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Erle Edwards Barham

Edwards Barham

In office
1976 – 1980
Preceded by Charles M. Brown
Succeeded by David Ginn

Born July 10, 1937(1937-07-10)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Bennie Fay Berry Barham (born 1935)
Children Robert Berry Barham (born 1957), Erle West Barham (born 1964)
Occupation Farmer
Religion Episcopal

Erle Edwards Barham (born July 10, 1937) is an American farmer and conservationist in Oak Ridge, a village in Morehouse Parish in north Louisiana, best known for having been the first Republican elected -- by a 29-vote margin -- to the Louisiana State Senate since the era of Reconstruction. Barham represented the agricultural District 33 from 1976-1980. He was narrowly unseated in the 1979 jungle primary by the Democrat David Ginn, who held the seat until 1988.


Early years, family, conservation

Barham was born to Louisiana native Erle McKoin "Ninety" Barham (1916-1976) and the former Rosalie Smith (1913-1999), originally from Missouri. He graduated from Oak Ridge High School and received a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Thereafter, he obtained a master's degree in ornithology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana State College). President Richard M. Nixon named him in the early 1970s to head a White House conservation initiative.

Barham is married to the former Bennie Faye Berry (born 1935). Their older son, Robert Berry Barham (born 1957), works with his father on the Morehouse Parish plantation. Another son, Erle West Barham (born 1964), farms a large area about the family's Ingleside Plantation in Leflore and Carroll counties in Mississippi. He claims residences in Sidon and Greenwood. West Barham, as he is known, grows cotton, rice, corn, and soybeans. He and his wife, Trudy C. Barham (born 1963), have two children.

West Barham is also a conservationist who has made a name for himself trying to preserve the habitat and survival of the bobtail quail. He is indeed sometimes called the "quail man." The conservationist thrust of the family was actually set by the senior Erle Barham. There is a wildlife refuge on Barham properties in Morehouse Parish near the parish seat of Bastrop, and the Tensas Wildlife Refuge near Delhi (pronounced DELL HIGH) in Richland Parish came to fruition with the help of the senior Barham.

The senior Barham was killed in the crash of the light plane that he was piloting near Oak Ridge. Barham and four friends were returning to Morehouse Parish from Baton Rouge, where they had attended the 1976 LSU-Oregon State University at Corvallis football game. Barham and three of the men were killed, but a fourth (John S. Barr, III) survived.

The state senate elections

Barham ran unsuccessfully in a race for the Louisiana House of Representatives on February 6, 1968. He polled 44 percent as the Republican nominee in a two-seat district. The winners were the Democrats T.T. Fields and James P. Smith. In that election, all 105 state House seats were won by Democrats.

In the 1975 Senate election, Barham, who campaigned extensively, narrowly prevailed 14,499 (50.1 percent) to Democratic candidate L.B. "Buddy" Loftin's 14,470 ballots (49.9 percent). The district then embraced Richland, West Carroll, East Carroll, and Morehouse parishes to the north and east of Monroe. It was noted that the state reelected a governor with the last name of "Edwards," and the 33rd Senate District elected a state senator with the first name of "Edwards." And the two were of opposite parties.

In his 1979 defeat, Barham did not benefit from any gubernatorial coattails. The four parishes in the district largely split their votes between Republican candidate David C. Treen and his Democratic opponent, state Senator Louis Lambert of Baton Rouge even though Treen was a narrow statewide winner. However, eight years earlier, Treen in defeat had won most of those same northeast parishes by comfortable margins in his first race against Edwin Edwards. It was speculated that if Treen had run stronger in the 33rd Senate district, the party may have held on to its single state Senate seat.

Edwards Barham's former seat is now held by his younger brother, Robert J. Barham (born 1949). (Edwards Barham has a second brother, Thomas W. Barham, also of Oak Ridge.) Robert Barham was first elected to the state Senate as a Democrat in a special election in 1994. He was reelected as a Democrat with a 93 percent margin in 1995 and unopposed in 1999. Thereafter, he switched to Republican affiliation and won reelection again without opposition in 2003. Meanwhile, he ran unsuccessfully for the Fifth District seat in Congress in the 2002 jungle primary.

Edwards and Robert Barham were distant cousins of Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Mack Elwin Barham (1924-2006), who was originally from Bastrop.

Edwards Barham technically was not the first Louisiana Republican state senator of the modern era. A.C. "Ace" Clemons, Jr. (1921-1992), of Jennings in Jefferson Davis Parish switched from Democrat to Republican affiliation in 1970, having been elected in 1960, 1964 and 1968. Clemons served until 1972. Barham followed Clemons four years later as a full-term elected senator. When Edwards Barham was defeated, there were no Republicans in the state Senate for a short period until Democrat V.J. Scogin of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish switched his affiliation to the GOP.

Years after his legislative career, Barham was appointed to the board of supervisors of the Louisiana Technical and Community Colleges by former Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr. The term ended in July 2005. Edwards Barham also still contributes to Republican candidates, including Fifth District Congressman Rodney Alexander, who first won the seat as a Democrat when Robert Barham failed to secure a general election berth. In 2004, Alexander switched to the Republican Party and went on to defeat a fellow Republican, John W. "Jock" Scott of Alexandria.

Edwards Barham is a member of the Louisiana Cotton Producers Association, the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association, and is the treasurer of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Oak Ridge.

Preceded by
Charles M. Brown (D)
Louisiana State Senate from District 33

Erle Edwards Barham (R)

Succeeded by
David Ginn (D)


  • Shreveport Journal, October 29, 1979
  • Erle M. Barham obituary, Monroe News Star, September 20, 1976

External links



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