Robert J. Barham

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Robert Jocelyn Barham

Louisiana State Senator for
District 33 (Claiborne, Morehouse, Union, and West Carroll parishes)
In office
Preceded by Willie E. Crain
Succeeded by Mike Walsworth

Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Assumed office 
January 2008
Preceded by Bryant Hammett
Succeeded by Charlie Melancon

Born January 15, 1949
Monroe, Louisiana
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (c. 2002)
Spouse(s) Melba Pipes Barham
Relations Edwards Barham (brother)
Children Robert Erle Barham

Rebecca Barham
Henry Barham
Erle McKoin and Rosalie Smith Barham

Residence Oak Ridge
Morehouse Parish
Occupation Farmer
Religion Southern Baptist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army

(Louisiana National Guard)

Rank Medic promoted to Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Robert Jocelyn Barham (born January 25, 1949) is an American farmer from Oak Ridge in Morehouse Parish in northern Louisiana who is a former state senator for District 33, which includes Claiborne, Morehouse, Union, and West Carroll parishes, having served from 1994 to 2008. Barham was elected to the Senate as a Democrat but switched to Republican affiliation in 2002, when he made an unsuccessful primary campaign for U.S. Representative.

After he left the Senate, Barham served for all eight years under the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal as the secretary of his state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In an interview published on January 1, 2008, Barham listed his major LDWF issues would be coastal restoration and controlling invasive aquatic vegetation in lakes and waterways: "We'll be on the front lines of coastal restoration. It's a huge project. It's going to have an impact on fisheries, oyster leases, the environment — but we have no choice. We have to do it."[1]


Barham was born in Monroe to Erle McKoin "Ninety" Barham (1916–1976) and Rosalie Smith Barham (1913–1999). He grew up on the family plantation] in Morehouse Parish along with older brother, the late Erle Edwards Barham, who held this same Senate seat as a Republican from 1976 to 1980. Edwards Barham was the first Republican elected to the Louisiana Senate since Reconstruction. Edwards and Robert Barham were cousins of the late Democratic State Senator Charles C. Barham, who represented an adjoining district based about Ruston from 1964 to 1972 and again from 1976 to 1988.[2]

Barham graduated from Oak Ridge High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In 1970, he entered the United States Army for a two-year stint as a medic in the former South Vietnam. In 1999, he became a colonel in the Louisiana National Guard. Barham also obtained a master's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana State University). In 1994, he completed the "Agricultural Leadership Program" at LSU. He began full-time farming, Robert Barham Farms, Inc., in Oak Ridge in 1972. Barham and his wife, the former Melba Pipes (born 1954), have three children, Robert Erle, Rebecca, and Henry. His son, Robert Erle, is on faculty at Covenant College as an English professor. [3]

Environmental interest

As LDWF secretary, Barham succeeded Bryant Hammett, a Democrat from Ferriday, who served as a state representative from 1992 to 2006. Hammett had been named to the position late in 2006 by then Governor Kathleen Blanco.[1]

When Barham was a boy, his father organized a group of Morehouse Parish landowners who established the Cooley Wildlife Refuge, which became the biggest bird-banding site in Louisiana. Barham fished, hunted, and explored the rivers, streams, lakes and woods of northeastern Louisiana as a teenager and later the entire state as an adult.[1]

Leslie Glasgow, the assistant United States Secretary of the Interior in the administration of U. S. President Richard M. Nixon, chose young Barham to work at Glacier National Park in northernmost Montana. Earlier, Glasgow had been a reform director of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (1966–1968) and a biology professor at LSU. Barham told the Monroe News Star that his experience at Glacier was "amazing. I was mentored by people like my dad and (Glasgow), who knew the importance of our natural resources. Louisiana has 1,500000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas.[1]

Another early mentor of Barham was Claude Hamilton "Grits" Gresham Jr. (1922-2008), the sports journalist who once hosted ABC's The American Sportsman and was a long-time advocate of saving the Louisiana wetlands.[4]

Barham received the 2009 Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the 1999 National Award for Conservation of Natural Resources from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He received the John D. Newsom Award for Wildlife Stewardship.

At the conclusion of his last regular legislative session in 2007, Barham told an interviewer that Louisiana should concentrate on anti-litter efforts and highwa] construction. He lamented that his state is one of the most littered in the nation and urged a public education and law enforcement angle to tackle the problem. He also said that the state should pave the first mile of each highway connecting to Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas to the highest grade possible so as to give travelers coming into Louisiana a favorable first impression.

Barham was succeeded in 2016 as wildlife and fisheries secretary by Charlie Melancon, a former member of the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 3rd congressional district, a post now held by the Republican Clay Higgins, Melancon of Assumption Parish was selected by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Coincidentally, Melancon lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Republican David Vitter, who was defeated for governor by Edwards in the runoff election held on November 21, 2015.

Barham in municipal and state politics

Barham was elected mayor of Oak Ridge in 1983 and served until 1988, when he became a village council member instead. He vacated the municipal post when he took his state Senate seat late in 1994. His affiliations include the Farm Bureau Federation, the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, Louisiana Cotton Producers, and the American Legion. He is a member of the Masonic lodge, a Shriner, and a Southern Baptist.

Barham was first elected as a Democrat in a special election for an unexpired state Senate term held on November 8, 1994, a heavily Republican election year nationally. He defeated then fellow Democrat Johnny Dollar, 13,932 votes to 10,765.[5] He was reelected with 93 percent of the vote in the fall of 1995 for a full four-year term and was unopposed in 1999. Thereafter, he switched parties and ran in 2002 as a Republican for the 5th congressional district seat. He was unopposed again for the state Senate in 2003. Barham was term-limited and was ineligible to have sought reelection to the Senate in 2007.

As a lawmaker, Barham was particularly identified with efforts to halt the dissolution of Louisiana's coastal wetlands. He and other members of his family are known as strong conservationists. His father helped to establish the Tensas Wildlife Refuge near Delhi in Richland Parish.[1]

The congressional race of 2002

In 2002, Barham was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 5th congressional district, a position won by Rodney Alexander, then a state representative for Jackson Parish, who in 2004 switched to Republican affiliation[6] who remained in Congress for eleven years until his retirement in 2013. Among Barham's congressional campaign donors were later State Representative Frank A. Hoffmann and former state Senator Billy Boles, both of Monroe, the Alexandria timberman Roy O. Martin, Jr., the Bastrop architect Hugh G. Parker, Jr., and the[Lamar Advertising Company executive and former legislator Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., of Baton Rouge,[7]

Michael Arthur "Mike" Walsworth, the Republican state representative from West Monroe, was elected to succeed Barham in the state Senate in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 20, 2007; he defeated the outgoing Democratic representative from District 14, Charles R. McDonald of Bastrop.[8]

In the congressional primary, Barham had sought to succeed U.S. Representative John Cooksey of Monroe, who made an ill-fated run in 2002 for the U.S. Senate against Mary Landrieu. Barham entered the primary against two other major Republican candidates, former U.S. Representative Clyde Holloway of Louisiana's 8th congressional district since disbanded, and Lee Fletcher, a young Monroe businessman who had been Cooksey's former chief of staff. Barham ran fourth in the primary, with 34,522 votes (19 percent), in a multi-candidate field.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Greg Hilburn (January 1, 2008). Barham says love of nature runs deep: New LDWF secretary to focus on coastal erosion. Monroe News Star. Retrieved on October 21, 2014.
  2. "Senate to consider honor for Barham," The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, May 5, 2010.
  4. Philip Timothy, "Death of Grits Gresham," Alexandria Town Talk, February 19, 2008.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 8, 1994.
  6. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 5, 2002.
  7. Campaign Contributions to "Robert J. Barham. Retrieved on October 22, 2014.
  8. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 20, 2007.