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Allen J. Ellender: Wikis


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Allen Joseph Ellender

In office
January 3, 1937 – July 27, 1972
Preceded by Rose McConnell Long
Succeeded by Elaine Edwards

In office
January 21, 1971 – July 27, 1972
Preceded by Richard Russell, Jr.
Succeeded by James Eastland

In office
January 21, 1971 – July 27, 1972
Preceded by Richard Russell, Jr.
Succeeded by John Little McClellan

In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1953
Preceded by Elmer Thomas
Succeeded by George Aiken
In office
January 3, 1955 – January 21, 1971
Preceded by George Aiken
Succeeded by Herman Talmadge

In office
1932 – 1936
Governor Alvin Olin King
Oscar K. Allen
Preceded by John B. Fournet
Succeeded by Lorris M. Wimberly

Born September 24, 1890
Louisiana Montegut, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died July 27, 1972 (aged 81)
Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland
Political party Democrat
Alma mater Tulane University
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1917-1918
Rank Sergeant
Battles/wars World War I

Allen Joseph Ellender (September 24, 1890 - July 27, 1972) was a popular U.S. senator from Houma, Louisiana (Terrebonne Parish), who served from 1937 until his death. He was a Democrat who was originally allied with the legendary Huey Pierce Long, Jr.

Ellender was born in the town of Montegut in Terrebonne Parish. He attended public and private schools and graduated from the Catholic St. Aloysius College in New Orleans, now Brother Martin High School in 1909, when he was only nineteen. He studied law at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was admitted to the bar in 1913 and launched his practice in Houma when he was twenty-three.


A political resume

Ellender was the city attorney of Houma from 1913-1915 and then district attorney of Terrebonne Parish from 1915-1916. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Army Artillery Corps during World War I, having served from 1917-1918.

Ellender was a delegate to the Louisiana constitutional convention in 1921. The constitution produced by that body was retired in 1974, two years after Ellender's death. He served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1924-1936. He was floor leader from 1928-1932 and Speaker from 1932-1936, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He took the seat held by Long and slated for the Democratic nominee, Oscar Kelly Allen, Sr., of Winnfield, the seat of the Longs' home parish of Winn. Allen had won the Democratic nomination by a plurality exceeding 200,000 votes, but he died shortly thereafter. His passing paved the way for Ellender's election. Lorris M. Wimberly of Arcadia in Bienville Parish, meanwhile, succeeded Ellender as House Speaker. Wimberly was the choice of Governor Richard Webster Leche and thereafter Lieutenant Governor Earl Kemp Long, who succeeded Leche to the governorship.

Ellender was President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate from 1971-1972. He also served as the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee from 1951 to 1953 and 1955 to 1971, through which capacity he was a strong defender of sugar cane interests. He was also chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1971 until his death.

Ellender, along with liberal Republican Ralph Flanders of Vermont, was a vociferous opponent of McCarthyism and attacked the methods of investigating communism used by Republican Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy of Wisconsin.

Ellender was also, along with his Southern Democrat colleagues, a vociferous white supremacist, who once filibustered against proposed antilynching legislation for 27 hours, arguing during that time that the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, should be repealed, and that interracial marriage should be outlawed.[1]

Ellender sticks with Truman, 1948

Ellender rarely had serious opposition for his Senate seat. In his initial election in 1936, Ellender defeated Fourth District Congressman John N. Sandlin of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwest Louisiana, in the Democratic primary, 364,931 (68 percent) to 167,471 (31.2 percent). There was no Republican opposition.

Ellender was steadfastly loyal to all Democratic presidential nominees and refused to support then Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president in 1948, when Thurmond, the States Rights Party nominee was also the official Democratic nominee in Louisiana and three other southern states. Ellender supported Harry Truman, whose name was placed on the ballot only after Governor Earl Kemp Long called a special session of the legislature to place the president's name on the ballot. "As a Democratic nominee, I am pledged to support the candidate of my party, and that I will do," declared Ellender, though he could have argued that Thurmond, not Truman, was technically the "Democratic nominee" in Louisiana.

A rare Republican challenge, 1960

In 1954, Ellender defeated fellow Democrat Frank B. Ellis in the party primary, 268,054 (59.1 percent) to 162,775 (35.9 percent), with 4 percent for minor candidates. He faced no Republican opposition.[2]

In 1960, however, Ellender was challenged by the then Republican National Committeeman George W. Reese, Jr., a New Orleans lawyer (born 1924). (Ellender himself had been his party's national committeeman from 1939-1940.) Reese had also previously twice opposed conservative Democratic Congressman Felix Edward Hebert of New Orleans—in the 1952 and again in the 1954 general elections. Reese accused Ellender, who was known for his hostility to Senator Joseph McCarthy, of being "soft on communism". Ellender retorted that Reese's allegation came with "ill grace for the spokesman for the member of a party which has permitted the establishment of a Red-dominated beach head only ninety miles from our shores to attack my record against the spread of communism."

Ellender crushed Reese's hopes of making a respectable showing: he polled 432,228 (79.8 percent) to Reese's 109,698 (20.2 percent). Reese's best performance was in two parishes which voted for Richard Nixon, La Salle Parish (Jena) and Ouachita Parish (Monroe), where he drew less than a third of the ballots—31.3 percent in each. In Caddo Parish (Shreveport), Reese finished with 30 percent. Reese was only the third Republican since the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified even to seek a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana. Ellender ran 24,889 votes ahead of the John F. Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson ticket, but 265,965 votes cast in the presidential race ignored the Senate contest, a phenomenon that would later be called an "undervote."

In 1966, Ellender disposed of two weak primary opponents, including the liberal State Senator J.D. DeBlieux (pronounced "W") of Baton Rouge (1912-2005) and the conservative businessman Troyce Guice (1932-2008), a native of St. Joseph, the seat of Tensas Parish, who then resided in Ferriday, and later in Natchez, Mississippi. The Republicans did not field a candidate against Ellender that year.

Ellender cultivated good relationships with the media, whose coverage of his tenure helped him to fend off serious competition. One of his newspaper favorites was Adras LaBorde, longtime managing editor of Alexandria Daily Town Talk. The two "Cajuns" even shared fish stories on many occasions.

Ellender's last campaign

In 1972, the Democratic gubernatorial runner-up from December 1971, former state senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport challenged Ellender for renomination. Ellender was expected to defeat Johnston, but the veteran senator died during the primary campaign and left Johnston the de facto Democratic nominee. Nearly 10 percent of Democratic voters, however, voted for the deceased Ellender. Johnston became the Democratic nominee in a manner somewhat reminiscent of how Ellender had won the Senate seat in 1936 after the death of Governor Allen. Johnston then easily defeated the Republican candidate, Ben C. Toledano, a prominent attorney from New Orleans who later became a conservative columnist, and former Governor John McKeithen, a Democrat running as an independent in the general election because it had not been possible to qualify for the primary ballot after Ellender's death.

Ellender's immediate successor was Elaine S. Edwards, first wife of Governor Edwin Edwards, who filled his seat from August 1, 1972 to November 13, 1972.

Remembering Senator Ellender

In the Senate, Ellender was known by his colleagues for Cajun cooking from roast duck to shrimp jambalaya. Even as of 2009 the Senate Dining Room still served "Ellender Gumbo."

Ellender Memorial High School in Houma and Allen Ellender Middle School in Marrero are named in his honor.

In 1994, Ellender was inducted posthumously into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.

The Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library on the campus of Nicholls State University is named after him.

Ellender was an uncle of Bonnie Robichaux Livingston, wife of former U.S. Representative Bob Livingston, a Republican who represented Louisiana's 1st congressional district from 1977 to 1998.


  1. ^ Greta de Jong, A Different Day: African American Struggles for Justice in Rural Louisiana, 1900-1970, at 39 (University of North Carolina Press 2002).
  2. ^ Numan V. Bartley and Hugh D. Graham, Southern Elections: County and Precinct Data, 1950-1972, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978, p. 122
Political offices
Preceded by
John B. Fournet
Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives
1932 – 1936
Succeeded by
Lorris M. Wimberly
Preceded by
Elmer Thomas
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
1951 – 1953
Succeeded by
George D. Aiken
Preceded by
George D. Aiken
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
1955 – 1971
Succeeded by
Herman E. Talmadge
Preceded by
Richard B. Russell, Jr.
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
1971 – 1972
Succeeded by
James O. Eastland
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
1971 – 1972
Succeeded by
John L. McClellan
United States Senate
Preceded by
Rose McConnell Long
United States Senator (Class 2) from Louisiana
1937 – 1972
Served alongside: John H. Overton, William C. Feazel, Russell B. Long
Succeeded by
Elaine S. Edwards
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Richard B. Russell, Jr.
Dean of the United States Senate
January 21, 1971 – July 27, 1972
Succeeded by
George D. Aiken

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