Ruffin Pleasant

Ruffin Golson Pleasant (June 2, 1871September 12, 1937) was the Democratic governor of Louisiana from 1916-1920, who is remembered for having mobilized his state for World War I. Prior to his governorship, Pleasant was the Louisiana attorney general from 1912-1916 and the city attorney of Shreveport from 1902-1908.

Early years and education

Pleasant was born in the community of Shiloh in Union Parish in north Louisiana to Benjamin Franklin Pleasant and the former Martha Washington Duty. His parents' names hence evoked the spirit of patriotism that Pleasant extolled in his public life. He was educated at the former Ruston College in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish, from 1885-1886. He then attended Mount Lebanon College, the forerunner of Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College from 1887-1889. He graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1894. Thereafter, he studied law at both Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. He was admitted to the bar in 1899.

Pleasant served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 as a lieutenant-colonel of the First Louisiana Regiment of Infantry. After the war, he launched his law practice in Shreveport, a large city by Louisiana standards which is the seat of Caddo Parish in the northwestern corner of the state. On Valentine's Day 1906, Pleasant married the former Anne Ector, the daughter of Matthew Duncan Ector and the former Sarah "Sallie" Parish Chew.

Moving up the political ladder

Pleasant was first city attorney in Shreveport, then state attorney general, and finally governor. In the 1916 general election, Pleasant, as the Democratic nominee, faced the Progressive Party's John M. Parker. Pleasant prevailed with 80,807 votes (62.5 percent) to Parker's 37.2 percent. Parker, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt's thereafter returned to the Democratic Party and won the 1920 gubernatorial election with Pleasant's support. At the time Louisiana governors could serve only one four-year term and could not seek a second term until four years had lapsed since the end of their previous term.

As governor, Pleasant encouraged volunteers and contributions for the war effort. Louisiana's support for the war was considered to have been among the strongest in the nation. After leaving the governorship, Pleasant resumed his law practice in Shreveport. Pleasant broke with Parker over tax policy and supported Huey Pierce Long, Jr. Not long afterward, he broke with Long too and became a leading spokesman for the anti-Long faction of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Pleasant was elected as a member of the Louisiana Constiutional Convention of 1921. That particular constitution produced by the delegates was superseded in 1974 by a newer governing document.

Pleasant was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1916, which renominated Woodrow Wilson for president and Thomas Marshall of Indiana for vice president. He was also a delegate to the Democratic convention in 1924, which took 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis of West Virginia as the party's compromise presidential nominee.

The later years

Anne Ector Pleasant died in 1934 after accidentally drinking a poisonous antiseptic in a dark bathroom in their Shreveport home. She was the founder and headmistress of Pleasant Hall, a coed private school in Shreveport. She had sued then U.S. Senator Huey Long for having caused her to be arrested on false charges and for having demeaned her as a "drunken cursing woman" when she sought to examine state public records in the Capitol in Baton Rouge.

Pleasant died in Shreveport four years later. He was Presbyterian. The couple is interred in Forest Park Cemetery off St. Vincent Avenue in Shreveport.

External links


"Ruffin Golson Pleasant", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 2 (1988), pp. 654-655

Miriam G. Reeves, The Governors of Louisiana (1962)

Roy Glashan, American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975 (1975)

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