Rollo C. Lawrence

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Rollo Charles Lawrence, Sr.


In office
1930–1946
Preceded by J. M. Rembert
Succeeded by Willie Kees

Born April 10, 1894
Pineville, Rapides Parish
Died October 1, 1968 (aged 74)
Rapides Parish
Resting place Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Nellie Alvania Wells Lawrence
Children Rollo Lawrence, Jr.

Parents:
Washington and Mary E. Moseley Lawrence

Occupation Grocer
Military Service
Service/branch United States Army 9th Air Force
Rank Captain (pilot)
Battles/wars World War I in Middle East and North Africa

Rollo Charles Lawrence, Sr., known as Rollo C. Lawrence or Pop Lawrence (April 10, 1894 – October 1, 1968)[1] was a Democratic politician from his native Pineville, Louisiana, who was allied with Governor Earl Kemp Long. He was the mayor of Pineville from 1930 to 1946 and thereafter the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in West Feliciana Parish.

Background

Little is available on Lawrence's background. Prior to World War I, he was a highway patrolman. He was drafted in 1917 at the age of twenty-three into the United States Army's 9th Air Force. He flew three hundred combat hours in the Middle East and North Africa. A captain, he piloted the Snow White, a B-24 bomber, across the Atlantic.[2]

He also listed his occupation as the grocery business. He and his wife, the former Nellie Alvania Wells (1895-1992), had four children, Rollo, Jr., Sidone, Sybil, and Shirley Annette Lawrence (the girls' married names unavailable).[3] Information is unavailable on Lawrence's life during the decade of the 1920s and the time that he left state employment in 1951 until his death seventeen years later.

Career

His second election as mayor in 1934 was carried in out-of-town newspapers.[4] With sixteen years of tenure, he is the third-longest-serving Pineville mayor, exceeded by Fred Baden, who held the position from 1970 to 1998, and the current mayor, Clarence Fields, in office since December 1999. Lawrence and sitting state Representative Richmond Conrad Hathorn, Sr. (1893-1941) were indicted in a general sweep of political corruption in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.. Sheriff U. T. Downs, who had been the mayor of Pineville from 1918 to 1926, was indicted for malfeasance in office.[5] Downs died a year and a half after his indictment, by which time he was no longer sheriff.

Earl Long's gubernatorial predecessor (and third successor in the office as well), Jimmie Davis, created the office of superintendent at Angola by combining the former general manager and warden positions. In 1950, Long brought back the office of warden to meet patronage demands of office-seekers who had supported him for governor in the bitter race in 1948 against Sam Houston Jones. The return of the warden's position created renewed infighting with the subsequent superintendents over the division of authority. In 1948, with the start of his second term, Long appointed Rollo Lawrence as the penitentiary superintendent. Though he was not a professional penologist, Lawrence had a strong interest in rehabilitation of inmates.[6]

Working with Lawrence as the prison rehabilitation director was James Monroe Smith, the former president of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge who had pleaded guilty in 1939 to three charges of forgery and one of embezzlement; he was sentenced to eight-to-twenty-four years at Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was sentenced to thirty months in the federal prison at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia on charges of mail fraud and income tax evasion. In 1945, Governor Davis commuted Smith's sentence; both he and Smith were natives of Jackson Parish in North Louisiana. Had Davis not authorized the commutation, Smith would have been an inmate at Angola at the time Lawrence was the superintendent.[7]Lawrence believed that the state should make an "honest effort" to steer inmates, particularly first offenders, into occupational skills which they could use upon release from incarceration. The two questioned the penal farms in which prisoners were used commercially for often back-breaking labor but not given usable occupational skills to help them find gainful employment once released.[6]

Joining in the call for prisoner rehabilitation was Margaret Dixon, the influential managing editor of The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate until her death in 1970 and a Long-appointee to the LSU Board of Supervisors. Nearly forty Angola prisoners engaged in self-mutilation to call attention to what they saw as inhumane prison practices. An investigation conducted by Lawrence revealed only two cases where prisoners had been beaten and in both the guards had acted in self-defense when attacked.[6] Lawrence resigned as prison superintendent in May 1951.[8]

Death

Lawrence died in 1968 at the age of seventy-four. He and his wife are interred at Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville.[1][9][10]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Rollo C. Lawrence, Sr.. findagrave.com. Retrieved on September 24, 2020.
  2. Rollo C. Lawrence. picryl.com. Retrieved on September 24, 2020.
  3. Rollo Charles Lawrence, Sr.. searchancestry.com. Retrieved on September 25, 2020.
  4. "Lawrence is re-elected Pineville mayor Tuesday," The Monroe News-Star, June 13, 1934, p. 5.
  5. High Officials of Louisiana Are Indicted. The Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal (December 2, 1939). Retrieved on September 24, 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Mark T. Carleton (1971). Politics and Punishment: The History of the Louisiana State Penal System 148–152. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved on September 25, 2020.
  7. Smith, James Monroe. Louisiana Historical Association (A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography). Retrieved on September 25, 2020.
  8. "Lawrence Resigns Prison Post," The Ruston Daily Leader, May 18, 1951, p. 1.
  9. "Former Anglo Official's Rites Slated", the Baton Rouge Advocate, October 3, 1968
  10. Nellie Wells Lawrence. findagrave.com. Retrieved on September 24, 2020.