Billy Guin

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Billy James Guin, Sr.
Public Utilities Commissioner for Shreveport, Louisiana
In office
June 1977 – November 1978
Preceded byWilliam A. "Bill" Collins
Succeeded byPosition abolished under new city charter
Member of the Caddo Parish School Board
In office
Personal details
Born (1927-11-14) November 14, 1927 (age 94)
El Paso, Texas, USA
Political partyDemocrat-turned-Republican (1961)
Spouse(s)Nancy Jane Beale Guin (married 1950-2018, her death)
ChildrenBilly Guin, Jr.

Nancy Guin Austin
Alice Guin Lind
Elizabeth Anne Leonard

Mary Virginia Reynolds
ResidenceShreveport, Louisiana
Alma materC. E. Byrd High School
Virginia Military Institute
OccupationEngineer; businessman
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps
United States Army Reserve
Battles/warsPost-World War II
Korean War

Billy James Guin, Sr. (born November 14, 1927),[1] is a retired businessman and engineer from Shreveport, Louisiana, who was from 1977 to 1978 his city's last public utilities commissioner under the former commission system of municipal government.[2] Since 1961, Guin has been involved in the development of the Louisiana Republican Party to majority status in his state. In 1964, he and two others became the first members of their party ever elected to the Caddo Parish School Board.[3]


Guin was born in El Paso, Texas, to James Frank Guin (1882-1930) and the former Bessie Aline Reeves (1898-1991),[1] both originally from Bienville Parish in northwestern Louisiana. The Guins had moved to El Paso in the hope that the dry climate would alleviate the impact of the tuberculosis which James had contracted during World War I while serving in the United States Army. After his father's death, Mrs. Guin relocated with their three-year-old son to Ruston, Louisiana, where they lived with her mother.[4] Bessie Guin subsequently married James E. Fitch, Sr., an Ohio native, and the couple resided in Shreveport. In addition to Billy, there was a second son, James Fitch, Jr. (born c. 1937).[5]

Guin graduated in 1944 from C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport[6] and then entered Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.[7] Guin left VMI for duty in the United States Marine Corps in extended World War II service. He then returned to VMI, from which he received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. There he met his wife, the former Nancy Jane Beale (March 31, 1927 – January 19, 2018), a native of Franklin near Norfolk, Virginia.[8]

Guin also served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He remained thereafter in the United States Army Reserve for three decades. On his return to Shreveport, he became affiliated with E. M. Freeman and Associates and United Gas before he formed the former B. J. Guin Engineering Company.[3]

Political life[edit]

Republican pioneer[edit]

Guin was a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee and the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee.[3] On March 3, 1964, he ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat from Caddo Parish in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Two of his five ticket-mates, Taylor W. O'Hearn and Morley A. Hudson, won their races and became the first members of their party to serve in the state House since Reconstruction. The two other defeated Republican legislative candidates were Art Sour,[9] who in 1972 won election to the state House and served for twenty years, and Fielder Edd Calhoun (1931–2012), an insurance agent and civic figure originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[10]

Heading the GOP ticket was Charlton Lyons, a Shreveport oilman who challenged Democrat John McKeithen for governor of Louisiana. Lyons polled the strongest vote in decades for a then rare Republican nominee in Louisiana.[11] Guin described Lyons as "a good man who wanted to change the political complexion of Louisiana. He built the Republican Party in its present form. He was a great campaigner, and there was much grassroots fervor. When he began to make inroads, the sheriffs and other Democratic officeholders proceeded to block his election."[12]

School board[edit]

In the general election held on November 3, 1964, Guin and two other Republicans running for the Caddo Parish School Board, the late Joel B. Brown and Edward Leo "Ed" McGuire, Jr. (1914-1983), were swept to victory on the coattails of the successful presidential nominee in Louisiana, U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.[13] McGuire was a native of Taunton, Massachusetts, who married the former Mary E. Bell (1916-2011), the daughter of Judge Thornton F. Bell of Shreveport, whom he had met while serving as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.[14][15]

Once on the board, Guin argued against reducing the number of members, a position advocated by board president and later state legislator Don W. Williamson. Guin contended that smaller boards augment the power of interest groups. While the larger membership can be cumbersome and cause longer meetings, Guin said that more members insure that the overall well-being of the community is served, rather than organized vocal minorities.[16]

Public utilities commissioner[edit]

In 1970, Guin and McGuire did not seek reelection to the school board but instead ran for the Shreveport city commission, Guin at public utilities and McGuire for mayor, then the "commissioner of administration". Both lost to Democrats, Guin to William A. "Bill" Collins, a former public relations specialist, and McGuire to Calhoun Allen, who vacated the position of utilities commissioner after eight years to run successfully for mayor. In 1974, Guin again challenged Collins for utilities commissioner and improved his showing from 1970 by some 7 percentage points but still lost 57-43 percent. When Collins vacated the post in 1977, Guin won a special election on June 18 with 51 percent of the vote to fill the remaining seventeen months in Collins's term.[17]

Guin hired Patricia Ann "Patsy" Forcier as his administrative assistant. At the time the wife of Ray Forcier of Shreveport, she has since been married to Billy Clapp of Ocala, Florida. Her father was the former State Representative Edgar H. Lancaster, Jr., of Tallulah in Madison Parish.[18] An unlikely specialist on sewer matters, Forcier, who was barely thirty when she joined Guin's staff, proved invaluable to his brief tenure at the Shreveport Utilities Department. Forcier's unusual speciality for a young woman attracted national press attention.[19]

In 1977, Guin dismissed the municipal water superintendent Alfred Joseph Petrus (1920-2009) for alleged theft of city materials and the improper use of municipal employees. Petrus was first suspended by Commissioner Collins shortly before Collins left office. The suspension carried over into the Guin administration, pending a probe into the charges against Petrus. After a jury found Petrus not guilty of felony theft, he applied to Guin for reinstatement. Guin, however, changed Petrus' suspension to outright dismissal because Petrus had allegedly used city employees to perform work at his private residence. Despite exoneration by the jury, Petrus failed in further appeals.[20] Petrus thereafter worked in the private sector became heavily involved in veterans and patriotic causes.[21][22]

Commissioner Guin became involved in another legal dispute when R. W. Calhoun, the superintendent of the Cross Lake Patrol, which fell within the jurisdiction of the utilities department, testified that he had issued about fifty permits for construction of piers and boathouses extending into the lake. Calhoun said that he attempted to "accommodate everybody on the lake - depending upon the shape of his lot." Because numerous lake lots had had curved boundaries, Calhoun said that the city was compelled to guarantee equal access from all lots regardless of shape. Guin stood with Calhoun: "The criteria that I used, and the concept of this design, was to try to create equity [among] the owners of the adjacent lots around that cove. Each one should have access to the water, whereby he could build a pier." When a lot owner sued to block a neighbor from constructing a pier and boathouse, the court two years after Guin had left office stood with the city's method of issuing the permits.[23]

Under Guin, Shreveport adopted fluoridation of the municipal water supply, an issue once controversial. The John Birch Society called it a "form of government mass medication of citizens in violation of their individual right to choose which medicines they ingest."[24] Opponents claimed that fluoridation creates more long-term health risks than the immediate advantages gained from decreased tooth decay. Hence the issue had been bypassed for more than twenty years by Shreveport municipal officials though adopted in many other cities. In 1977, however, the Chamber of Commerce and both daily newspapers, The Times and the since defunct Shreveport Journal, published by Charles T. Beaird, strongly endorsed fluoridation. Guin sought a $10,000 request from the city council for an engineering study to move toward fluoridation. When his colleagues balked, he pursued a referendum on the issue. On November 22, 1977, with a 28.3 percent turnout, 12,037 voters (53.6 percent) opposed a ban on fluoridation of the drinking water. Another 10,413 (46.4 percent) favored a ban. Though fluoridation was approved in a back-handed method—one had to vote "No" to approve of fluoridation—the physical process of actually placing the chemicals in the water supply, was not completed until the middle 1980s, long after Guin's tenure as utilities commissioner had expired.[25]

Abolition of the commission government[edit]

Guin served on the council with another Republican pioneer in Caddo Parish, George A. Burton, Jr., who from 1971 to 1978 was the last to hold the former position of municipal commissioner of finance.[26]

In 1978, the Shreveport commission government was abolished through a federal court order citing the at-large election system as having operated "invidiously to minimize or cancel the voting power of black electors."[27] With the commissioners' positions effectively abolished, Guin hence ran for mayor under the new and still serving mayor-council government. His opponents were the Democrats Don Hathaway, his council colleague who headed the Department of Public Works, and William T. "Bill" Hanna, an automobile dealer who ultimately won the position. Less than two years after his election to the last city council under the commission government, Guin finished with only 1,888 votes (3.4 percent).[28]

Personal life[edit]

Guin is a deacon, choir member, and clarinet player at the First Baptist Church of Shreveport.[29] He is also a member of Rotary International.[30]

Billy and Nancy Guin have a son, Billy Guin, Jr. (born 1951), an attorney since 1978. With the Shreveport firm of Rountree and Guin, his specialities are civil practice, mediation, criminal defense, and insurance defense litigation. They also have four daughters: Nancy Guin Austin (born 1952) of Baton Rouge,[31] Alice Reeves Guin Lind (born 1955) of Alexandria,[32] Elizabeth Anne "Lisa" Leonard (born 1957) of Metairie in Jefferson Parish,[33] and Mary Virginia "Ginny" Reynolds (born 1962) of Shreveport.[34]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 "Billy James Guin". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  2. In Shreveport and in other cities with the commission form of government, the commissioner exercises both legislative and executive duties, on the five-member city council itself and as a department head. This position should not be confused with a county commissioner, most of whom were and still are elected by single-member districts. County commissioners are the "legislators" of a county (called parish in Louisiana), with the county judge normally in the role of the "executive" head of the county. In Louisiana, the executive of the parish can be the police jury president, the president of the parish, or a parish "administrator", depending on the structure of the parish government. City commissioners could not be chosen on a district basis, as their administrative duties affected the entire city. African Americans were not then elected to city government in most parts of the South. Soon an outcry in the Civil rights movement raised legal challenges to the city commission governments, and many were struck down as unconstitutional, including the Shreveport commission in a 1978 court case.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Billy James Guin, Sr". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  4. "Billy James Guin: Videos and Interviews". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  5. "Billy James Guin in the 1940 Census". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  6. "C. E. Byrd High School". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  7. "Billy Guin, Class of 1949". e-yearbook.comlaccessdate=July 25, 2014.
  8. "Nancy Jane Beale Guin". The Shreveport Times. January 28, 2018.
  9. Shreveport Journal, March 4, 1964, p. 1.
  10. "Obituary of Fielder Calhoun". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  11. Shreveport Journal, March 4, 1964, p. 1.
  12. "Charlton Havard "Big Papa" Lyons, Sr". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  13. The Shreveport Times, November 4, 1964, p. 1
  14. "Mary E. McGuire obituary". The Shreveport Times. January 6, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  15. Shawn Bohannon (May 9, 2014). "Edward Leo McGuire, Jr". Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  16. Billy Hathorn, "The Williamsons of Caddo Parish: A Political 'Mini-Dynasty;", North Louisiana History, Winter 2008, p. 35.
  17. Shreveport Journal, June 20, 1977, p. 1.
  18. "Edgar H. Lancaster obituary". Monroe News-Star. October 15, 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  19. Bonnie Davis (May 19, 1978). "From Cancan to sewer lines". San Bernardino County Sun. p. 48. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  20. "Petrus v. Guin". December 3, 1979. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  21. "Alfred Joseph Petrus". KTBS-TV. January 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  22. Petrus was a son-in-law of two sheriffs in Grant Parish, Wyatt Luther Nugent, who was killed in the line of duty in 1936, and Nugent's widow and temporary successor, Lydia Ann Rosier Nugent (1895-1976). The Nugents had eleven children, one of whom, Frances, was married to Petrus until his death in 2009.
  23. "Lieber v. Rust". 1980. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  24. "Myth: The JBS considers public water fluoridation part of a Communist mind-control plot". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  25. Terry S. Reynolds. "The Fluoridation Controversy" (PDF). pp. 148–151. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 8, 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  26. "George A. Burton, Jr. obituary". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  27. "Blacks United for Lasting Leadership v. City of Shreveport". 1976. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  28. The Shreveport Times, September 17, 1978, p. 1
  29. "Active Deacons for 2014 and 2015" (PDF). Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  30. "District Installation Banquet (2007-2008)". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  31. "Nancy G. Austin". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  32. "Alice G. Lind". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  33. "Elizabeth Guin Leonard". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  34. "Mary V. Guin Reynolds". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
Preceded by
William A. "Bill" Collins
Public Utilities Commissioner
of Shreveport, Louisiana

Billy James Guin, Sr.

Succeeded by
Position abolished by new city charter

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