Robert Ewing, I

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Robert Wilson Ewing, I

(Louisiana newspaper publisher and political activist)

Born September 27, 1859
Mobile, Alabama, USA
Died April 27, 1931 (aged 71)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Political Party Democrat
Spouse (1) May Dunbrack (married 1883-1904, her death)

(2) Grace Nolan Mackay (married 1917-1931, his death)
Five sons and one daughter, James Lindsay Ewing, II, John Dunbrack Ewing (1892–1952), Toulmin H. Ewing, Robert W. Ewing, II, Esther Ewing
James Lindsay and Martha Hunter Lindsay

Robert Wilson Ewing, I, also known as Colonel Ewing (September 27, 1859 – April 27, 1931), was a prominent newspaper journalist, editor, and publisher and political figure, primarily in Louisiana, in the last two decades of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century.[1]


Ewing was born in Mobile, Alabama, to James Lindsay Ewing, a cotton merchant, and the former Martha Hunter. At the age of thirteen, he was a messenger for the Western Union Telegraph Company. At seventeen, he was a telegrapher for the Associated Press. In 1879, he helped establish and managed the Mobile division of the Union Telegraph Company. After he joined a strike of the Order of Telegraphers union, Ewing was blacklisted (now known as the "Cancel Culture") in Mobile. He therefore relocated to New Orleans, where he managed the former Morning Chronicle, a journal owned by the conservative Democrat Henry J. Hearsey (1810-1900), who also published the New Orleans Daily States.[1]


In 1888, Ewing became affiliated with the reform, anti-machine faction of city politics. He served in the administration of New Orleans Mayor Joseph Ansoategui Shakespeare (1837-1896)[2] as an innovative city electrician and superintendent of the police telegraphy and fire-alarm systems. He also served for a time as the New Orleans municipal tax collector. Under Hearsey's tutelage, Ewing was also telegraph editor, circulation and business manager, and editor and proprietor of the Daily States, later the defunct States-Item. He was furthermore nationally prominent in the AP, having served two terms as vice president of the organization.[1]

In 1908, while still the publisher of the defunct Daily States, Ewing purchased the still operating Shreveport Times. In the latter 1920s, he bought the two newspapers in Monroe: the defunct Morning World and the remaining Monroe News Star,[1] since switched to morning publication. He was hence among the two or three most influential persons in the Louisiana journalism community.

In 1898, Ewing was elected to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention held that year. He was backed by the New Orleans Regular Democrats. He thereafter worked to organize the Choctaw Club, which opponents claimed was a political machine that sought to dominate state politics until 1920. Ewing's political influence was such that he was the Louisiana Democratic national committeeman from 1908 to 1930. In 1908, Ewing was a manager of the third failed presidential campaign of former U.S. Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska.[1]

Like the rice broker Edward M. House in Houston Texas, Ewing claimed to have been particularly influential in securing the Democratic nomination in 1912 for then Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, a figure in the progressive movement. Ewing was a Louisiana delegate to the Democratic convention that nominated Wilson on the 46th ballot. Edward House and Wilson both wore the honorary title of "Colonel.'[1] Bryan was Wilson's secretary of state from 1913 to 1915, and House was Wilson's chief advisor from 1913 to 1919.

After Wilson's election as president with a plurality of popular votes over William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, Ewing was a powerful political figure in the state. He spoke for contradictory interests: (1) the New Freedom Democrat political reforms and (2) the conservative planters and machine politicians.[1]

In 1928, Ewing broke with the Regular Democrats of New Orleans to support Huey Pierce Long, Jr., for governor. His relationship with the Louisiana "Kingfish" was a stormy one. Ewing supported Long's impeachment by the Louisiana of Representatives, with the anti-Long forces led by Cecil Morgan of Shreveport. Long, however, was not convicted by the state Senate and finished his one term as governor, even being elected to the United States Senate as well. Long accused Ewing of having attempted and failed to dictate Long's policies.[1]

Personal life

Ewing was twice married. In 1883, he wed the former May Dunbrack of Nova Scotia, Canada. She died in 1904. In 1917, after thirteen years as a widower, Ewing wed the former Grace Nolan Mackay of Kansas City Missouri. He had five sons and one daughter: James Lindsay Ewing, II, John Dunbrack Ewing (1892–1952), Toulmin H. Ewing, Robert W. Ewing, II, Esther Ewing, and Wilson Ewing, named for Ewing's presidential favorite. Wilson Ewing's son was Robert W. Ewing, III (1936–2007), a member of the Monroe News Star board of directors and a nature photographer.[1]

On Ewing's death, second son John D. Ewing became publisher of the Shreveport and Monroe newspapers and held those positions until his own death.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Dictionary of Louisiana Biography - E - Louisiana Historical Association (, accessed April 20, 2021.
  2. Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans: Shakespeare (, accessed April 20, 2021.

Further reading

  • T. Harry Williams, Huey Long (1969).