Concordia Parish, LAGenWeb Prominent Figures

Prominent Figures 

Do you have an ancestor, or knowledge of an individual, who was prominent within Concordia Parish? Perhaps an ancestor who held public office, or who founded a school, church, etc.?

If so, you are invited to submit a short description and bio of that individual.  One photo of the subject will be accepted.

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For more information, please contact: Ann Allen Geoghegan

Prominent Concordia Parish Figures


CHENNAULT, General Claire Lee

CLAYTON, Captain John Miles



GILLEY, Mickey

LEWIS, Jerry Lee

LYNCH, John R.

SMITH, Howard K.


VIDAL, Don Jose

WHITTAKER, Leon "Peewee"

WILLIAMS, Spencer, Jr.

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John Miles Clayton was born in Butts County, Georgia on February 22, 1831.  After leaving Georgia, he first settled in Natchitoches Parish, later relocating in Concordia Parish where he managed a plantation until 1870.  At that time he acquired the Park Plantation at the old town of Trivia, now known as Clayton.

John Clayton was a Confederate veteran, serving a total of four years.  As one of the few few surviving comrades of his original company, Clayton returned to Concordia Parish and organized a company for the 32nd Louisiana Infantry.  He promised to stay with his men to the end, and he kept his promise even though it mean refusing several offers of promotion.  He fought at Murfreesboro, TN, among other battles, and was wounded in his shoulder, arm, and left leg.

After the War Between the States, Clayton became prominent in both business and politics.  In 1890 the town of Trivia, in which he resided, renamed the town in Clayton's honor, after willingly giving the right-of-way through his plantation tot he Missouri Pacific Railroad.  He then established a mercantile business, and raised race horses.  He served as chairman of  the Democratic committee in Concordia Parish for many years, and also held the job of tax accessor.

Clayton was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and a member of the Knights of Pythias.  He was married twice.  First to Luzette Mary Eugenia GAHAGAN, with whom five sons and one daughter was born.  His second wife was Eudora GIBSON, with whom one son and one daughter was born.

Captain John Miles Clayton died in 1903, at the age of 73.

- Bibliography:  Chambers, Louisiana History, Vol. 3.

Concordia Parish, LAGenWeb wishes to thank Robert Shumway for submitting the Clayton information and Bible Record. 

Entries from the Blocksom Family Bible


John M. Clayton and Luzette Mary Eugenia Gahagan January 9, 1854 in Sparta, Georgia by Esquire Warren
John M. Clayton and Eudora Gibson Clayton Louisiana, January 6, 1877 by Judge Huff
H. N. Clayton and Eudora Gibson January 26, 1871.  H. N. Clayton died September 21, 1871


John M. Clayton February 22, 1831 in Butts County, Georgia
Louzette Mary Eugenia Gahagan January 6, 1832 in Butts County, Georgia
Kate Louella Neurista Georgiana Clayton October 12, 1854 in Jackson Parish, Louisiana on Desdemonia Bayou
Robert Wood Clayton August 27, 1856 in Concordia Parish on Black River
James Lawrene Clayton January 11, 1858 on Horse Shoe Lake in Concordia Parish, three miles from Black River at 4:20 a.m.
Orrin Henry Clayton January 17, 1860 on Horse Shoe Lake, Concordia Parish, Louisiana
John Elliott Clayton August 25, 1861 on Horse Shoe Lake, Concordia Parish, Louisiana
Oscar Estell Clayton July 12, 1868 on Black Lake, six miles from Black River
Henry Nettie Clayton December 11, 1871, Natchez, Mississippi
Mary Louzette Clayton December 14, 1877, Park Plantation
Shelly Meng Clayton March 8, 1882, Vidalia, Louisiana
James L. Clayton January 11, 1858, died December 23, 1910.  Buried December 25, 1910.  Graduated from Jefferson Military Academy, Washington, Mississippi;  graduated from Praesls Universities, Little Rock, Arkansas, April 2, 1891
Anna Elizabeth Blocksom July 21, 1874, in Catahoula on Tiger Bayou.  Died December 10, 1928, buried January 11, 1928 in Natchez, Mississippi. 
Ella Mae Clayton (Carrie & J.L's sister?) August 25, 1895, on Park Plantation, Concordia Parish, Clayton, Louisiana
Carrie Carlotta Clayton  October 23, 1898. Park Plantation, Concordia Parish, Clayton, Louisiana
Etta Odile Clayton March 31, 1903, Park Plantation, Concordia Parish, Louisiana
James Lawrence Clayton, Jr. March 1, 1908, Park Plantation, Concordia Parish, Clayton, Louisiana
Anna Elizabeth Blocksom (Great-Grandmother) August 9, 1792 in Leesburgh, Loudoun County, Virginia
Nancy Pair (Great-Great Grandmother) August 17, ____ Marrie Moses Blocksom
Moses Blocksom (Great-Great Grandfather) June 10, ____.

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John Ferriday was owner of the Helena Plantation that later became Ferriday, Concordia Parish, LA. The land had been given to John and his wife as a wedding gift.

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Howard K. Smith, Jr. was the grandson of medical doctor and planter Dr. Ernest Smith.  Dr. Smith's son, Howard K. SMITH, Sr., married half-Cajun, Mamie CATES.  The couple soon arrived in Ferriday, in about 1899, when Howard, Sr. was hired by the Texas and Pacific railroad as a train conductor.  Howard, Jr. was born in 1914 at 409 Louisiana Avenue, in Ferriday.  Howard, Jr. had at least one brother, Prescott, who became a dentist.

The Smith family left Ferriday and relocated, for a while, in Monroe, Louisiana when Howard, Jr. was only three.  Eventually, Howard, Sr. and his wife separated.  During the depression Howard, Jr. lived in New Orleans, LA.

Howard, Jr. was very successful academically and athletically.  He was president of his high school class, and received a scholarship to Tulane University where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, president of the student body, and a track star.

In 1936, Howard, Jr. traveled to Germany to earn an extra credit at the University of Heidelberg, in hopes of obtaining a Rhodes scholarship.  He arrived at Oxford, England in fall, 1937.  After Oxford, he worked for the United Press in London, Copenhagen, and Berlin on the eve of World War II.  These experiences formed the basis for his first book, The Last Train From Berlin."  The book, which became a best-seller, was written in only six weeks.

Howard, Jr. met and married Benedictine TRABERG, a Danish girl he met in Switzerland.

In 1942, Howard, Jr. traveled to France and covered the French Underground.  He then went to Holland, where he wrote articles for the New York Times, and Life.  In 1945, he covered Russia's participation in the surrender of Germany, and the Nuremberg trials.

After the war, Howard K. SMITH, Jr. worked primarily for CBS in a number of positions, and varying assignments.  Over the years the won award after award for excellence in broadcasting, including the Peabody Award, an Emmy, the Du Pont Commentary Award, the Lowell Thomas Award, the Overseas Press Club Award (6 awards), and a Friars Club
"Oscar."  He received 18 honorary doctorate degrees from American universities.

Bibliography -
Ferriday, Louisiana by Elaine Dundy;  Copyright 1991;  Published by Donald I. Fine, Inc. - U.S.; General
Publishing Company Limited - Canada;  ISBN 1-55611-144-4

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Jimmy Swaggart was born in 1935, to Willie Leon "Son" and Minnie Bell Swaggart, and the grandson of Willie Harry Swaggart.  He was a cousin to other Ferridians Jerry Lee Lewis, and Mickey Gilley, all born six months apart.   Son played the fiddle and Minnie Bell sang and played guitar, and had relocated in Ferriday to pick cotton during the Great Depression.  Eventually, in 1945, Son became a preacher, during which time he built five churches.  After Minnie Bell's death in 1960, Son gave up preaching, and returned to Ferriday where he opened a furniture store, and owned rental property.

At an early age, Jimmy was encouraged by his parents to become a preacher.  Jimmy resisted the pressure, and at age 17 married 15 year old Frances Anderson.  The couple lived in a trailer in a relative's front yard while Jimmy worked for a Ferriday oil company.  Gradually Jimmy began to return to his faith, and began traveling, with his wife and small son, preaching at revivals.  Jimmy's "break" came when his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis offered Jimmy the use of the Sun recording studio.  In 1962, Jimmy recorded a series of successful gospel albums.  By 1969 he had a weekly radio program, and moved into television in 1973.

Jimmy and Frances settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  At the height of his popularity, about 1987, Jimmy Swaggart's ministry earned about $150 million dollars a year, his television program was shown in 145 countries, he had 564 missionaries, and 2,000 syndicating radio and television stations.

In 1988, after admitting to several encounters with a prostitute, Jimmy Swaggart was defrocked by the Assemblies of God.

Bibliography -
Ferriday, Louisiana by Elaine Dundy;  Copyright 1991;  Published by Donald I. Fine, Inc. - U.S.; General
Publishing Company Limited - Canada;  ISBN 1-55611-144-4

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Jerry Lee Lewis, a cousin to Jimmy SWAGGART and Mickey GILLEY, was born in about 1935, the son of Elmo LEWIS.  Elmos LEWIS was in jail, when Jerry was born, having been picked up the Federal agents for working a still.  Elmo had left the northern Louisiana town of Mangham during the depression.

 By age 16, Jerry Lee had already married twice.  He enrolled in Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas to become a preacher, but only remained there for three months.  He was asked to leave because of his piano playing, that was said to be "hymns with a boogie beat."

In the 1940's, Jerry Lee won several talent contests.  Occasionally his cousins, Jimmy SWAGGART and Mickey GILLEY, would join him for a duet.  The three played together, sometimes, on the radio.  In the early '50's, Jerry Lee traveled to Memphis where he began recording for Sun Records, the same company that recorded Elvis Presley's early songs.  Jerry Lee at one point was thought to be the one person to surpass Elvis' position as "king."

Bad publicity followed Jerry Lee, especially when it was learned that Jerry Lee had married his cousin when she was only thirteen years old.  Additionally, it was discovered that Jerry Lee had not been divorced properly from his first wife.  Eventually, in spite of the liberal use of drugs and alcohol, Jerry Lee continued in the music industry.  Today his music is highly regarded, and his world-wide concert tours are successful.

The Lewis Family Museum (the home of Jerry Lee Lewis) is located at 712 Louisiana Avenue in Ferriday.  Tours are welcome from 1:00 PM - 8 PM daily.  Groups welcomed by appointment during regular or after-hours.  Adults $6.00, Senior Citizens and Children $3.50.
Write to:

    Lewis House
    712 Louisiana Avenue
    Ferriday, LA 71334

Or telelphone:  318-757-2563, or 318-757-4422

Bibliography -
Ferriday, Louisiana by Elaine Dundy;  Copyright 1991;  Published by Donald I. Fine, Inc. - U.S.; General
Publishing Company Limited - Canada;  ISBN 1-55611-144-4

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Mickey Gilley, a cousin to Jimmy SWAGGART and Jerry Lee LEWIS, was born in 1936 in Ferriday, the son of Arthur and Irene GILLEY.  The GILLEY ancestry has been documented back to Mickey's great-grandfather, Jean Baptiste HYPOLICE, born n 1809, who entered American via the port of New Orleans, aboard the ship Susan. Mickey's grandparents were Jhatme GILLEY, who migrated to Richland Parish, and Molly LEOPOLD.

Mickey GILLEY married Geraldine GARRETT, and the couple settled in Geraldine's home town of Houston, Harris County, Texas.  Mickey worked on construction jobs for Geraldine's father until about 1956 when he cut his first record.  For several years, Mickey played in local clubs and bars around Houston.  His marriage failed, and in the early 1960's, Mickey married his present wife, Vivian.

Mickey eventually built a name for himself in and around Houston, and a nightclub he owned with partner Sherwood CRYER, called Gilleys, became enormously popular in the '70's.  Hit records, like Room Full Of Roses, and City Lights propelled Mickey to the top of the Country Music charts.  Today Mickey and Vivian GILLEY live in Pasadena, Harris County, Texas

Bibliography -
Ferriday, Louisiana by Elaine Dundy;  Copyright 1991;  Published by Donald I. Fine, Inc. - U.S.; General
Publishing Company Limited - Canada;  ISBN 1-55611-144-4

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Claire Lee CHENNAULT was born in TX in 1893, the son of "Stonewall" CHENNAULT, who was named after Stonewall JACKSON.  CHENNAULT was a descendant of a soldier who fought with Lafayette in the American Revolution, and reportedly was related to Sam HOUSTON and Confederate general Robert E. LEE.

Claire Lee attended school in Gilbert, a small town in Franklin Parish, north of Concordia Parish, before settling on Lake John, in Concordia Parish.  His youth was spent hunting and fishing along the Tensas River that separates Tensas Parish from Concordia Parish.  Frequently, he would spend days alone, on these hunting expeditions, sleeping outside, and eating small game he had killed.

Tragedy struck young Claire Lee twice, as a boy.  At age five, his mother died.  Then, ten years later, his stepmother, Lottie BARNES, who at one time had been his teacher, also died.  Claire Lee became a loner.

Claire Lee attended Louisiana State University at the tender age of fifteen.  Missing his hunting and fishing days of his youth, Claire Lee managed to get himself expelled every spring so he could go back home, and spend days and weeks camping, hunting, and fishing.  Eventually he quit LSU, and attended a state teachers' college.

Claire Lee first married Nell THOMPSON from Waterproof, Tensas Parish, in 1911.  They eventually had eight children.  When World War I began, Claire Lee attended Officer's Training School, but the war ended before he saw any action.  Eventually, he was accepted at flight training school.

CHENNAULT'S military career was rocky.  Unafraid to buck higher officials, and to challenge old military tactics, he gained a reputation as a "troublemaker."  In 1936 Claire Lee was released from active duty as a result of illness.  In 1937, with China at war with Japan, he accepted an invitation by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Secretary of the Chinese air force, to build the Chinese air force.  Claire Lee accomplished the "impossible," working with untrained pilots, inadequate airplanes, and poor runways.  CHENNAULT even personally flew against the Japanese, downing 40 planes.

In 1940, CHENNAULT traveled to Washington, D.C. where he met with Thomas CORCORAN, a representative of President Franklin D. ROOSEVELT.  As a result of that meeting, the United States sent 100 planes and 100 volunteers to China.  Additionally, CHENNAULT personally recruited American volunteers.  The result was the American Volunteer Group, an extremely effective force that flew mission after mission against the Japanese during the early days of World War II.

CHENNAULT applied several tactics against the enemy that proved to be successful.  He implored the Chinese to set up dummy targets to divert the Japanese pilots.  He changed the numbers on the Flying Tiger airplanes to give the impression the force was much larger than it actually was.  He painted large shark teeth on his planes in an attempt to scare the superstitious Japanese.  From this came the popular term, The Flying Tigers.

The original American Volunteer Group, aka Flying Tigers, evolved into the China Air Task Force, and then the Fourteenth Air Force.  CHENNAULT himself was continuously promoted, and was decorated by every Allied country.  Typically, Claire Lee ran into personality and tactic differences with United States officials, and eventually CHENNAULT was removed from China.  Rather than accept another assignment, Claire Lee resigned his commission.

CHENNAULT and his first wife Nellie divorced, and Claire Lee married Anna CHEN, a Chinese journalist.  The couple had two children.

As a civilian, Claire Lee formed an airline company called the Civil Air Transport, which was later used in covert operations by the CIA.  CHENNAULT died of cancer at the age of 65.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bibliography -
Ferriday, Louisiana by Elaine Dundy;  Copyright 1991;  Published by Donald I. Fine, Inc. - U.S.; General
Publishing Company Limited - Canada;  ISBN 1-55611-144-4

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Born in 1847 on Taconey Plantation, as a slave.  He later became one of ot he most powerful political voices in post-Civil War America.

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Born in Vidalia.  Wife of Jack WARNER, of Warner Brothers' Studios, Hollywood, CA

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Born in Vidalia.  Horticulturist.

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Highly Aclaimed jazz and blues performer.  Born in Vidalia.

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Individual for whom the town of Vidalia was named.  After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Don Jose Vidal received a land grant consisting of 800 arpants.  He was appointed Spanish civil and military commandant of the post of Concord, and he built a home at Taconey Plantation, just north of Vidalia.  The home is still standing, and is the oldest and most historic home in the parish.

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