Lula Wardlow

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Lula Ethridge Warlow​

Mayor of Montgomery
Grant Parish, Louisiana, USA
In office
1926​ – 1930​

Born April 9, 1876​
Grant Parish, Louisiana, USA​
Died August 1, 1970 (aged 94)​
Austin, Texas
Resting place Mount Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in Wheeling in Winn Parish, Louisiana
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Felix Graves Wardlow (married 1901-1970, her death)​
Children Felix Ray Wardlow​

Westley Bernie Wardlow​
James Wesley and Alpha Jane Baker Ethridge​
Stephen Gunn (great-nephew)

Alma mater Moody Bible Institute (Chicago)​
Occupation Clergywoman
Religion Methodist

Lula Ethridge Wardlow (April 9, 1876 – August 1, 1970) was a businesswoman, Methodist minister, and the first woman ever elected mayor of a Louisiana community. She served from 1926 to 1930 in Montgomery (population 730 in the 2010 census), a town in northwestern Grant Parish.


​ Wardlow was born in Grant Parish to James Wesley Ethridge (1852-1912) and the former Alpha Jane Baker (1848-1949). Both of her parents were from distinguished pioneer families. James Wesley Ethridge was a planter, merchant, and owner of a cotton gin. She was educated in the Montgomery public schools and studied for two years at the Moody Bible Institute, established by the evangelist Dwight L. Moody in Chicago, Illinois.[1]

On April 3, 1901, Lula married Felix Graves Wardlow (1871-1974), a merchant and farmer in Montgomery, located some forty miles north of Alexandria in north central Louisiana and twenty-five miles southeast of Natchitoches.[1][2]​ ​


Wardlow became a lay preacher in 1909 and was admitted, pending study and internship, in the then Methodist Protestant Church in 1912. She was ordained an elder in 1916 and was conference evangelist from 1913 to 1920. She was the pastor of the Hicks circuit from 1921 to 1922 and thereafter other circuits in north Louisiana.[1]

In 1926, she was elected mayor of Montgomery as a Democrat[3] on a call for "reform" and incorporation of the Montgomery community. She was re-elected to a second two-year term in 1928 but resigned in 1930 to devote more time to family and the ministry.[1] Her great-nephew, Stephen Gunn, was elected Montgomery mayor some seventy-two years after Wardlow vacated the office. An Independent, Gunn who also served as a Democratic state representatives, was elected mayor in 2002 and again in 2006 with minimal opposition.​ He since returned to the mayoral office.

Wardlow was featured in Louisiana newspapers in the late 1920s as the state's first woman mayor. She was remembered for gravel-surfacing of the town's dirt streets and securing the first electric, water, and gas systems. She pushed for strict enforcement of anti-gambling and prohibition laws which worked to clean up the community image. Through the years governors, gubernatorial candidates, and other politicians called upon her when they campaigned in Grant Parish.​[1]

After her political stint, Wardlow was pastor of the Methodist Church in Colfax (pronounced COLL FAX), the Grant Parish seat of government. In 1939, she attended the historic national conference of Methodism, which officially merged her own Methodist Protestant Church with the Methodist Episcopal churches, both South and North into what became in 1968 the United Methodist Church. She retired from full-time ministerial duties in 1942 but continued to accept interim assignments in rural north Louisiana for another two decades. In 1952, at the age of seventy-six, she embarked on a short missionary assignment to villages in Cuba. She has been called one of the three most important women in the 150-year history of Louisiana Methodism.[1]​​


Wardlaw died at the age of ninety-four in Austin, Texas. She is interred beside her husband at the Mount Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in the Wheeling community of Winn Parish, east of Montgomery.[1] Son Westley Bernie Wardlow (1902-1986) is interred at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery in Austin, Texas. A second son who died in infancy, Felix Wardlow (1905-1906), is interred at the Montgomery Methodist Church Cemetery in Montgomery, Louisiana.[4]

One of her nieces, Madeline Elizabeth Williams Erwin Brady (1915-1998), a native of West Baton Rouge Parish, was a Grant Parish public school teacher for thirty-seven years and a long-time pianist and organist at the Montgomery United Methodist Church who began playing music at the age of six.[5]​ ​ The Louisiana historian Hubert D. Humphreys, whose family roots were in the Methodist Protestant Church, was among those who wrote articles on Wardlow's unique career.​ ​ The second woman mayor in Louisiana, Myrtis Lucille Gregory Methvin served in Castor in Bienville Parish from 1933 to 1945.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Wardlow, Lula. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography: Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on May 6, 2020.
  2. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography uses these sources for its article on Lula Wardlow: Mable Fletcher Harrison and Lavinia McGuire McNeely, Grant Parish, Louisiana: A History (1969); The Alexandria Town Talk, July 6, 1929; September 9, 1929; obituary, August 1970;The New Orleans States (defunct), August 25, 1929; The Shreveport Times, July 16, 1967; Who’s Who in Methodism (1952); Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana (1890); Minutes of the , Louisiana Annu, and personal information from her great-nephew, Stephen Lee "Steve Gunn.
  3. Another Alexandria Town Talk article on April 15, 2007, mistakenly refers to Wardlow as having been appointed in 1920 as the mayor of Jena in LaSalle Parish by then Governor John Milliken Parker (1863-1939), but Wardlow was from Grant Parish, and she was twice elected mayor and not appointed.
  4. Lula Ethridge Wardlow. Retrieved on May 6, 2020.
  5. Madeline Elizabeth Williams Erwin Brady. Retrieved on May 6, 2020.