R. Harmon Drew, Sr.

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Richard Harmon Drew, Sr.

Drew as a young man in the 1930s

Ward 1 or City Judge in
Minden, Louisiana
In office
Preceded by Robert "Rob" Watkins
Succeeded by Cecil C. Lowe

Minden Ward 1 or City Judge
In office
1978 – January 3, 1984
Preceded by Graydon K. Kitchens, Jr.
Succeeded by Marshall R. Pearce (interim)

Minden City Judge (interim)
In office
Preceded by Harmon Drew, Jr.
Succeeded by John Cecil Campbell

Louisiana State Representative
for District 10 (Webster Parish)
In office
Preceded by Parey Branton
Succeeded by Bruce Martin Bolin

Born February 5, 1917
Minden, Louisiana
Died December 18, 1995 (aged 78)
Minden, Louisiana
Resting place Minden Cemetery
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) (1) Margaret Taylor Elam Drew (married 1940–1977, her death)

(2) Chloe Waters Powell Drew (married 1978–1991, her death) Parents:
Harmon Caldwell Drew
Annie Lucile Grigsby Drew

Relations Richard Maxwell Drew (great-grandfather)

Richard Cleveland Drew (grandfather)
Joseph Barton Elam, Sr. (wife's grandfather)
Charles Wheaton Elam (wife's uncle)
Harvey Locke Carey (former brother-in-law)
Robert Corley White (former son-in-law)
Robert Drew White (grandson)

Children From first marriage:

Elizabeth Taylor Drew "Beth" White Weaver
Richard Harmon Drew, Jr.
Margaret Caldwell Drew Colvin

Alma mater Minden High School;

Kemper Military School
Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana State University Law Center

Occupation Judge; Attorney
Religion Presbyterian

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Rank Sergeant
Battles/wars World War II Pacific Theater of Operations
  • A conservative Democrat, Drew served on his party's state executive committee, as a delegate to the 1973 state constitutional convention, and for seven years in the state legislature, but he was known for his political independence in general elections and friendship with various Republicans.
  • Drew was descended from one of the first families to have arrived in Webster Parish prior to the middle of the 19th century.
  • Drew served three stints as the Minden municipal judge and at one point was succeeded by and preceded by his son, Harmon Drew, Jr.

Richard Harmon Drew, Sr. (February 5, 1917 – December 18, 1995), was a fourth generation judge and a Democratic state representative who was descended from pioneer families of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. The first Drew in the area, Newett Drew (born in 1772 in Virginia), established a grist mill on Dorcheat Bayou in 1818 in what became the former community of Overton, subsequently obliterated by yellow fever. Drew's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all held judicial positions, based in Shreveport.[1]

Education and early years

Drew was born in Minden to Circuit Judge Harmon Caldwell Drew and the former Annie Lucile Grigsby (1890-1974). His mother was born in Dubberly in south Webster Parish, the daughter of Dr. Samuel M. Grigsby (1860-1892) and the former Mary Elizabeth Myers (1860-1941), who had lived in Minden she was a two-year-old.[2]

Drew's paternal grandfather was Judge Richard Cleveland Drew. His great-grandfather, Richard Maxwell Drew, died at the age of twenty-eight but had been a district judge and state representative from 1848 to 1850. Drew graduated in 1933 from Minden High School. He attended the former Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri. He then obtained his bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston in Lincoln Parish.

In August 1936, young Drew was accidentally shot while fly-fishing with a friend on Dorcheat Bayou west of Minden. The wound required an operation for full recovery.[3]

Drew received his legal credentials from the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge and was admitted to the bar in 1941. Thereafter, he was a sergeant with the United States Army Air Corps, specifically the 13th Air Force Service Command, during World War II. He was stationed in the southwest Pacific Theater of Operations. After military service, Drew served simultaneously from 1945 to 1948 as the Minden city attorney and the assistant district attorney under D. A. Arthur M. Wallace, Sr., of Benton in Bossier Parish for the 26th Judicial District (Webster and Bossier parishes.

In January 1954, a Cadillac driven by the country singer William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell (1928-1975) crashed into the home of Judge Drew on Elm Street near E.S. Richardson Elementary School while Frizzell was speeding through Minden. Harmon Drew, Jr., recalls that his father always thought Frizzell, a native of Corsicana, Texas, who was at the time headed to a concert in Mississippi, had a "bad attitude".[4] Frizzell apologized, said that he hoped to visit Minden again under more favorable circumstances, posted bond and took a taxicab back to Shreveport, from which he flew to his destination.[5]

In 1975, fire engulfed the Drew home, and Representative Drew and his first wife narrowly averted death though the rescue efforts of Minden firefighters.[6]

Judicial elections

In 1948, Governor Earl Kemp Long, winner in the first Democratic primary, appointed Drew to the Minden city judgeship, which had become vacant by the death of Judge Robert "Rob" Watkins. Drew had supported Long in the 1948 gubernatorial primary, in which his father's old rival, Robert F. Kennon, and former Governor Sam Houston Jones were also candidates. However, Judge Harmon Caldwell Drew had engaged in a heated political confrontation with Huey Pierce Long, Jr., in 1933 when the then U.S. Senator visited Minden.[7] Nevertheless, Harmon Drew, Sr. had reconciled with the Longs for the time being. After he secured the city judgeship by appointment, Drew was elected later in the year to a full six-year term. Drew's uncle, Allyn Sidney "Skeet" Drew (1897-1956), the older brother of Harmon Caldwell Drew, was the first judge of the Minden City Court, also known as the Webster Parish Ward 1 Court, a position that he assumed in 1928.

Late in 1952, while still the Minden city judge, Drew ran unsuccessfully in a special election for the position of Bossier-Webster district attorney for the 26th Judicial District. He was defeated in a runoff election by Louis H. Padgett Jr. (1913–1980), of Bossier City. The two-parish totals were 5,887 for Padgett and 3,417 for Drew, who ran particularly poorly in northern Webster Parish.[8] Eliminated in the first round of balloting was later City Judge and 26th Judicial District Judge Cecil C. Lowe of Minden.[9] In that campaign, Drew had allied himself with the young Bossier Parish lawyer Monty Wyche, who would have handled the western portion of the 26th Judicial District in Benton, with Drew in charge of the eastern part in Minden. Similarly, Padgett had allied himself with the Minden attorney John B. Benton Jr. (1924–2009), who wound up with the duties in the eastern part of the district that Drew had anticipated for himself.[8] Padgett remained as district attorney until December 29, 1970, when Benton succeeded him.[10] Wyche, meanwhile, was from 1969 to 1988 a judge of the 26th Judicial District Court.[11]

In 1954, Drew did not seek reelection as city judge and was succeeded in that post by Cecil Lowe, the other unsuccessful candidate for district attorney in 1952 who was the appointed Minden city attorney from 1949 to 1954.[9] In the runoff election for city judge, Lowe defeated fellow Democrat A. Eugene Frazier.[12] Drew therefore resumed his private practice of law in Minden from 1955 to 1978. In 1976, Lowe, a graduate of the LSU Law School, left the city judgeship to become judge of the 26th Judicial District Court, a position which he held until his retirement in 1988; thereafter, Lowe served as an ad hoc judge on the[Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport.[9]

McClendon defeats Drew

On July 23, 1960, Drew ran in the Louisiana 26th Judicial District for the new Division B judgeship, but he was defeated by fellow Democrat Enos C. McClendon Jr. of Minden, 6,107 to 5,261.[13] Although Drew won in Webster Parish, he lost to McClendon in Bossier Parish. Oddly, Drew's former brother-in-law, Harvey Locke Carey (1915-1984), the clerk of the Louisiana House in 1948, was an unsuccessful judicial candidate in the same election but for the other judgeship, Division A, based in Bossier Parish.[13] In the "Division A" contest, the winner was O. E. Price of Bossier City.[13] The previous district judge prior to McClendon was James Edwin Bolin, Sr. (1914-2002), who at the time advanced to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

Other political roles

In the 1963 Democratic primary, Drew had backed then New Orleans Mayor Chep Morrison, considered the most liberal of the major primary candidates. Morrison lost to John J. McKeithen, who polled a large majority in both Minden and Webster Parish in the Democratic runoff primary. A former Minden resident, former Governor Robert Kennon, was also running in the 1963 primary and finished in fourth place statewide. In 1940, Kennon had defeated Drew's father, Harmon Caldwell Drew, for a seat on the appeal court on which Harmon Drew, Jr., still serves as of 2011.

In 1968, Drew was elected to the first of three terms on the Democratic State Central Committee. Even though he was a party official, Drew was "pretty independent and very conservative" and supported Ronald W. Reagan over Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in 1980 and 1984, respectively, said his son Harmon, Jr. In 1978, Drew released a letter of support for Republican congressional candidate [[Jimmy Wilson], a former state House colleague from Vivian in northern Caddo Parish. Wilson lost a disputed election to Democrat Anthony Claude "Buddy" Leach, Jr., who had also been one of Drew's House colleagues.

Legislative service

In 1971, Drew entered the race to succeed state Representative Parey Branton, a conservative Democrat from rural Shongaloo in central Webster Parish. Branton did not seek a fourth term in the state House but instead ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor. Drew faced a crowded field in the Democratic primary. He narrowly led in the balloting with 3,026 votes (25.2 percent). In second place was the attorney and former mayor of Springhill, Charles McConnell, who received 2,916 ballots (24.3 percent). McConnell had unsuccessfully challenged Branton in 1967. In third place was the Minden educator Ralph Lamar Rentz, Sr. (1930–1995), who polled 2,739 votes (22.8 percent). Rentz proposed that Webster Parish establish a two-year educational program past the twelfth grade of high school to assist students seeking four-year college degrees, a reform implemented in Bossier Parish in 1967 which eventually became Bossier Parish Community College. Minden businessman Houston Morris finished in fourth place with 2,101 votes (17.5 percent). Two other candidates, including N. J. Cone Jr., split the remaining 1,216 votes (10.1 percent). In that same primary, Drew was reelected to the Democratic State Central Committee by defeating Minden physician Ronzee McIntyre Bridges Sr. (1926–1992), a Shreveport native who served as a member of the Webster Parish School Board and was a long-term backer of Richard M. Nixon for U.S. President.[14] That tabulation was 7,303 (60.2 percent) for Drew and 4,821 (39.8 percent) for Bridges.[15]

Drew hence went into a December 18, 1971, primary runoff with McConnell, who advocated revision of the state tax code, greater industrial development, and the expansion of vocational technical education.[16] With strong support in the Minden area, Drew easily defeated McConnell, 6,774 votes (57.7 percent) to 4,965 (42.3 percent).[17]

The fiscally prudent Drew warned his colleagues of the limits of excessive spending. He worked for passage in 1976 of the state's right-to-work law, along with such colleagues as John Hainkel], Jr., and E. Clark Gaudin. An early sign that the legislation could pass was the 49-44 House vote sending the legislation to the more favorable House Education Committee, on the basis of its application to state college and university employees, instead of the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, whose members were more likely to kill the bill.[18]

Drew worked to raise the minimum compensation for workers injured on the job even though he was not considered a supporter of organized labor.

In 1975, Drew was unopposed for his second term in the House in Louisiana's first nonpartisan blanket primary in which all candidates regardless of party appear on the same ballot. Drew did not complete his second legislative term; instead he ran once again for Minden city judge, the post that he had left twenty-four years earlier. In 1978, Drew regained the city judgeship by defeating Minden attorney Henry Grady Hobbs (1923-2012),[19] who had lost the Democratic runoff primary in 1960 to Branton by only sixteen votes. Drew received 4,710 votes (70 percent) to 1,978 ballots (30 percent) for Hobbs.[20] Drew retired as city judge effective January 3, 1984, before his term expired. He was succeeded as city judge by the interim appointee, Marshall R. Pearce, a native of Ruston. Later in the year, Harmon Drew Jr. was elected to succeed his father as city judge, when the appointed Pearce was ineligible to run for a full term in the position.[21] On November 1, 1984, Drew administered the oath of office to his son, Drew, Jr.[22]

Drew's legislative successor was a 28-year-old Minden attorney, Bruce Bolin, the son of another former state representative and judge, James Edwin Bolin, Sr. Bruce Bolin won a special election on December 16, 1978, over the Minden businessman and Webster Parish Police Juror Achillea Gust "Ike" Kirkikis (1926–2004). In 1990, Bolin, like Drew twelve years earlier, resigned from the legislature. Bolin became a 26th Judicial District judge and served until his retirement in 2012. Also in the state House race was the third-place candidate, outgoing Minden Mayor J. E. "Pat" Patterson.

After leaving the city judge's position for the second time, Drew resumed his law practice. Then in 1988, when his son vacated the city judgeship for the district court, Drew Sr. returned to the city bench as an interim appointee selected by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Previously governors had made such appointments, but the new state constitution of 1974 placed that decision in the hands of the Supreme Court. As the interim judge, Drew criticized the high level of federal control over the local judiciary, a situation that he had sought to address earlier as a legislator.[23]

Constitutional convention delegate

In the summer of 1972, just weeks after he had taken his office as a legislator, Drew was elected as a delegate to the nonpartisan Louisiana constitutional convention held in 1973. With 3,194 votes, he defeated attorney Roy Morris Fish of Springhill and journalist Eddy Arnold, then of Minden, who polled 1,746 and 714 votes, respectively. The delegate position corresponded to Drew's District 10 House seat.[24]

The convention wrote the document that voters approved in 1974 to replace the Constitution of 1921. The convention included familiar political names like State Senator B. B. "Sixty" Rayburn of Bogalusa but also individuals who would later become major players in Louisiana politics: future Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner James H. "Jim" Brown, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish, and future Governor Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III, of Bossier Parish. Also in the delegation from Webster Parish was the Republican mayor of Minden, Tom Colten, who was appointed by Governor Edwin Edwards. The convention adopted a streamlined constitution that modernized governmental procedures and largely strengthened executive power. It was strongly supported by Governor Edwards. Previously both Drew's father and grandfather had been delegates to the two earlier constitutional conventions, respectively.

Drew's obituary and legacy

A reformed alcoholic, Drew spent nearly four decades assisting many area residents who were attempting to recover from alcoholism. He founded the Minden chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.[25]

Drew was twice married. His first wife, the former Margaret Taylor Elam (1919-1977), was a native of Mansfield in De Soto Parish. Margaret's father, Joseph Barton Elam Jr., was a lobbyist in Shreveport for Standard Oil Company. Her grandfather, Joseph Barton Elam, Sr., was the first mayor of Mansfield, a member and Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and a U.S. Representative. Her uncle, Charles Wheaton Elam (1866-1917) of Mansfield, was also a Louisiana state representative and a founder of the Louisiana State University Law Center. The Elams moved from Mansfield to Shreveport when Margaret was eight years old and lived in the Fairfield neighborhood. After Elam's premature death of a heart attack in 1932, Mrs. Elam, the former Margaret "Maggie" Taylor, relocated the family to Baton Rouge so that they would be near LSU to provide more easily for her four children's education. Margaret Drew was the youngest of Maggie's children.

Harmon and Margaret met at LSU, where she was an undergraduate in education and a cheerleader, and he was in law school. They were married at St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge on December 7, 1940.

The Drews had one son and two daughters. Judge Drew, Jr. ,of Minden is married to the former Jean Talley of Bogalusa in Washington Parish. The older Drew daughter, Elizabeth Taylor Drew White Weaver (1942-1996), was a Minden real estate broker, first married to Robert Corley "Bob" White, the Minden city attorney during the early 1970s. Their son, Robert Drew White (born October 1966)[26] is a financial planner and a Republican former member of the Minden City Council, with service in District D from 2003 to 2006.[27] Elizabeth White subsequently died of meningitis at the age of fifty-three; she was survived by her second husband, Harold James Weaver (born December 1940) of Minden. The second Drew daughter, known originally as Caldwell Drew (born July 1950), is married to James Wiley Colvin; the couple resides in Springhill.[26]

Margaret Drew, a substitute teacher in the Minden schools, died of lung cancer, the same affliction that had taken the life of her father-in-law. She died shortly after being appointed head of the Louisiana Archeological Survey and Antiquities Commission.[28][29]

In November 1978, Drew married Chloe Waters Powell (1919–1991), who had worked for more than three decades for the former Minden Bank and Trust Company. She was the widow of Ralph Powell (1911–1977) of Minden.[26] Drew acquired a stepdaughter through the second marriage, Sue Powell Kincaid (born 1948) of Burkburnett in Wichita County, Texas, and her husband, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel James W. "Jim" Kincaid, Jr. (1929-2018).[30][26]

Drew died of stroke and cardiovascular disease at his Minden residence after a lengthy illness. Memorial services were held at Rose Neath Funeral Home on December 20, 1995, with the Reverend T. W. Barnes, then the pastor of Minden's First Pentecostal Church, and the Episcopalian priest, William R. Bryant, officiating. He is interred in the Drew family plot at the Minden Cemetery. Drew was a Presbyterian but friendly with pastors of other denominations. Drew was preceded in death by a sister, Katie Elizabeth Drew Carey (1915-1971), a Minden real estate broker. Other survivors included eight grandchildren and two nephews, Richard Drew Carey (1934-2013), who continued his mother's real estate business and developed nine subdivisions in the Minden area,[31] and Dr. Thomas Drew Carey (born 1947), a dermatologist in Ruston, and a niece, Katie Lucile Carey Sims (born 1948), a businesswoman in Houma in Terrebonne Parish in South Louisiana.

Pallbearers were Harry Stahl, Bob Dickson, Sam Walker, Webster Parish Police Juror Charles Odom, businessman Carroll Toms, Deputy Steve Fomby (son of Henry Fomby), Marshal John Walker, Sr., and Judge John Cecil Campbell. Honorary pallbearers were former Representative and Shongaloo Mayor Parey Branton, David Williams, Norman McGuire, Harry McInnis, Sr. (1913–2003), Warren E. Dietrich (1912–2002), Cecil P. Campbell (1909–1996), Jack Howe, and the Webster Parish Bar Association.

Drew was a charter member of the Minden Jaycees, now the Junior Chamber, a charter member and a past president of the Minden Civitans, a past post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a member of the American Legion, and a past president of Minden Riding Club.

In 1976, he was named "Alumnus of the Year" from Sigma Nu fraternity at Louisiana Tech. In 1977, he was honored as Minden's "Man of the Year." The family suggested memorial donations to either Minden's Alpha House to aid alcoholics or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. For a city of limited size, Minden is known as one of the strongest supporters of St. Jude through annual community-wide fundraising projects.


  1. Drew Family. mindenmemories.org. Retrieved on June 5, 2011.
  2. Mrs. Lucile G. Drew Succumbs. Minden Press-Herald through findagrave.com (August 12, 1974). Retrieved on August 5, 2020.
  3. "Drew shot accidentally yesterday," Minden Herald, August 28, 1936, p. 1.
  4. Judge Harmon Drew Jr. to Earlene Mendenhall Lyle, Lyle newsletter, May 4, 2008.
  5. Reggie Ward, "Folk Singer Gets Blues Here," Minden Herald, January 29, 1954, pp. 1, 12.
  6. Minden Press-Herald], December 12, 1975, p. 1.
  7. "Long Fails to Make Attack Here: Silent on Charges against Judge Drew and New Deal Group," Minden Herald, November 10, 1933, p. 1.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Padgett Wins in Webster by Vote of 2,976 to 1,642", Minden Herald, December 5, 1952, p. 1
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Judge Cecil C. Lowe obituary. The Shreveport Times (February 27, 2013). Retrieved on August 8, 2020.
  10. List of District Attorneys of Webster Parish, Webster Parish Centennial Booklet, 1971," Webster Parish Police Jury publication.
  11. Judge Monty Wyche. The Shreveport Times (July 30, 2014). Retrieved on August 8, 2020.
  12. "14 Webster Parish Candidates in Race," Minden Herald, May 28, 1954, p. 1.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Humphrey, McClendon, Price Nominated", Minden Press, July 25, 1960, p. 1
  14. "Democrats-for-Nixon to Hear Carlos Spaht", Minden Press, September 26, 1960
  15. Minden Press-Herald, November 9, 1971, p. 1.
  16. Minden Press-Herald, November 4, 1971, p, 10A.
  17. Minden Press-Herald, December 20, 1971, p. 1.
  18. "Drew's legislation on right-to-work wins [committee vote," Minden Press-Herald, May 14, 1976, p. 1.
  19. Henry Hobbs obituary. Shreveport Times (January 2, 2013). Retrieved on August 9, 2020.
  20. Minden Press-Herald, September 18, 1978, p. 1
  21. "Pearce takes oath as interim city judge," Minden Press-Herald, January 5, 1984, p. 1.
  22. Minden Press-Herald, November 2, 1984, p. 1.
  23. Sonny Jeane, "Drew - 'Too much federal control over court system,'" Minden Press-Herald, July 29, 1988, p. 1.
  24. Minden Press-Herald, August 21, 1972, p. 1.
  25. Richard Carey (nephew of R. Harmon Drew Sr.). Notes for Harvey Locke Carey. familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Retrieved on February 24, 2015.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Elizabeth Drew Weaver. Minden Press-Herald (January 15, 1996). Retrieved on August 9, 2020.
  27. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, April 5, 2003.
  28. Minden Press-Herald, June 6, 1977, p. 1.
  29. "Well-known Minden resident dies: Rites for Mrs. Drew today," Minden Press-Herald, November 28, 1977, p. 1.
  30. James Iincaid obituary. Wichita Falls Times-Record-News (September 19, 2018). Retrieved on August 5, 2020.
  31. Richard Drew Carey. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on December 2, 2013.

See also

  • Drew, Sr., obituaries, The Baton Rouge Advocate, December 20, 1995.
  • Drew's obituary, Minden Press-Herald, December 19, 1995.