Sydney B. Nelson

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Sydney Banks Nelson

Louisiana State Senator for
District 37 (Caddo and
Bossier parishes)
In office
Preceded by Jackson Beauregard
Davis, Sr.
Succeeded by Gregory J. "Greg" Barro

Born March 12, 1935
Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana
Died January 10, 2022
(aged 86)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Resting place Not mentioned in obituary
Political party Democrat/ later Republican
Spouse(s) Gail Anderson Nelson
(married 1958-2022, his death)
Children Denise Dawn Nelson Akers

Sydney Stephen Nelson

Residence Baton Rouge,
formerly Shreveport
Alma mater University of Oklahoma

Louisiana State University Law Center

Occupation Attorney
Religion United Methodist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1957-1960
Battles/wars Cold War

Nelson attempted to win the position of state Senate President in 1988 regardless of the outcome of the gubernatorial election and was halted by incoming Governor Buddy Roemer, who recommended Allen Bares of Lafayette for the top position in the Senate.

Sydney Banks Nelson (March 12, 1935 – January 10, 2022)[1] was an attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who served from 1980 to 1992 as a Democrat state senator for District 37 in Caddo and Bossier parishes in northwest Louisiana.[2]


A native of Shreveport, Nelson was a son of George Gus Nelson (1903-1981) and the former Eunice Lilley Young (1908-1990), who are interred at Fillmore Cemetery in south Bossier Parish.[3] Nelson was reared in Benton, the Bossier Parish seat of government, where he attained Eagle Scout designation.[1] He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1957 from the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma, at which he held an ROTC Navy scholarship and was highly engaged in campus life.. He graduated thereafter from the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge, at which he was named to the prestigious Order of the Coif, associate editor of the LSU Law Review, and president of the junior class. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1963.[4][1]

He served a one-year clerkship with the U.S. District Judge Benjamin Corneall Dawkins, Jr. (1911-1984) in Shreveport. Thereafter he was employed in he firm, Pugh and Nelson. In 1977, he joined John L. Hammons to establish the firm Nelson & Hammons. Cornell Rushing Flournoy (female) practices in the firm with Hammons. Located a block from the Caddo Parish Court House, Nelson & Hammons emphasizes medical malpractice and personal injury.[5][1] He retired from the Shreveport firm in 2005 and relocated permanently to Baton Rouge in 2013. In his last years, Nelson was listed as "of counsel" for the Baton Rouge firm, Aker and Wisbar, L.L.C.[4]

Legislative service

In 1979, Nelson was initially elected to succeed the Conservative Democrat Jackson Beauregard Davis, Sr. (1918-2016), a Shreveport attorney who did not seek another term that year. In 1988, during his last term in office, Nelson launched an unofficial candidacy for Senate President. The incumbent, Samuel Bernard Nunez, Jr. (1930-2012) of Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, had been a state representative first elected in 1964 and a senator since 1968. Nelson had traveled across the state for several years prior to 1988, having visited senators in their home districts in an attempt to secure commitments for Senate president.[6]

Named the "Conscience of the Senate," Nelson opposed mandates to teach creation science and permit prayer in public schools on what he cited grounds of the "separation of church and state." Senator Nelson was instrumental in revising and passing modifications to forced heirship, motivated by experiences of his clients. He was also involved in changes to the workers compensation and unemployment compensation laws.[1]

State Representative Ron Gomez of Lafayette, in his memoir entitled My Name Is Ron and I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative (2000), describes Nelson, accordingly:

Nelson, very professorial looking with his wire-rimmed glasses, was extremely meticulous in his approach to legislation. Although I thought his voting record was too liberal and trial lawyer-oriented, I liked the way he had conducted his campaign for Senate President. He was going after the presidency no matter who was elected governor [in 1987]."[7]

Gomez said that he learned that Nelson had asked Allen Bares, a more conservative member from Lafayette, to run for president pro-tem of the Senate in conjunction with Nelson's bid for president. "That way the president would be from north Louisiana, and the pro-tem from the south. Of course, Governor Roemer, like Nelson, was from the Shreveport area Their meeting with Roemer was intended, of course, to get his endorsement and support [for their dual candidacies]."[8]

Instead, Roemer picked Bares for Senate President and Jimmy Dimos of Monroe in Ouachita Parish for House Speaker.[9] In Louisiana, unlike most states, the governor usually is allowed to hand-pick the legislative leadership. Therefore, Nelson's "candidacy" for Senate president had always been dependent on gubernatorial preference.[10] In 1992, Nunez returned as Senate president, as Nelson left office.

Nelson was unopposed in the 1987 nonpartisan blanket primary, the last time his name appeared on the ballot. In 1990, Nelson opposed legislation authored by Senator Mike Cross to ban abortion in cases of rape and incest and impose fines of up to $100,000 and ten years imprisonment on the practitioners thereof. Governor Roemer declared the legislation incompatible with the United States Supreme Court opinion Roe v. Wade. His veto[11] alienated large numbers of his conservative electoral base. The legislature subsequently overrode Roemer's veto with an even larger margin than in the original bill – another slap at Roemer. State Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, one of the leading abortion foes in the legislature, said that a prohibition regarding rape and incest is needed to prevent women from filing false claims in such matters. Nelson, however, said that he opposed the abortion ban because of the problems of unwanted children and defective births.[12] In 1991, United States District Judge Adrian Guy Duplantier, Sr. (1929-2007) of New Orleans, a former state senator, ruled that the measure was in conflict with Roe v. Wade.

Nelson did not seek a fourth term in the primary election held on October 19, 1991. Instead, the Democrat Gregory J. Barro of Shreveport led the field with 11,224 votes (34 percent). Republican Ronald Bradford "Ron" Fayard (1946-2011), a native of Mississippi and a real estate agent and civic leader in Bossier City,[13][14] trailed with 10,228 votes (31 percent). The Democrat and later a Republican judge, Parker Self of Bossier City, received 29 percent of the vote; a second Republican candidate, Shreveport attorney Leroy Havard Scott, Jr. (1922-2003), held the remaining 5.5 percent of the ballots cast.[15] In the general election, Barro defeated Fayard, 22,616 votes (58.9 percent) to 15,803 (41.1 percent).[16] Barro's victory occurred on the same day that Edwin Edwards staged his fourth-term comeback in a large victory over former Ku Klux Klansman and state Representative David Duke, who ran as a Republican but without the support of most party leaders. Governor Buddy Roemer had been eliminated in the primary with a third-place finish.

Personal life

Nelson was a member of the board at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport and then Baton Rouge, the board chairman of the Volunteers of America of North Louisiana, vice chairman of the LSU Health Sciences Foundation, president of the Shreveport Bar Association, and the chairman of Caddo-Bossier Legal Aid Board. He was named "Mr. Shreveport" in 2005 by virtue of his community service.[1]

Nelson and his wife, the former Gail Anderson (born March 1936), have two children, Denise Dawn Nelson Akers (husband James "Jim" Bert Akers, Jr.) and Sydney Stephen Nelson (wife Elsa Valderrama Nelson). He had four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[1]

In 2014, the Louisiana secretary of state listed Nelson as a Republican registered to vote in East Baton Rouge Parish. He was still a Republican as of April 2021.[17]

Nelson died in Baton Rouge at the age of eighty-six; services were delayed because of the coronavirus.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Sydney Nelson obituary. The Baton Rouge Advocate (January 12, 2022). Retrieved on January 13, 2022.
  2. SENATE DIRECTORY 1880-Present (, accessed April 22, 2021.
  3. George G. Nelson. findagrave. Retrieved on January 13, 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sydney B. Nelson. Retrieved on April 22, 2021.
  5. NelsonHammons. Retrieved on April 24, 2010; no longer on-line.
  6. Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron and I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, (Lafayette, Louisiana: : Zemog Publishing, 2000) p. 183; ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
  7. Ron Gomez, pp. 183-184.
  8. Ron Gomez, p. 184.
  9. Ron Gomez, p. 185.
  10. Ron Gomez, p. 185.
  11. Roemer vetoes abortion bil," Minden Press-Herald, July 27, 1990, p. 1.
  12. "Abortion: Roemer vows veto, Jenkins, an override," Minden Press-Herald, June 28, 1990, p. 3.
  13. Ronald Bradford Fayard obituary. The Shreveport Times (March 11, 2011). Retrieved on April 22, 2021.
  14. Real Estate Guide Directory in Bossier City. Retrieved on April 24, 2010.
  15. Louisiana Secretary of State, Primary election returns, October 19, 1991.
  16. Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, November 15, 1991.
  17. Voter Portal. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on April 22, 2021.