|Mack Elwin Barham|
Place 4 Justice of the
Louisiana Supreme Court
1968 – 1975
|Succeeded by||James L. Dennis|
Judge of the Louisiana 4th Judicial District, based in Monroe
1962 – 1968
Municipal Judge in Bastrop, Louisiana
1948 – 1962
|Born|| June 18, 1924|
Bastrop, Morehouse Parish
|Died|| November 27, 2006 (aged 82)|
Covingston, St. Tammany Parish
|Spouse(s)||Ann Lavois Barham|
|Children|| Bret Lane Barham
Megan B. Richardson
|Residence|| (1) Bastrop, Louisiana
(2) Monroe, Ouachita Parish
|Alma mater|| Bastrop High School|
A native of Bastrop in Morehouse Parish, Barham spent his later years in New Orleans. However, after Hurricane Katrina waters destroyed his Lakewood home near the 17th Street Canal, he relocated to nearby Covington in St. Tammany Parish.
Barham was the son of Henry A. Barham, Sr. (1882-1961), and Lockie H. Barham (1884–1973). The family owned Barham's Dairy in Bastrop. His brother, Henry Barham, Jr. (1919-1993) and sister-in-law, Ann Jocelyn Heres Barham (1929-2015), operated Barham's Drugs in Bastrop. Ann Barham was the first woman pharmacist in Morehouse Parish.
Mack Barham received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He then entered the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge, at which in 1946, he obtained his law license. Two years later, at the age of twenty-four, he was elected municipal judge of Bastrop, a position which he held until 1962, when he was elected as a Democrat to the Monroe-based Louisiana 4th Judicial District Court bench on which he served for six years until 1968.
The law and Justice Barham
On the Supreme Court, Barham and Justice Albert Tate, Jr., originally from Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, formed a coalition that led to a 4-3 majority of younger judges who began the implementation of the civil rights decisions of the United States Supreme Court.
A member of that new majority, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Frank Calogero, Jr. (1931-2018), called Barham "one of the most industrious judges I came to know." Calogero added: "He was very progressive in supporting process changes on the Supreme Court. He was very capable and he contributed to the evolving jurisprudence. He came on the state court when an extremely conservative court was just beginning to respect the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional matters." Calogero said that he had last seen Barham when the state Supreme Court dedicated the newly renovated courthouse in the 400 block of Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2005.
Subsequent Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball did not serve with Barham but sat on the bench when former Justice Barham argued cases before the court. "He was extremely well prepared and obviously intelligent in presenting his client's position. It was immediately apparent that he was a true student of the law and mastered even the most difficult of concepts with relative ease. He was indeed a brilliant jurist and lawyer," Kimball said.
U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge James L. Dennis, a Monroe native born in 1936 and residing in New Orleans, followed Barham to the state Supreme Court in 1975. Dennis described the former justice as "a true and dear friend, but beyond that he was one of the brightest and most courageous judges I have ever known. I was never privileged to serve on a bench with him, but I followed in his path on the district court to the state Supreme Court. He swore me on at every one of those points." Dennis continued: "I learned from his writings and his examples. He was an outstanding leader in the Louisiana judiciary. He was at the forefront of the civil law renaissance."
After leaving the court, Barham went into the private practice in New Orleans and specialized in appellate practice, administrative law, expropriation, environmental law, and commercial litigation. His last firm was Barham and Arceneaux in New Orleans with his colleague Robert Arceneaux.
One of his most public roles was defending the state of Louisiana in the college desegregation lawsuit. He obtained a negotiated settlement with the United States Department of Justice that led to enhanced funding for historically black institutions.
Mack Barham was a member of the Order of the Coif, Omicron Delta Kappa, Blue Key, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Alpha Delta, Phi Delta Phi, and authored numerous legal scholarly articles. He also taught at the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. In 1987, Barham wrote an article on the legal contributions of Chief Justice Albert Tate, who had died the previous year. The article was published by The Louisiana Law Review.
Family and death
Barham was a distant cousin of two Republican state senators, Robert J. Barham and Edwards Barham, both from rural Oak Ridge, in Morehouse Parish. Robert Barham described Mack Barham as "a very distant cousin. We were closer friends than relatives. Mack Barham set the bar for integrity, ability and intellectual capability on the state Supreme Court. He was always a gentleman and an inspiration to anyone connected with the legal profession."
Barham died at the age of eighty-two in a Covington hospital after a lengthy illness. Survivors include his wife, the former Ann Lavois (born 1925); son, Bret Lane Barham (born 1947), then an attorney in Lake Charles; daughter, Megan Barham Richardson (born 1950) of Covington; a sister, Ertie Mae Bowdon of Birmingham, Alabama; five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Barham was cremated.
Alexandria Town Talk and Monroe News Star, November 28, 2006.