Harmon Caldwell Drew

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Harmon Caldwell Drew
Harmon Caldwell Drew.jpg
Harmon Caldwell Drew as a boy (ca. 1903)
Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, Louisiana
In office
January 4, 1930 – May 1945
Succeeded byRobert F. Kennon
Judge of the 26th Judicial District of Bossier and Webster parishes
In office
January 22, 1927 – January 4, 1930
Preceded byJohn S. Richardson
Succeeded byJ. Frank McInnis
District Attorney of Bossier and Webster parishes
In office
December 8, 1916 – December 10, 1924
Preceded byThomas W. Robertson
Succeeded byW. D. Goff
Personal details
BornFebruary 16, 1889
Minden, Webster Parish
Louisiana, USA
DiedSeptember 1, 1950(1950-09-01) (aged 61)
Minden, Louisiana
Resting placeMinden Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Katie Caldwell Drew (married 1913-1950, his death)
RelationsHarvey Locke Carey (son-in-law)

Harmon Drew, Jr. (grandson)
Richard Cleveland Drew (father)

Richard Maxwell Drew (grandfather)
ChildrenR. Harmon Drew, Sr.
Katie Drew Carey
Alma materMinden High School

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Law Center

Harmon Caldwell Drew (February 16, 1889 – September 1, 1950) was a lawyer from Minden, Louisiana, who served prior to 1945 as the district attorney of Bossier and Webster parishes and then as a judge of both the district and the state appeal courts. His political career ended with his defeat by future Governor Robert F. Kennon. Drew's grandson, Harmon Drew, Jr., of Minden is a sitting judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, based in Shreveport.


Harmon C. Drew was born in Minden to Richard Cleveland Drew, also a judge of the district and circuit courts, and the former Katie Caldwell (1859–1936). His paternal grandfather was Richard Maxwell Drew, a district judge and state representative. In 1818, R. M. Drew's father, Newett Drew, founded the Overton community, the first settlement in Webster Parish.[1][unreliable source?]

After graduation from Minden High School, formerly the Minden Male Academy, Drew attended from 1904 to 1910 Louisiana State University and its Paul M. Hebert Law Center in the capital city of Baton Rouge. He was affiliated with Kappa Sigma fraternity and the national honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.[2] He played football for the LSU Tigers[3] and was the starting left guard on the 1909 team.[4] He participated in the first international game in Cuba against Havana University.[3]

In 1913, Drew married the former Annie Lucile Grigsby (March 25, 1896 – August 10, 1974). The couple had two children, R. Harmon Drew, Sr., an attorney, Minden city judge, and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and Katie Elizabeth Drew Carey (1915–1971), a Minden Realtor, married to and later divorced from Harvey Locke Carey,[5][6] the short-term U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana in Shreveport, appointed in 1950 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to succeed Malcolm Lafargue, who stepped down to run for the United States Senate against the then two-year incumbent Russell B. Long, older of the two sons of Huey Long. [7] In 1960, Carey was an unsuccessful candidate for a district judgeship in the Democratic primary, having lost to O. E. Price.[8] Carey had also run unsuccessfully in 1948 against the Democratic U.S. Representative Overton Brooks for Louisiana's 4th congressional district.

At first, Drew, a physically large man who commonly wore suspenders, practiced law in Minden with his father, whose circuit judgeship had ended in 1913.[6]

Axe-murder case[edit]

On December 8, 1916, Drew assumed the post of Webster Parish district attorney. Less than a month in office,[9] Drew was compelled to prosecute a bizarre murder case in the Grove community north of Minden. On Christmas Day of that year, the family of John Nelson Reeves, including his wife Maude and three of their four children, was bludgeoned to death by a group of axe-wielding men. The presumed motive for the killing was money that Reeves, who distrusted banks, had boasted of having stashed away in a mattress in his house. The district judge in the case was John N. Sandlin, later a U.S. representative and like Drew an intraparty opponent of the Longs.[10]

Two African American men, Chester Tyson and Mark Peters, were convicted and scheduled for execution for the five murders. However, Governor John M. Parker, acting on a recommendation from Judge Sandlin, commuted their sentences to twenty years in prison. Both were released on April 18, 1936.[11] A petition sent to the Louisiana Board of Pardons claimed that two white men, Henry Waller and Johnie Long, had actually planned and carried out the crime but had each received life sentences, rather than the death penalty. Long escaped in 1922 and was never apprehended, and Waller died of tuberculosis in prison in 1926.[12]

Judicial tenure[edit]

In 1926, Drew was elected judge of the 2nd Judicial District, renamed the 26th District, covering Bossier and Webster parishes.[13] Drew served three years on the lower court. He was elected in 1928 to the circuit court, on which he served for two six-year terms from 1930 to 1942. More than a year passed from his election to this court to his taking of the office.[14]

Political squabbles[edit]

In 1933, Judge Drew, who served as the president of the interest group known as the Louisiana New Deal Organization, an association committed to promoting the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, got into a heated exchange with U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr., who had been less than fully committed to the Roosevelt agenda. In a speech in Monroe, Long alleged that Drew had paid only $600 on an outstanding debt owed to the former Bank of Minden. The next night in Minden, accompanied by his bodyguards, Long spoke at Minden City Park. Judge Drew was there to challenge him directly. Instead, Long uttered mild remarks and did not attack the judge. After Long left the gathering, Drew told the crowd:

"I came here tonight to hear him [Long] repeat that lie in my presence, and he didn't have the nerve to do it. Louisiana must act to stop that man when he goes about the state attacking honest people. I for one do not intend to tolerate it any longer."[15]

Coincidentally, the day after the Minden Herald published the story of the Long-Drew squabble, John L. Fort (1906–1992) of Minden, the son of then Mayor Connell Fort and later the owner of a Minden news stand, shot to death city council member Abraham Brisco Nation (1886–1933) as a result of a political dispute between Nation and Mayor Fort.[16] In 1937, Judge Drew was a pallbearer at the funeral of former Mayor Fort.[17]

In the 1940 judicial election, Robert Kennon, the district attorney and former mayor of Minden, handily unseated Drew, 19,934 votes (63.5 percent) to 11,439. (36.5 percent). Kennon won nine of the ten parishes in the district, having lost to Drew only in their native Webster Parish.[18] In the preceding primary election, Kennon with 47 percent of the vote but no majority led Drew and a third candidate, Judge E. L. Walker of Ruston, who was then eliminated for further consideration.[19]

Because Kennon soon entered World War II service, he did not claim the judgeship until 1945. Therefore, Drew continued to serve as interim judge for nearly four years until Kennon claimed his seat. Drew also served temporarily by appointment on the Louisiana Supreme Court during the latter part of his circuit judgeship.[6]

Memorial service[edit]

H. C. Drew and most of his family members were Presbyterians.[6]

Drew died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-one. He is interred in the newer section of the historic Minden Cemetery, alongside his wife, son Harmon Drew, Sr., daughter Katie Drew Carey, and a granddaughter, Elizabeth Taylor Drew Weaver (1942–1996). In addition to Circuit Judge Harmon Drew, Jr., Judge H. C. Drew's grandchildren are Richard Drew Carey (1934-2013), a Realtor who developed nine subdivisions in the Minden area,[20] Thomas Drew Carey, a dermatologist in Ruston, Katie Lucile Carey Sims, a businesswoman in Houma in Terrebonne Parish in South Louisiana, and Margaret Caldwell Drew Colvin of Springhill, Louisiana.[21]

Three weeks after his death, Judge Drew was lauded at a memorial service at the Webster Parish Courthouse for his dedication to the law:

"Judge Drew was moved by a jealousy of the law. To him, law was the pillar of fire by night and smoke by day, ever leading him onward to the fulness of law, maturing in justice."[6]

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  1. "Drew Family". mindenmemories.org. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  2. Minden Herald, June 5, 1930, p. 1
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Eulogize Late Minden Judge in Court Today", Minden Press, March 4, 1957, p. 1
  4. Louisiana State University Tigers, 1909 team roster
  5. "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved June 4, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Memorial Services for Judge H. Drew Conducted Thursday", Minden Herald, September 22, 1950, pp. 1-2
  7. "M. E. Lafargue, Former District Attorney, Dies – Succumbs in Sleep Here at Age 54; Services Saturday". Shreveport Journal. March 28, 1963. pp. 1-A, 4-A. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  8. "Humphrey, McClendon, Price Nominated", Minden Press, July 25, 1960, p. 1
  9. List of District Attorneys of Webster Parish, Webster Parish Centennial Booklet, 1971, Webster Parish Police Jury publication
  10. Marilyn Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light (Many, Louisiana: Sweet Dreams Publishing Co., 2000), pp. Foreword, 1-4, ISBN 1-893693-09-0 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  11. Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light, pp, 187-188, 193
  12. Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light, pp. 187, 193
  13. List of Judges of Webster Parish, Webster Parish Centennial Booklet, 1971
  14. "Judge Harmon C. Drew Submits Unconditional Resignation to Governor Long", Minden Signal-Tribune, September 11, 1929, p. 1
  15. "Long Fails to Make Attack Here: Silent on Charges against Judge Drew and New Deal Group," Minden Herald, November 10, 1933, p. 1
  16. "Investigation of Saturday's Killing Held by Coroner's Jury", Minden Herald, November 17, 1933, p. 1
  17. "Connell Fort Dies Saturday Night at His Residence Here: Was Great Civic Worker and Builder of This City," Webster Signal-Tribune, March 5, 1937, pp. 1, 6
  18. "Kennon, Brooks Win Races: Kennon Defeats Drew in Court of Appeal Race; Overton Brooks Wins over Henry R. O'Neal in Congressional Race", Minden Herald, October 18, 1940, p. 1
  19. "Kennon Will Meet Judge Drew; Overton Brooks Leads Race", Minden Herald, September 13, 1940, p. 1
  20. "Richard Drew Carey". Shreveport Times. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  21. Obituary of R. Harmon Drew, Sr., obituary, Minden Press-Herald, December 19, 1995
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas W. Robertson
District Attorney of Webster Parish

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
W. D. Goff
Preceded by
John S. Richardson
Judge of the 26th Judicial District for Bossier and Webster parishes

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
J. Frank McInnis
Preceded by
Judge of the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in Shreveport

Harmon Caldwell Drew

Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennon

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