Jerry Huckaby: Wikis


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Jerry Huckaby

In office
1977 – 1993
Preceded by Otto Ernest Passman
Succeeded by James Otis "Jim" McCrery, III

Born July 19, 1941 (1941-07-19) (age 68)
Hodge, Louisiana (Jackson Parish)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Suzanna Woodard "Sue" Huckaby (1943-2008, married 1962-her death)
Children Daughter Michelle Huckaby Lewis (born 1967) and son-in-law Todd Lewis, both M.D.'s, two grandsons

Son Thomas Clay Huckaby (1975-2002)

Occupation Real estate executive; Businessman
Religion Methodist

Thomas Jerald Huckaby, usually known as Jerry Huckaby (born July 19, 1941), is a Virginia real estate executive who was a Democratic U.S. representative from the northeastern portion of the U.S. state of Louisiana between 1977 and 1993. He lost his position as a result of congressional reapportionment in 1992, when Louisiana forfeited one of its eight seats in the United States House of Representatives because the state grew in population at less than the national average during the 1980s.


Early years

Huckaby was born to Thomas Milton Huckaby (1907-1973) and the former Eva Butler (1911-1990) in Hodge in Jackson Parish. Both of Huckaby's parents graduated from Bienville High School in the town of Bienville in Bienville Parish in north Louisiana. Huckaby is descended on both sides from two original Bienville Parish families. In the 1840s, two brothers, Green and James Huckaby, settled in the community of Sparta, which was the seat of Bienville Parish from its founding in 1848 until 1893, when the courthouse was relocated to the larger Arcadia, located off Interstate 20. Nothing remains of Sparta, which is located between Bienville and Ringgold except for two nearby cemeteries. Green Huckaby's son was John Tom Huckaby, and his son, William Huckaby, was Huckaby's paternal grandfather. These Huckabys are buried in the Old Sparta Cemetery.

Both Jerry Huckaby and former Arkansas Governor Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, trace their original American ancestor to a "Thomas Huckaby", who lived Charles City, Virginia, in the early seventeenth century. Jerry Huckaby has an elderly aunt who claims that Huckaby is a fourth cousin of Mike Huckabee, despite the different spellings of the surname. Jerry Huckaby has never met Mike Huckabee and is uncertain if his aunt is correct about the distant family tie.

In 1942, the Huckabys moved to Minden, the seat of Webster Parish, when Jerry was six months old. His father operated a real estate and insurance business; the family resided at 1104 Victory Drive. Huckaby graduated fifth in his class in 1959 from Minden High School. He played on the basketball team, performed in the band, was elected to the student council, and edited the school newspaper. In 1963, he received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was student body president of the college of engineering and a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity. Five years later, he obtained an Master of Business Administration from Georgia State University in Atlanta. He was a management executive for Western Electric Company in Chicago from 1963 to 1973. He returned to Louisiana from Illinois and entered business and farming. For a time, he owned and operated Hallmark Farms in Ringgold.

Unseating Otto Passman

In 1976, Huckaby was elected to Congress from the Monroe-based Fifth Congressional District. First, he unseated incumbent Otto Ernest Passman in a hard-fought Democratic primary held on August 14. Huckaby received 45,589 votes (52.7 percent) to Passman's 40,888 (47.3 percent). Passman, a 30-year conservative lawmaker was a native of Franklinton in south Louisiana and a long-term Monroe resident. Passman had been a steadfast supporter of the Vietnam War. A World War II Navy lieutenant, Passman was particularly known for his support of veterans causes as well as his opposition to most foreign aid programs, positions that contributed to his popularity in the district.

However, Passman was under an ethical cloud. He was engulfed in a bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and influence peddling scandal involving his acceptance of $213,000 from the South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park. Passman had not, however, been indicted of anything at the time of the primary. The indictments came two years later, but he was acquitted in a high-profile trial in 1979 in which he retained the services of high-powered Alexandria attorney and gubernatorial advisor Camille Francis Gravel, Jr.

Huckaby, who was forty-one years Passman's junior, used the "time-for-a-change" theme with great success. Park also gave $20,000 to Louisiana Governor Edwin Washington Edwards, when Edwards had been a congressman between 1965 and 1972.

Huckaby said years later that the embittered Passman never spoke to him after the primary election.

Defeating Frank Spooner

Huckaby then faced a determined Republican challenge from Frank Spooner, a conservative Monroe oilman who had been his state's GOP national committeeman. Spooner was the first Republican even to contest the Fifth District seat since 1900, when Henry E. Hardtner polled 628 votes (9.2 percent) against the Democrat Joseph E. Ransdell of East Carroll Parish, who was elected with 6,172 votes (90.8 percent). Ransdell would later serve in the United States Senate.

Spooner (born 1937) hoped to assemble a winning coalition based on a strong showing in Monroe (Ouachita Parish) and Ruston (Lincoln Parish), along with Morehouse, Richland, Natchitoches, and Winn parishes. Former Texas Governor John B. Connally came to Natchitoches to speak for Spooner and the Gerald R. Ford-Robert J. Dole ticket. Former California Governor Ronald W. Reagan, Ford's unsuccessful opponent in the 1976 presidential primaries, appeared at a fundraiser on Spooner's behalf. After his failure to gain renomination, Passman "threatened" to endorse Spooner as his successor, but he never apparently did so. Huckaby ran advertising which criticized Republican leaders from other states from coming into the Fifth District of Louisiana to impact voter decisions.

Huckaby won the exchange, helped in part by the popularity of Jimmy Carter in Louisiana and throughout the South. Huckaby received 83,696 votes (52.5 percent) to Spooner's 75,574 ballots (47.5 percent). Spooner outpolled Passman's primary showing by 0.2 percent. In a much higher general election turnout, Spooner received some 35,000 more votes than Passman had netted in the primary. Spooner polled 59 percent in Ouachita Parish and also won in Lincoln, Morehouse, Union, and Richland, but his strength was insufficient to overcome the hefty Democratic margins in rural districts stretching from Huckaby's Ringgold on the west to Vidalia on the east and the most northern precincts of Rapides Parish on the south. Spooner polled only 27 percent in Bienville Parish and under 40 percent in Madison (Tallulah) and Winn parishes, the latter the ancestral home of the Long political dynasty.

Louisiana's jungle primary

The 1976 congressional elections were the last in Louisiana under the previous closed primary system. Starting in 1978, when Huckaby was reelected, congressional elections went to the nonpartisan blanket primary (or jungle primary, which had already begun for state elections in 1975. In the primary, candidates run in the same initial election regardless of party label. The only labels permitted in Louisiana are "Democrat," "Republican," and "No Party." There is a runoff between the top two candidates if no one wins a simple majority in the first round of balloting. That runoff constitutes the general election under Louisiana law even if the "general election" has two candidates of the same party. This plan is used only in Louisiana for regular elections. It is also used in Texas and some other states in special elections. This peculiar open primary, also called the jungle primary, was adopted by the legislature at the insistence of Governor Edwin Edwards as a way to reduce growing Republican strength in traditionally Democratic Louisiana. The plan, in the long run, did not achieve that particular purpose, but it did keep candidates from having to undergo three possibly contested elections to win office. The plan proved very beneficial for the popular Huckaby, who was re-elected seven times over the next fourteen years, often with landslides of more than 80 percent. He only had to run once in each of those elections against a combined field of mostly his fellow Democrats.

In 1978, he polled some 57 percent over several Democratic rivals, including then Louisiana State Senator James H. "Jim" Brown, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish. The next year, Brown was elected Louisiana secretary of state, when incumbent Paul J. Hardy ran unsuccessfully for governor. Perennial candidate L.D. Knox of Winnsboro opposed Huckaby in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1990, and 1992. He even changed his legal name to "None of the Above Knox" to support his call for the "None of the Above" option being offered on ballots to enhance voter choice.[1]

In 2008, Louisiana will drop the jungle primary for U.S. House and U.S. Senate elections and return to the previous closed primaries. However, the jungle primary format will continue for state and local races.

Huckaby on Agriculture Committee

For ten years, Huckaby was chairman of the subcommittee on cotton, rice and sugar. His marketing loan legislation was credited with bringing American agriculture out of a major recession during the 1980s. His controversial legislation defining elgibility for farm payments and limiting the amount of the payments a farmer could receive withstood the test of time and was still in effect twenty years after it was enacted.

Huckaby was a key defender of the sugar industry in the 1990 debate over the farm bill. Louisiana is a major sugar cane state, with some 750 farms that produce hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar. He was even called "Mr. Sugar" in the House. In his last campaign for Congress, Huckaby collected more than $50,000 from sugar interests. "I was in the race of my life, and I went out everywhere soliciting funds," Huckaby recalled. Huckaby said that raising money from Political Action Committees is a necessary evil. "It would be nice if the PAC system didn't exist. It is the most distasteful thing in politics," he said.

Huckaby on Budget Committee

Huckaby was the Boll Weevils' choice in 1989 for a slot informally designated for a Southern Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Huckaby did not shy from highly technical issues, was not afraid to cut deals, and could serve as a bridge to conservatives of both parties. The Budget Committee assignment came during his last two terms in Congress.

Huckaby on Interior Committee

Huckaby introduced House-passed legislation in 1988 to require commercial nuclear plants, during any unusual event, to transmit electronically data on pressure, temperature, and water levels to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., so that its experts may monitor and advise on the situation. The national monitoring center has prevented other "Three Mile Island" threats.

Huckaby's seat on the Interior Committee enabled him to secure legislation through the years that created the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, the Upper Darbonne National Wildlife Refuge, the Poverty Point National Monument in West Carroll Parish, the Saline Bayou Wild and Scenic River, and the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness, all in his congressional district.

A casualty of reapportionment, 1992

Louisiana lost a district when the 1990 United States Census revealed sluggish population growth. Complicating matters further, the Justice Department issued a directive requiring Louisiana to create a second African-American district. The legislature responded by creating a new Fourth District (temporarily as it turned out), which received most of the black voters in Huckaby's former district. Huckaby's district absorbed a large portion of the former Shreveport-based Fourth District, represented by Republican Representative Jim McCrery, who will retire from Congress in January 2009.

Although the new Fifth District was geographically more Huckaby's district, its demographics heavily favored McCrery. The new district was considerably more urban than its predecessor; due to the presence of Shreveport, 60 percent of the registered voters in the revised district had been represented by McCrery. In addition, the minority population was reduced from 30 percent to less than 5 percent. Thus, despite Huckaby's geographic advantage, the district was Republican-leaning, and McCrery was an overwhelming favorite. National Democratic officials told Huckaby that he was in an impossible situation, along with seven other southern Democrats whose districts had been made considerably more Republican in reapportionment. Huckaby had the option of retiring and keeping $250,000 in campaign funds, as 1992 was the last year that members of Congress could retire and keep surplus campaign funds for personal use. However, Huckaby chose to stay in the race despite the difficult odds.

McCrery won in a rout, taking 153,501 votes (63 percent) to 90,079 for Huckaby (37 percent). Huckaby won only a few small parishes, including his Bienville Parish.

Huckaby in Virginia

In December 1962, Huckaby married to the former Suzanna "Sue" Woodard (October 12, 1943—September 9, 2008), the daughter of Ernest Scott "Scotty" Woodard (born 1921) and the former Mollie Covey (1923-1987), originally from Gentry in Benton County in the northwestern corner of Arkansas. Scott Woodard, at eighty-seven, still operates a farm in his native Ringgold. Sue, who died after a four-year fight with colon cancer, had a brother, Scott Woodard of Sherman, Texas, and a sister, Stephanie Woodard of Ringgold.

The Huckabys did not return to Louisiana after his congressional defeat. Instead Huckaby became a lobbyist but left after two months. "I was never comfortable sitting on the other side of the table," he said. "I wasn't comfortable asking members like (former U.S. Senator) John Breaux to see such and such a person or (former U.S. Representative) Bob Livingston to go to such and such a reception."

Huckaby instead became president of his wife's residential real estate business in McLean, Virginia. Nationally, Mrs. Huckaby was ranked No. 10 of more than two million Realtors in the United States in sales. For many years, she was the leading Realtor in northern Virginia. In her 30-year career, which began when he became a congressman, Mrs. Huckaby sold more than one thousand homes valued in excess of a billion dollars. Mrs. Huckaby graduated from Ringgold High School in 1961 and attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She graduated with a degree in human ecology from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, where the Sue Woodard Huckaby Endowed Professorship honors her memory. At the time of her death, the Huckabys lived in Great Falls in Fairfax County near Washington, D.C. They had been active members of Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean for some three decades.[2]

The Huckabys' daughter, Michelle Huckaby Lewis (born 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia), and their son-in-law, Todd Lewis, are physicians currently living in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, where Todd has a cardiology fellowship at the Penn State University Hospital. Both have undergraduate degrees from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and medical degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans. Both were previously on the staff of Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. Michelle also has a law degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her specialty centers upon legal issues involving genetic testing of newly-born babies. The Lewises have two sons, Carter (born 2002) and Spencer (born 2005).

The Huckabys also had a son, Thomas Clay Huckaby (January 2, 1975 - June 1, 2002), who was born in Ringgold while his father operated the dairy farm and his mother taught first grade at Ringgold Elementary School. Mrs. Huckaby's funeral services were to be held on September 14, 2008, at the First United Methodist Church of Ringgold. Interment was to follow in Providence Cemetery in Ringgold.[2]


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Otto Ernest Passman (D)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
James O. McCrery, III (R)


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