Parey Branton

Parey Branton

Infobox_State Representative
name= Parey Pershing Branton, Sr.
caption= Parey Branton
office= Louisiana State Representative from Webster Parish
preceded=Mary Smith Gleason
succeeded=R. Harmon Drew, Sr.
office2=Mayor of Shongaloo, Webster Parish, Louisiana, USA
succeeded2=Daniel Miles Branton
birth_date= November 1918
spouse= Georgia Lusby Branton
children= Daniel Miles Branton
Parey P. Branton, Jr.
party= Democratic
occupation= Businessman
footnotes=(1) Branton was a leader of Louisiana conservatives though he remained within his state's dominant Democratic Party.

(2) Branton's political career included an unlikely defeat for a school board seat by a write-in candidate.

(3) Branton and his older son, Daniel, have served as mayor of tiny Shongaloo continuously since 1983.

(4) In his last legislative term, Branton tried unsuccessfully to block a legislative pay raise.

Parey Pershing Branton, Sr. (born November 1918), is a retired businessman and a former Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Webster Parish, who served from 1960-1972. His district included the parish seat of Minden in north Louisiana. In the mid-1960s, he called himself a "Wallace--Goldwater--Free Enterprise--Right-to-Profit Democrat" and printed that slogan on his private vehicle. He refused to support the national Democratic presidential candidates during his tenure in the legislature. Instead, he endorsed Republican Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona in 1964 and former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, Jr., in 1968. Wallace ran on the American Independent Party banner in a vain attempt to block the election of either Richard M. Nixon or Hubert Humphrey.

Early years

Branton graduated from Shongaloo High School in his native Shongaloo in central Webster Parish. He then attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and the University of Texas at Austin, both for two years. He began his working career in the payroll department of International Paper in Springhill. ["Minden Press-Herald", October 20, 1955, pp. 1, 12]

Branton's first foray into public life was an unsuccessful race in 1956 for Webster Parish clerk of court. Three candidates challenged the 24-year incumbent Thomas J. Campbell (1895-1968) in the Democratic primary. Branton finished third in the contest with 2,327 votes, 92 fewer than the second-place candidate, Clarence D. Wiley (1909-1976) of Minden. The fourth-place candidate, Minden Alderman Frank T. Norman, would be elected mayor in 1958. ["Minden Press-Herald", January 19, 1956, p. 1] Wiley went on to unseat Campbell in the runoff election and served for twenty years as clerk of court.

chool board service

Prior to his legislative service, Branton was a member of the Webster Parish School Board. In the November 4, 1958, general election, Branton faced the opposition of his fellow Democrat A.J. Burns, Jr., who filed as a write-in candidate. Burns unseated Branton, who was then the school board president, 269 (55.5 percent) to 216 votes (44.5 percent). Opposition arose to Branton after the Democratic primary when the school board transferred Douglas Newsom from the principalship of Shongaloo High School to that of Dubberly High School in south Webster Parish. Newson's exodus from Shongaloo stalled the development of the agriculture department at the school and angered many votes. ["School board president beaten by a write-in- candidate, "Minden Press-Herald", November 6, 1958]

Three legislative elections

Fresh from his stunning defeat as a school board member, Branton ran in the 1959 Democratic primary for the Webster Parish seat in the Louisiana House. The incumbent, Ernest D. Gleason, had died, and the filling of the seat coincided with the timing of the regular primary. Gleason's widow, Mary Smith Gleason, had filled in for a few months. In the runoff election held on January 9, 1960, Branton defeated Minden attorney Henry G. Hobbs, 4,300 votes (50.01 percent) to 4,284 (49.99 percent). Branton won only two of the five wards in the parish to take the seat. ["Minden Press-Herald", January 11, 1960]

Branton was unopposed for his second legislative term in the 1963 primary. In 1967, however, he faced a stiff renomination fight from Springhill attorney Charles E. McConnell, who carried the support of Governor John J. McKeithen, an easy winner in his own primary for a second term. Branton prevailed in a runoff election held on December 16. 7,619 votes (52.6 percent) to McConnell's 6,857 (47.4 percent). ["Minden Press-Herald", December 18, 1967, p. 1] From 1968-1972, Branton and neighboring Representative John Sidney Garrett represented a combined Webster and Claiborne Parish district. Garrett was renominated in the first primary and was thereafter tapped by McKeithen to succeed House Speaker Vail M. Delony (1901-1967). ["Minden Press-Herald", December 19, 1967, p. 1]

After his last election to the legislature, Branton joined two Democratic colleagues from Shreveport, Algie D. Brown and Frank Fulco, in opposition to approved legislative pay raises. The trio filed suit in East Baton Rouge Parish in a failed bid to prevent state Treasurer Mary Evelyn Parker from allowing the expenditure of funds relative to the raises. Branton noted with alrm that his own legislative check had more than doubled, from $204.73 net monthly to $429.72, an amount he considered too large for a citizen legislature. ["Branton refuses payment under recent pay raise", "Minden Press-Herald", July 29, 1969, p. 1]

Bid for lieutenant governor

Branton relinquished his legislative seat after three terms to run for lieutenant governor in the 1971 Democratic primary. He was paired on an intraparty ticket with state Senator John G. Schwegmann, Jr., (1911-1995) of Jefferson Parish in the New Orleans suburbs, the gubernatorial choice. Schwegmann, the owner of eighteen grocery stores, was an outspoken conservative who had long been critical of excessive state spending and expanded government. The Schwegmann-Branton ticket fared poorly. Schwegmann finished in fifth place in the primary. Branton placed sixth in the lieutenant governor's race with 53,295 votes.

Branton was seeking to succeed conservative Lieutenant Governor Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish in south Louisiana. Aycock was running for governor that year and finished a notch behind Schwegmann. Branton was weakened in his campaign by the presence of a second candidate from Webster Parish. The developer Francis Edward "Ed" Kennon, Jr. (born 1938), of Minden, a nephew of former Governor Robert F. Kennon, was also running for lieutenant governor. Kennon polled 162,944 votes, more than three times as many ballots as Branton received. The winner of the lieutenant governor's race was former New Orleans City Council member James E. "Jimmy" Fitzmorris, Jr.. The next year, Edward Kennon was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, a position that he held from 1973-1984.

Branton was philosophically aligned with State Senator Harold Montgomery of Doyline in Webster Parish, another staunch conservative often at odds with his party's leadership. Branton was also personally and philosophically close to his successor, R. Harmon Drew, Sr., of Minden, another conservative Democrat. In 1995, Branton was an honorary pallbearer at the funerals of both Montgomery and Drew.

In 1975, when Montgomery declined to seek a fourth term in the state Senate, Branton ran in an eight-candidate, all-Democratic field for the seat. Trailing in the first-ever jungle primary held in Louisiana, Branton hence failed to secure a general election position. His former legislative colleague, John S. Garrett, went into the second election with Foster L. Campbell, Jr., then an young educator from Haughton. Campbell emerged the overwhelming winner over Garrett. Other primary candidates had included Branton's 1971 rival, Minden educator Ralph Lamar Rentz, Sr. (1930—1995). ["Minden Press-Herald", November 3, 1975, p. 8]

Family information

Branton resides with his wife, the former Georgia Lusby (born March 20, 1921), in Shongaloo. He was the mayor of Shongaloo from 1983 to 2001. He was succeeded in the office by his son, Daniel Miles Branton (born March 26, 1949). The Brantons also have a younger son, Parey P. Branton, Jr. (born 1951). Branton formerly operated a store in Shongaloo and was involved in the cattle and oil and natural gas businesses.


"Harold Montgomery obituary," "Shreveport Times", December 18, 1995

"Minden Press-Herald":

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