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James H. Morrison (1939)

James Hobson "Jimmy" Morrison, Sr. (December 8, 1908 - July 20, 2000), was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from the Sixth Congressional District of Louisiana, who served from 1943-1967. Morrison, considered to have been a liberal by southern standards at the time, was denied party renomination in 1966 by the strongly conservative John Richard Rarick (1924-2009), an attorney and former state district judge in St. Francisville, the seat of West Feliciana Parish.

Morrison was born in Hammond, the principal city of Tangipahoa Parish (pronounced TANG UH PA HOE) in the "Florida Parishes" east of Baton Rouge, to banker-merchant Benjamin M. Morrison and the former Florence Hobson (1878-1972) of Greensboro in Hale County in the western Black Belt of Alabama. A maternal uncle, Richmond Pearson Hobson (1870-1937) was a naval hero in the Spanish-American War and later served five terms in Congress from Alabama.

Morrison attended public schools and obtained the Juris Doctor degree from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans in 1934. He practiced law in Hammond with Joseph A. Sims, later an aide to Governor Earl Kemp Long. In 1936, Morrison ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Senate. In 1937, Morrison wrote the charter of the newly-formed Louisiana Farmers Protective Union and launched a public relations campaign on behalf of union members in the strawberry belt centered about Tangipahoa Parish.

In 1940, Morrison married the former Marjorie Abbey (born ca. 1917) of Webb in Tallahatchie County in northwestern Mississippi. The couple had two sons, James Hobson Morrison, Jr. (born ca. 1943) of Hammond, and Benjamin Abbey Morrison (born ca. 1945) of New Orleans.

In his first election to Congress, Morrison defeated the conservative incumbent, Jared Y. Sanders, Jr., in the 1942 Democratic primary. He was unopposed in the general election of 1942 as well as the elections of 1944 and 1946. He secured a total of twelve terms before Rarick, then a state district judge defeated him in the 1966 primary, 51.2 to 48.8 percent. Though he signed the Southern Manifesto and later joined all Louisiana congressional delegation members in voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Morrison was considered politically liberal during the 1960s because of his support for many federal social programs.

In 1960, Republicans offered the native Pennsylvanian, Charles H. Dillemuth (February 18, 1912 - August 29, 1989) as their nominee against Morrison. Dillemuth, a Baton Rouge businessman with an impressive war record and a local humanitarian award named in his honor, drew only 14.4 percent of the vote.

In 1964, the Republican businessman Floyd O. Crawford (October 28, 1907- January 4, 1995) of Baton Rouge, formerly from Illinois, ran a stronger race than had Dillemuth. However, Crawford too was defeated, 48,715 (37.1 percent) to Morrison's 82,686 (62.9 percent). Crawford was aided by the presence of Barry M. Goldwater at the top of the GOP ticket, and he won majorities in three parishes near Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, and St. Helena -- all obtained in the year prior to adoption of the pivotal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which would thereafter turn all three of those predominantly African American parishes into liberal Democratic strongholds. Crawford's modest but burgeoning support may have encouraged stronger opposition to Morrison to emerge in 1966. Another factor was Morrison's support of the aforementioned Voting Rights Act of 1965, followed by a so-called "backlash" of new white registrants who significantly neutralized the effect of increased voting registration by blacks.[1]

On three occasions, Morrison ran unsuccessfully for governor -- 1940 (polling 48,243 votes or 8.7 percent and losing to the eventual winner, Sam Houston Jones), 1944 (with 76,081 votes or 15.9 pecent and failing to enter the runoff with James Houston "Jimmie" Davis), and 1948 (101,754 votes or 15.8 percent and failing to enter the runoff with Earl Long). In the second races, Morrison could run for governor without sacrificing his U.S. House seat because Louisiana holds gubernatorial elections months apart from congressional races.

Morrison was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1956 and 1960 and supported the Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy tickets, respectively. Morrison was not related to the late New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr., though the two often agreed politically. After his defeat, Morrison resumed his law practice in Hammond. Rarick served in the seat from 1967-1975, a third of the tenure that Morrison accumulated.

Morrison died of a heart attack after a series of strokes. His last residence was in Loranger in northern Tangipahoa Parish. He is interred in the Episcopal Church Cemetery in Hammond. U.S. 51, a main north-south thoroughfare through Hammond, was renamed Morrison Boulevard in honor of the Congressman.

Morrison donated his congressional papers to the Archives and Special Collections Department of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. His photographic collection of national leaders, family, and campaign events are displayed in the Linus A. Sims Memorial Library in what is called the "Morrison Room". Linus Sims, the founder of Southeastern University, was the father of Morrison's former law partner, Joseph Sims. Morrison patronized the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern University. In 1995, Dr. John Miller, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, inaugurated the annual James H. Morrison Lecture on Politics and Government at Southeastern. Political figures from both national parties have delivered Morrison lectures, including former Democratic U.S. Senator John B. Breaux and Jack A. "Jay" Blossman, Jr., the Republican chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.


  1. ^ "The Turning Point" (accessed 2009 January 15), Time: The Weekly Newsmagazine, 1966 October 7. The increased African American registration was less than what the Morrison camp expected, and the 1965 Act also removed the formal barrier against registration by subliterate whites. In the Democratic primary, a candidate named "James E. Morrison" (not the incumbent James H. Morrison), received thousands of votes without campaigning—enough votes to embarrass the incumbent into a runoff. In a campaign vitriolic even by Louisiana standards, Morrison, advertising Rarick as "the Klan's man from Indiana" with a picture of a cross-burning, alleged that James E. Morrison's name on the ballot was the result of a conspiracy by Rarick's supporters. Rarick countered by saying that the incumbent had voted to put "thousands of illiterates on the voter rolls" and could pay the consequences.

Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Elections", Gubernatorial primary elections, 1940, 1944, 1948; Congressional general elections, 1960 and 1964

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jared Y. Sanders, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
John Richard Rarick


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