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Reading Room Exhibit: Richard W. Leche Papers

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Visitors to the Special Collections reading room at Hill Memorial Library are invited to view a selection of materials from the recently processed Richard W. Leche Papers.

Richard W. Leche was the 44th Governor of Louisiana, from May 12, 1936 until his resignation on June 26, 1939. He was born on May 17, 1898 in Orleans Parish to Eustace Webster Leche and Stella Eloise Leche, née Richard. While attending Tulane University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 during World War I. He was discharged from military service on September 16, 1918. He then returned to his studies and graduated from Loyola University’s School of Law. Before his gubernatorial run and term, he worked as a lawyer, a judge, Huey P. Long’s senatorial campaign manager, and Governor Oscar K. Allen’s secretary.

Letter from J. R. Thibodeaux of the Bossier Parish Share Our Wealth Societies, seeking a donation from Leche in relation to campaign efforts, Oct. 18, 1935 (box 27, folder 12)

Ties with Huey P. Long and his allies secured Leche’s way to becoming the Administration Ticket’s candidate for the 1936 Louisiana gubernatorial election. Campaigning on Long’s platform and death, Leche won the Democratic Party primary against U.S. Representative Cleveland Dear, the Home Rule Ticket’s gubernatorial candidate. Leche’s Lieutenant Governor would be Earl K. Long.

Cover of the official program for Leche and Lieutenant Governor Earl K. Long’s inauguration ceremony, May 12, 1936 (box 70, folder 6)

Governor Leche continued many of Huey P. Long’s programs. Not long into Leche’s gubernatorial term though, he began to work with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to acquire federal funds and start Works Progress Administration projects in Louisiana. This effectively earned Leche the ire of the Share Our Wealth Societies and many of his former Huey P. Long-allied supporters.

Photographic print of Leche, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and New Orleans Mayor Robert S. Maestri greeting crowd from a train in New Orleans, April 1937 (box 79, folder 8)

 

Aerial view of the LSU Marching Band spelling “Gov Leche” in Tiger Stadium (part of the dedication ceremonies for the north end addition to Tiger Stadium, a WPA project), Nov. 28, 1936

After his resignation, cited to be because of poor health, Leche was convicted for a defrauding scheme involving the Louisiana Highway Commission in 1940. He served a portion of his federal prison sentence before being paroled in 1945. He was pardoned by President Harry S. Truman on January 16, 1953, which preceded a Louisiana State Bar Association pardon. He died in New Orleans on February 22, 1965.

The collection contains chiefly Leche’s gubernatorial papers. These papers consist of office files of correspondence, reports, audits, minutes, and a variety of printed materials documenting Leche and his administration’s communications, relationships, and dealings with Louisiana state and parish entities and federal entities. Major topics and issues documented include public welfare, labor, agriculture, flood control, and state and federal legislation. In addition to the gubernatorial papers, there are also almost 1,700 photographic prints depicting Leche’s life before, during, and after his gubernatorial term; scrapbooks; songbooks; and artifacts. The collection also contains the papers of Elton Reynolds Leche, Leche’s wife, and Richard W. Leche, Jr.

Front cover of the songbook Lovely Louisiana (Land of Romance), signed by LSU Marching Band director Castro Carazo, circa 1938 (box 70, folder 14)

For more details about the collection, patrons may view the catalog record here and the finding aid here.

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