U. T. Downs

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Uriah Thomas "U. T." Downs

In office
Preceded by H. F. Bradford
Succeeded by J. M. Rembert

Sheriff of Rapides Parish, Louisiana
In office

Born October 12, 1880
La Salle Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died July 21, 1941
Rapides Parish, Louisiana
Resting place Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Callie McCann Downs (married 1900-1941, his death)
Relations Jam Downs (grandson)

James U. Downs (grandson)

Children Carey Downs

Carl Carney Downs
J. Earl Downs
Ruby Downs
Zola Downs Penny
Clifton Downs
Crawford H. "Sammy" Downs

Alma mater Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana 
Occupation Businessman
Religion Southern Baptist

Uriah Thomas Downs, known as U. T. Downs (October 12, 1880 – July 21, 1941), was a Democratic politician from Central Louisiana, who served in the early part of the 20th century as the mayor of Pineville and the sheriff of Rapides Parish. He was the patriarch of a political family that in time produced a state senator, city commissioner, district attorney, and judge.  


Born in LaSalle Parish in North Louisiana, Downs was the second of seven children of  Thomas Crawford Downs (1854-1930) and the former Margaret Ruth Whatley (1854-1927). His paternal grandfather was Crawford Downs, originally from  Mississippi. His maternal grandfather, Uriah Whatley, came to Louisiana c. 1812 as a Methodist circuit rider. Thomas Downs was born in Ouachita Parish; Margaret Downs, in Catahoula Parish.[1]

U. T. Downs was educated at Jena High School in Jena in LaSalle Parish. He was engaged in the mercantile business in Pineville, located on the eastern side of the Red River from Alexandria. Downs was a deacon and Sunday school superintendent of the First Baptist Church of Pineville. He was also affiliated with the Masonic lodge in Pineville, the Knights of Pythias  in Alexandria, and the Woodmen of the World.[1]

Political life

For eight years from 1918 to 1926, Downs was the part-time mayor of Pineville. In January 1924, he was elected sheriff of Rapides Parish, a position based in Alexandria which he held for the next sixteen years.[1] It is unclear if he was both mayor and sheriff for the year and a half between July 1924 and 1926.   In November 1939, Sheriff Downs and three of his deputies W. C. Nash, N. G. Aymond, and Roy Yerby, were among nineteen persons named in sixty-six indictments by a Rapides Parish grand jury.[2] The four were charged with malfeasance in office. Others faced charges for bribery, embezzlement, and income tax violations. Then Mayor Victor Vance Lamkin (1881-1950) of Alexandria, a supporter of Governor Earl Kemp Long was charged with bribery and malfeasance in office. Mayor Rollo C. Lawrence, the mayor of Pineville from 1930 to 1946, and State Representative Richmond C. Hathorn were indicted for dual-officeholding or being "deadheads" on the state payroll.[3] Other indictments were issued against George C. Gray, the former Alexandria police chief and a candidate to succeed Downs as sheriff, and Alexandria police officers Allen E. Zachary and Joseph T. Ohman.[2]   In the 1920s, Sheriff Downs was for two years the "Exalted Cyclops" of the No. 12 unit of the Ku Klux Klan. When the white supremacist organization folded its Rapides Parish chapter, he joined a still functioning KKK unit in the capital city of Atlanta, Georgia.[1]


Like his parents, Downs and his wife, the former Callie McCann (1884-1983),[4] had seven children. Two entered Louisiana politics. Crawford Hugh "Sammy" Downs, an Alexandria educator-turned-lawyer, was a member of both houses of the legislature for Rapides Parish and an associate of Governors Earl Long and John J. McKeithen.[5] J. Earl Downs was from 1954 to 1962 the commissioner of public safety in Shreveport, Louisiana, when that city operated under the city commission government. The other Downs children were Carey, Carl Carney (1903-1974), Ruby Downs (died 2000), Zola Downs Penny (1909-2006), and Clifton.[1] Downs had two grandsons who became prominent lawyers, Jam Downs, the Rapides Parish district attorney prior to his retirement in 2015,[6] and James U. Downs, a North Carolina superior court judge from 1983 to 2013, since returned to private practice.[7]

Downs, his wife, and other family members are interred at Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Henry E. Chambers (1925). Uriah T. Downs in A History of Louisiana: Wilderness, Colony, Province, Territory, State, People. Chicago and New York City: The American Historical Society, Inc., 245–246. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Many Public Officials in List of Nineteen Indicted. Biloxi Daily Herald (December 1, 1939). Retrieved on October 1, 2014.
  3. High Officials of Louisiana Are Indicted. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (December 2, 1939). Retrieved on October 1, 2014.
  4. Callie McCann. familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Retrieved on January 3, 2014.
  5. Crawford H. "Sammy" Downs. The Baton Rouge Advocate (May 15, 1985). Retrieved on January 3, 2015.
  6. Rick, Markway, "The Prosecutor: District Attorney James Crawford 'Jam' Downs". lwaa.org. Retrieved on June 27, 2013.
  7. Judge Downs returns to private practice. The Macon County (North Carolina) News (April 17, 2014). Retrieved on January 4, 2015.