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Hall Lyons

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Hall McCord Lyons (December 22, 1923 – July 22, 1998) was a petroleum industry executive who worked during the 1960s to establish a competitive Republican Party (GOP) in his native U.S. state of Louisiana, which was long-dominated by the Democratic Party. However, in 1968, Lyons left the Louisiana GOP to join the American Independent Party, through which as the American Party, he waged in 1972 an unsuccessful campaign for the United States Senate. Lyons's father, Charlton Lyons, had been the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1964 and the state party chairman from 1964 to 1968.

Background

Family ancestry

Born in Shreveport, where his parents had relocated in 1921, Lyons was given his mother's maiden surname as a first name and his great-aunt's married name as a middle name.

Education, military, and oil industry

Young Lyons was educated in Shreveport at the public South Highlands Elementary School and the private Southfield School with instruction through the eighth grade. He graduated from the college preparatory Lawrenceville School, a boarding school in Lawrenceville in Mercer County in central New Jersey. After enlistment in the United States Naval Reserve, Lyons studied at Centenary College in Shreveport, where the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse is named for his mother, and then Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.
Lyons received his commission as an ensign in the Navy through the Naval Station Great Lakes near North Chicago, Illinois. Lyons was then assigned to duty at Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands. While headed to Leyte, his plane developed engine trouble and was compelled to land at Peleliu Island. The noted newspaperman Ernie Pyle was aboard the altered flight. Upon reaching Leyte, the small ship to which Lyons had been assigned had already departed for the invasion of Okinawa off the Japanese coast. He finally reached Okinawa Island, where he remained for eighteen months. At the end of the war, Lyons was in command of the ship called USS Landing Craft Tank 1326. While in Okinawa, he found relief from military duties to plan a duck hunt, the story of which was carried on June 1, 1946, in the sporting-dog magazine, American Field.
After the war, Lyons completed his studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, from which in 1949 he received a degree in arts and sciences. After the war, Lyons lived for several years in San Antonio, Texas, where he was employed in the petroleum business with his father and a cousin, Newton Hall McCord (born in 1915 in New Orleans), who later settled in Houston, Texas. Lyons returned to Shreveport to become a partner in his family-owned C. H. Lyons Petroleum Company, formerly known as the Lyons, McCord & Logan company. When he lived in Shreveport, Lyons was, like his mother, active in the musical community there. A former president of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1948, Lyons often sang in opera presentations.Hall M. Lyons obituary, The Shreveport Times, July 26, 1998
In 1960, Lyons relocated to Lafayette, Louisiana, to become an independent oil producer. He also operated at least two wells in Pointe Coupee Parish in South Louisiana, the second from January 1977 to October 1978. In 1985, Lyons was listed as president of Golden Eagle Mining, Inc., in Lafayette, a company since inactive.

Political life

Republican House campaign

In 1966, having resided for nearly six years in Lafayette, Lyons entered the first of his two political races as a candidate. He challenged the reelection of the nine-term Democrat U.S. Representative Edwin E. Willis of St. Martinville for Louisiana's 3rd congressional district seat, now held by the Republican Charles Boustany of Lafayette. Willis had first defeated two fellow Democrats in the 1966 party primary, State Representative Dick Guidry of Lafourche Parish and State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc of Vermilion Parish, who had made a fortune in the patent medicine Hadacol.
Lyons accused Willis of being too closely aligned with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society social policy.Lafayette Daily Advertiser, November 9, 1966, p. 1 Republicans also claimed that Willis's health had diminished after he sustained in February 1966 a series of strokes which required surgery.Shreveport Journal, November 9, 1966, p. 2 Lyons polled 31,444 votes (40.3 percent) in a district in which no Republican had been elected since Reconstruction. Despite health issues, Willis received 46,533 votes (59.7 percent). Lyons obtained a slim majority in Iberia Parish and finished with 46 percent in Lafayette Parish.Louisiana Secretary of State, Louisiana general election returns, November 8, 1966 His defeat of Lyons marked Willis's last victory at the polls; he was unseated in the 1968 Democratic primary election by Patrick T. Caffery, who retained the seat for two terms before retiring to return to his law practice in New Iberia, Louisiana. Charlton Lyons had waged a campaign in December 1961 for Louisiana's 4th congressional district seat against the incoming Democrat Joe D. Waggonner of Bossier Parish, who won the right to succeed Overton Brooks of Shreveport, who had died in office three months earlier.
Running with Lyons in the same Third Congressional District in 1966 was Charles deGravelles, an oil landman from Lafayette and the successor of Charlton Lyons as state Republican chairman. DeGravelles failed to unseat Harvey Peltier, Sr., in a race for the since reconfigured Louisiana State Board of Education, now the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.State of Louisiana: Secretary of State, Election Returns, 1965-1966, p. 28

American Party

Unlike his father, who was a staunch supporter of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon in all three presidential campaigns and helped to deliver critical delegates to Nixon at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Hall Lyons grew disillusioned with the liberal influence within the national Republican Party.Hall Lyons was particularly critical of such Moderate Republicans as Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, who led the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1977 and was usually at odds with party conservatives. Senators Jacob Javits of New York, Clifford P. Case of New Jersey, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, and Charles Mathias of Maryland and Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York held considerable influence on the party as well. Lyons hence left his father's Republican Party to join the American Independent Party, an organization founded by Bill Shearer in California in 1967 and known for its nomination of George C. Wallace, the governor of Alabama at the time, as its presidential candidate in 1968 against Nixon and the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Hall Lyons supported Wallace in 1968 and planned to run for governor himself in the Louisiana general election held on February 1, 1972. He faced the prospect of running on the American Party label without his father's support, as the elder Lyons was the finance chairman for Republican nominee David C. Treen,"Charlton Lyons Is Named Treen Finance Chairman," Minden Press-Herald, July 13, 1971, p. 1. then of Jefferson Parish, where Hall Lyons subsequently spent his later years.Grover Rees, Dave Treen of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Moran Publishing Company, 1979), p. 47. Lyons cited "corruption in high places in Louisiana ... a cancer that must be cut out in an emergency operation.""Hall N. Lyons Is Candidate," Minden Press-Herald," November 11, 1971, p. 1. However, a few weeks before the election, Lyons abandoned his candidacy and endorsed Treen, in his words, "so the cause of conservative unity might best be served."Shreveport Journal, January 3, 1972, p. 1."Lyons Says Conservatives Should Unite With Treen", Minden Press-Herald, January 4, 1972, p. 1. Treen went on to lose the general election that year to Democrat Edwin Edwards, then the U.S. Representative from Louisiana's 7th congressional district, since disbanded. Treen nevertheless later became the first Louisiana Republican since 1891 to hold a seat in the United States House of Representatives. Treen represented the same but revised Third District in which Lyons had run six years earlier against Edwin Willis.New Orleans Times Picayune, November 8, 1972, p. 1. In 1979, Treen was elected as his state's first Republican governor since 1877.Official election returns, 1979", Baton Rouge State-Times, December 22, 1979, p. 16C.
In 1972, Lyons ran as the American Party Senate candidate though the state GOP offered its own nominee, Ben Toledano, a lawyer and conservative author from New Orleans who had run unsuccessfully for mayor early in 1970 against the Democrat Moon Landrieu. The Senate seat had been occupied since 1936 by the Democrat Allen J. Ellender of Houma, who died during the primary campaign. Victory in the November 7 general election went to the regular Democratic candidate, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., a former member of the Louisiana Senate, a gubernatorial runoff candidate against Edwards in 1971, and an attorney from Lyons's native Shreveport.
The Shreveport Times, November 8, 1972, p. 1 Former Governor John McKeithen, who had defeated Charlton Lyons for governor in 1964, ran as an Independent in the general election because filing in the Democratic primary was not reopened after Ellender's death. With 250,161 votes (23.1 percent), McKeithen finished second to Johnston, who prevailed with 598,987 (55.2 percent).Coincidentally, both Charlton Lyons and Hall Lyons were ballot opponents of John McKeithen some eight years apart. Lyons drew 28,910 votes statewide (2.6 percent); Toledano, 206,846 (19.1 percent). Neither Lyons nor Toledano polled a plurality in a single parish, but Toledano's best showing was his 30 percent in Jefferson Parish, a frequent base parish of the Republican Party in Louisiana. In his 49-state sweep that year, President Nixon secured Louisiana's then ten electoral votes, having won all parishes except West Feliciana. Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, November 7, 1972. Nixon was only the third Republican to have won in Louisiana since Reconstruction.The first Republicans to win in Louisiana for U.S. President since Reconstruction were Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and Barry M. Goldwater in 1964.

With Lyndon LaRouche

Lyons's subsequent political activities are murky. In 1984, he did not return to the Republican Party to support Ronald W. Reagan, who had campaigned for Lyons's father in the Louisiana governor's race in 1964,Perry H. Howard,
Political Tendencies in Louisiana Revised and Expanded Edition'' (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), p. 392 Instead, Hall Lyons contributed $2,600 in four checks that summer to the National Democratic Policy Committee, a group backing political activist Lyndon LaRouche, a former Trotskyite who pursued the Democratic presidential nomination that year against Walter Mondale. In June 1985, Lyons made a small contribution to LaRouche, the fifth donation in less than a year.

Death

Lyons died at the age of seventy-four after a brief illness in Jefferson, a census-designated place in Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. He had been in semi-retirement at nearby Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico for a number of years.
Lyons was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty Sue Buffington (1925-1993), the daughter of Culver W. Buffington and the former Nevva Scott. Betty Sue and Hall Lyons had four surviving children. After their divorce in 1960, she married Billy Carl McKeever (1930-2002). The McKeevers are interred together at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport. Lyons's second wife from whom he was divorced, Ann B. Barras (born October 1936) of Lafayette, is the oldest of three children of Herbert Paul and Hazel Marie Barras. She was briefly a music teacher at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a private piano instructor. She is the mother of his two youngest children.
Image:Grave of Hall McCord Lyons IMG 1385.JPG200pxrightthumbThe gravestone of Louisiana oilman and politician Hall McCord Lyons at Shreveport's Forest Park East Cemetery
Lyons was also survived by his third wife, the former Rosamond Jane Rosholt, known as "Roz" Lyons (born 1922) of Grand Isle, whom he married in 1975; his brother, Charlton Havard Lyons, Jr. (1921-2019), born in New Orleans but an attorney and oilman who has spent most of his life in Shreveport; his sister-in-law, Susybelle Lyons, a Shreveport socialite since deceased; three daughters, Marjorie Scott Lyons (born 1951) of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County in northwestern California, Cheryl Lyons Despain (born 1955) of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Blythe Ann Lyons (born 1968 in Lafayette), a veterinarian in Baton Rouge; three sons, Culver Hall Lyons, Sr. (born 1950), of Alpharetta, Georgia, Michael Glen Lyons (born 1958) of Humble, Texas, and Troy Dominic Lyons (born 1965) of Centreville, Mississippi, and two stepsons.
Though the senior Lyons and his wife were Episcopalians, Hall Lyons turned Mormon. Services were held at a Latter Day Saints meetinghouse in Shreveport. Burial was in the Lyons family plot at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport. Pallbearers included Lyons' boyhood friend, Republican former State Representative B. F. O'Neal, Jr., of Shreveport and Lyons's son-in-law, Wayne Kent Despain (born 1953).
Category:1923 births
Category:1998 deaths
Category:Politicians from Shreveport, Louisiana
Category:People from San Antonio
Category:Politicians from Lafayette, Louisiana
Category:People from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Category:Latter Day Saints from Louisiana
Category:Louisiana Republicans
Category:Louisiana Independents
Category:American businesspeople in the oil industry
Category:Businesspeople from Louisiana
Category:Lawrenceville School alumni
Category:Centenary College of Louisiana alumni
Category:Louisiana Tech University alumni
Category:Louisiana State University alumni
Category:American naval personnel of World War II
Category:United States Navy officers
Category:American opera singers
Category:American Independent Party politicians
Category:20th-century American opera singers
Category:20th-century American businesspeople
Category:Burials in Louisiana
Category:Converts to Mormonism
 
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