James H. Morrison

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James Hobson
"Jimmy" Morrison, Sr.​

U.S. Representative for Louisiana's
6th congressional district​
In office
January 3, 1943 ​ – January 3, 1967​
Preceded by Jared Y. Sanders, Jr.​
Succeeded by John Richard Rarick​

Born December 8, 1908​
Hammond
Tangipahoa Parish
Louisiana​, USA
Died July 20, 2000 (aged 91)​
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Marjorie Abbey Morrison (married 1940–2000, his death)​
Children James Hobson Morrison, Jr.​

Benjamin Abbey Morrison ​

Residence Hammond, Louisiana
Alma mater Tulane University School of Law
Occupation Attorney
Religion Episcopalian

James Hobson Morrison, Sr., also known as Jimmy Morrison (December 8, 1908 – July 20, 2000), was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 6th congressional district, who held the position from 1943 to 1967.[1]

Considered to have been a liberal by southern standards at the time, Morrison was denied party re-nomination in 1966 by the strongly conservative John Richard Rarick (1924-2009), a former state district court judge in St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish.​​

Background

​ Born in Hammond, the principal city of Tangipahoa Parish, one the "Florida Parishes" east of the capital city of Baton Rouge, Morrison was a son of banker-merchant Benjamin M. Morrison and the former Florence Hobson (1878–1972), a native of Greensboro in Hale County in the western Black Belt region of Alabama. A maternal uncle, Richmond Pearson Hobson (1870-1937) was a naval hero of the Spanish–American War and later served five terms in the U. S. House from Alabama.[2]

Morrison attended public schools and obtained the Juris Doctorate 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 1940, Morrison married the former Marjorie Abbey (November 1916 – January 25, 2016) of Webb in Tallahatchie County in northwestern Mississippi. A graduate of Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, and an advocate of the arts who did post-graduate studies at the New York School of Interior Design, Mrs. Morrison was the daughter of Thomas Benton and Julia Cochran Abbey. The couple had two sons, James Hobson Morrison, Jr. (born November 1942), and wife, Lisa, of Hammond, and Benjamin Abbey Morrison (born July 1944) of New Orleans.[3]

Political career

In 1936, Morrison ran for the state Senate but lost by a narrow margin. He alleged vote fraud, and although he did not take office, from then until he was elected to Congress commonly billed himself as "Senator Jim Morrison." 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.​

Congressional races

In his first election to Congress in 1942, Morrison defeated the conservative incumbent, Jared Young Sanders, Jr. (1892-1960), in the 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, defeated him in the 1966 primary, 51.2 to 48.8 percent.

After the end of World War II, Morrison introduced a bill to grant U.S. citizenship to New Orleans Mafia boss Sylvestro Carolla "Silver Dollar Sam" Carolla in order to prevent Carolla's deportation. 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.​

On November 8, 1960, Republicans offered the native Pennsylvanian, Charles H. Dillemuth as their nominee against Morrison. A Baton Rouge businessman with an impressive war record for whom a local humanitarian award is named, Dillemuth polled only 14.4 percent of the vote.​[4]

In 1964, the Republican businessman Floyd O. Crawford (1907-1995) of Baton Rouge, formerly from Illinois, ran a stronger race than had Dillemuth. However, Crawford too was defeated, 48,715 votes (37.1 percent) to Morrison's 82,686 (62.9 percent). Crawford was aided by the presence of Barry 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 . Crawford won those parishes a 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 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, followed by a so-called "backlash" of new white registrants who in some cases neutralized the effect of increased voting registration by blacks.[5] The increased African American registration was less than what the Morrison camp expected, and the Voting Rights 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 should pay the consequences.[5]

Three gubernatorial campaigns

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 percent and failing to enter the runoff with Jimmie Davis), and 1948 (101,754 votes or 15.8 percent and failing to enter the runoff with the resurgent Earl Long).[6]In 1944, his other opponents were Lewis Lovering Morgan of Covington, the ticket mate of Earl Long, who unsuccessfully sought the lieutenant governorship that year; Sam Caldwell, the mayor of Shreveport, and colorful state Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc of Abbeville in Vermillion Parish. In 1948, Morrison campaigned for governor with the promise of a soldiers' "bonus". His ticket mates included Lucille May Grace for register of state lands and J. Y. Fontenot for lieutenant governor,[7] but victory that year went to the slate supporting the return to office of former Governor Earl Long. In the gubernatorial races, Morrison could run for governor without sacrificing his U.S. House seat because Louisiana holds gubernatorial elections a year before the presidential election.​

Morrison was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1956 and 1960 and supported the Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy tickets, respectively. Morrison was not related to New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr. (1912-1964), though the two often agreed politically and both ran unsuccessfully for governor on three occasions. After his defeat for Congress, Morrison resumed his law practice in Hammond. Rarick served in the House seat from 1967 to 1975, only a third of the tenure that Morrison accumulated.

Death and legacy

Morrison died of a heart attack after a series of strokes. His last residence was in Loranger in central Tangipahoa Parish. He is interred at the Episcopal Church Cemetery in Hammond. U. S. Route 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 Arthur Sims (1882-1949) was the principal founder of Southeastern University and the father of Morrison's former law partner, Joseph Sims. After the donation of his papers to SLU, Morrison valued this donation at $1.6 million and attempted to take an income tax reduction of over $61,100 over a five-year period. The United States Tax Court held that Morrison failed to establish the claimed deduction.[8] On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Tax Court.[9]

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 parties have delivered Morrison lectures, including Democratic former U.S. Senator John Breaux and Jack A. "Jay" Blossman, Jr., the Republican former chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, on which he no longer serves.

References

  1. Morrison, James Hobson. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved on October 31, 2019.
  2. Hobson, Richmond Pearson. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved on October 31,. 2019.
  3. Marjorie Morrison (1916-2016). The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on January 27, 2016; under pay wall.
  4. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 8, 1960.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Turning Point. Time Magazine (October 7, 1966).
  6. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Elections," Gubernatorial primary elections, 1940, 1944, 1948.
  7. Minden Herald, January 16, 1948, p. 14.
  8. Morrison v. Commissioner, 71 T.C. 683, 1979 U.S. Tax Ct. LEXIS 183.
  9. Morrison v. Commissioner, 611 F.2d 98 (5th Cir. 1980).

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