com. Retrieved on October 7, 2014.
- Billy Hathorn (March 29, 1977). City Charter Product of Hours of Planning. The Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved on April 29, 2018.
- "From the Past, The Alexandria Town Talk, April 18, 1977, accessdate=May 26, 2015
- "Ray Allen, former city of Alexandria finance director, dies at age of 89", Alexandria Daily Town Talk, April 7, 2010.
- Cynthia D. Jardon, "Former Alexandria Mayor Carroll Lanier dies at 86, Alexandria Daily Town Talk, accessdate=December 5, 2012
- "Snyder reinstated", Minden Press-Herald, May 8, 1986, p. 1.
- Election Returns (Rapides Parish). Louisiana Secretary of State (October 6, 1990). Retrieved on May 29, 2018.
- "Ex-Alexandria mayor plans to run again", The Shreveport Times, undated newspaper clipping, 1990.
- Pauline Edwards Synder. Oldfindagrave.com. Retrieved on February 3, 2018.
- Maxie Van Herring obituary. Old.findagrave.com. Retrieved on March 2, 2018.
- Ann L. Snyder obituary. The Alexandria Town Talk (January 21, 2018). Retrieved on February 3, 2018.
- "Snyder Dies", Alexandria Daily Town Talk, January 12, 1993.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, State Senate election returns, 1983.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Alexandria mayoral returns, 1969, 1977, and 1986.