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4th Floor - Prescott Memorial Library
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Peggy Carter - Director

Tanya Arant - Library Spec. III

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Edgar Hunter Lancaster Interview





Mr. Edgar Hunter Lancaster interviewed by Peggy Carter, Louisiana Tech University Archivist

and by William (Will) Michael Lancaster, grandson of Mr. Lancaster.


Location:  Law Office and Library of Mr. Edgar Lancaster, Tallulah, Louisiana

Date:  December 2007


Mr. Lancaster: “We had a Sadie Hawkins Day dance and he took her to the dance. They didn’t see each other for 50 years I guess, and after his wife died, he came back to a class reunion at Louisiana Tech and saw her again, and they started dating and married, and he was married to her when he died about, well I guess a couple of years ago.  But he was very active in the alumni affairs of Louisiana Tech.  Dr. W.E. Chapel.  And this boy is J.T. Coleman, and I’ve lost track on him over the years, I don’t know what happened.  Yes ma’am.  And we were standing out; you can’t see old Tech, old Hale Hall, but we were right out front at the time.  Dressed in our best (not sure if he says ‘best’ there).”


Ms. Carter: “Well, that’s what I was thinking.  You’ve got white shoes on.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Oh yeah.”  (Laughter)


Ms. Carter: “Ties and coats and double-breasted...”


Mr. Lancaster:  “I don’t know what we were going, we must’ve been going to a dance or something, I don’t know.”


Ms. Carter:  “It was something formal.  You are all dressed up.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Yeah.”


Ms. Carter:  “Well, these are both pretty.  That - I like that with Hale Hall… in the background.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “This is, is that boy right there, but I don’t know who, I can’t remember who the rest of those are. (Unsure of what he says) (Pause)  This is… (Unsure of what he says here) This is a picture of, a group of us who were members of the 1934 championship football team that won the state championship.  And this was taken here at Tallulah, oh, must have been about 10 years ago I guess now.”


Ms. Carter: “Well I see the…”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Well, now this, they all, everybody in there now.  Of course, some of them are not deep (unsure of the preceding two lines).  This was a younger fellow.  But uh, this was Slick Morton, he played at LSU.  He was a real good ballplayer at LSU.  And this was Harry Morton, who was his brother.  And all the rest of them have died, except me, and of course this boy, but he was not in that group.”


Will: (Unsure of his first words). “You got a (unsure of this word); someone’s here.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Huh?”


Will: “Someone’s here to see you.  A lady.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Somebody’s out there?”


Will:  “Yeah, someone’s out there.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Excuse me.”


Ms. Carter: “Ok.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “You can look at the rest of these pictures if you’d like.  I don’t think there’s anything in there you’d want.  That’s Will and…” (unsure of the rest)

Ms. Carter:  “Those are cute.”

 Tape cuts off and begins again. 

Ms. Carter: “We are in the Law Office and Law Library of Mr. Edgar Lancaster.  Mr. Lancaster is here to share with us all of the events in his life.  He served as a state representative and is willing to share his experiences at Tech and at LSU and also in his service as an attorney in Tallulah.  I am here with him.  I am Peggy Carter, the university archivist at Louisiana Tech University.  Mr. Lancaster’s grandson is here with me, he is Will Lancaster, and we’re here to do this interview for historical purposes and to capture the life of Mr. Edgar Lancaster.  I am going to allow him to speak and to share these experiences comfortably as he recalls them, and we certainly want to be able to capture as much of these experiences as possible.  So I’m going to lay this down, and we’re going to start with his interview and his memoirs.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “Well, I don’t know where you want me to start (unsure of “start”).  My first experience at Louisiana Tech was in 1935.  I had graduated from Tallulah High School, and I had played football in high school and thought I could play in college, so I went over and tried out.  But I found pretty quickly that I was not college material.  And, but I stayed at Tech and ultimately graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1939.  I started out in engineering and decided that was not for me and switched to agriculture and got a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Louisiana Tech.  That was the… Boy, I was there when the main administration building burned, which was really a turning point in the history of Tech because they got a lot of, an influx of money from the state to rebuild.  And well, we got a new president.  I’ve forgotten exactly when, but about that time, I believe Dr. Bond had been the president before, and then Mr. Richardson became president.  Mr. Richardson had a lot of political know-how and was able to get a good bit of money for Tech, and Tech started really growing.  I think there were about, less than 2000 students, including driving students, when I enrolled at Tech.  I don’t remember what it, what it was when I graduated, but it wasn’t much more than that then.  But I think it’s up about 10 - 11,000 now, isn’t it?  Somewhere in that neighborhood?  It’s a big school now.  It was relatively small, and a lot of those were drive-ins and they ran school busses to the neighboring towns and bussed in a good many students to Tech. Lets see my freshman coach was Blue Hog, I don’t know if you remember him of not but he was quite an interesting fellow, and the head coach was Eddie McClain. Coach McClain was in a serious automobile accident, I don’t recall what year it was but he was very handicapped for the rest of his life from automobile accident. But we had, Tech had a good football team in that day as we played Ole Miss, one time during that time. We didn’t beat them but we played them a good game. As I recall we were leading them at halftime. As I said I graduated from there in ’39 in Agriculture, and started to work initially after I graduated in the local office of the AAA, here in Tallulah, which was part of the Agricultural Adjustment Agency. At that time there was a lot of growing of cotton, we had to measure the land, that type of thing. Then that summer, I went to the state office after I finished, I worked in the local office for about a year then went to Baton Rouge. I worked in the state office and then in the year just before World War II, I was an investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture the same agency that I worked all up through the South East;  South Carolina, North Carolina, North Florida, checking behind the local people, checking for fraud, really and handling the agricultural program. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, and I wasn’t married - although I was dating Beverly Dedrose, who I later married and have been married to for well, soon to be 64 years. I was anxious to get in the service, as were many young men my age, because the Japanese had attacked us. So I entered the Army from Baton Rouge with two other close friends. We took basic training in Fort Eustis, Virginia. Then went to Preliminary Officers Candidate School, and took my physical to go in to get my commission, my blood pressure was high from, I think I had been drinking beer at those PX after work everyday.  I ended up as a Sergeant in the Army, I didn’t get my commission.  My blood pressure wasn’t high enough to get me kicked out of the Army, but they wouldn’t give me my commission. Anyway, I went to Seattle, Washington to the staging area, and from there I was shipped to Kodiak, Alaska as a replacement to an old Minnesota National Guard outfit that had been set up there and had been activated just prior to the entry of the United States in World War II.  So things were on edge, you might say, with Japan and Germany, both. The Federal government activated many of the national guards over to the country, as they have done recently, as you know. The 215th was set up there, it was a unique outfit. Very, very fine people, in fact my old Italian Major called me when Katrina hit to find out how I was doing. He lives in Mankato, I hear from him occasionally. It was a unique outfit in that they all knew each other in civilian life, and we had a first sergeant, and while out in battery school, was the employer of his colonel. When in civilian life he was the employer, and when activated the colonel became his employer, so to speak. They changed in position. They were a real fine group of people and I was happy to be associated with them. We were the anti-aircraft defense for the naval air strips in the Aleutian chain, part our outfit was from Adak, Dutch harbor to Kodiak, I was on Kodiak, that’s where my quarters were. We rotated back to the states to El Paso, Texas and I was offered the job teaching school there in the army, teaching the recruits. I got married on my first furlough I had and so I got out of the 215th which had been sent over to Europe and was part of the invasion. I taught school there for the rest of the time because it was a real good job, just like a civilian job. It was through about 3 o’clock in the afternoon I could go home. We had an apartment downtown El Paso, and my wife got a job as a secretary to the county agent in El Paso and we made a lot of friends over the years that we kept up with. Most of them have died out by now of course. After I got out of the service I decided to go back to school, and I went to law school at LSU and got my law degree and started practicing law in Tallulah in well, its soon to be 60 years, 1968, 1948 is when I graduated, no ’68 is wrong, ’48 is when I started practicing. So it’s going to be 60 years I’ve been practicing here. I have a general practice of law and was elected to the Louisiana Legislature in 1952; I believe it was the first time. Judge Kennan was the incoming governor and I sat 16 years in the Louisiana House. Governor Kennan was governor one time, Governor Earl Long; I was there during Earl Long’s last administration which was very interesting.”


Peggy Carter: “Can you tell us a few things about that?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well he was a real character. So he was extremely well versed in local politics I would say that he had a great knowledge of everything, people all over the state. I remember he had invited me over to the mansion for breakfast one morning and he started asking me about a fellow from Oklahoma who was buying land in Madison Parish, I had no idea he knew about him but he wanted to know ‘where’d that fellow Hawkins come from’(Laughs). And I remember, I was thinking about an incident when we were standing in the back of the house there was a bill under consideration that he was interested in, this was his last term as governor, and I don’t know whether he was for it or against it, but he was interested in it. One of the other representative walked up and Earl Long said to him ‘I need your help on this bill’ and the representative said ‘Well governor, when you’re right I’m always with you’ and Earl Long says ‘Hell, when I’m right I don’t need you’ (Laughs). He was really an interesting character. That was when in office he sort of went off his rocker and his wife had him committed there for a short period of time. Later he ran for congress you know, and was elected surprisingly, but died before he could take office. I don’t know what year that was but um, that was the end of his career.

I was there during John McKithen’s first term, I was chairman of judiciary aid in the house and I was acting speaker for most of the time because in the last two years the speaker developed a heart condition and wasn’t able perform and he named me as his alternate. So, I was the acting speaker of the house for the last couple years I was in the legislature.”


Ms. Carter: “Well, that had to be interesting as well.”


Mr. Lancaster: “It really was, but about that time they started all this reapportionments and I had represented Madison Parish, and it was broken up and put in with the larger parish to the west and I’ve forgotten now the boundaries but it was no longer a single parish unit, and I decided not to run anymore, I couldn’t very well continue handling that big representation and handle my law practice too. So I didn’t run anymore after that. Well let’s see, what else can I tell you?”


Ms. Carter: “Well you started out at Tech and you were there when Old Main burned, did you attend any classes in Old Main?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Yes, they had several classes in the school of agriculture had several classes in the Old Main building. I don’t remember specifically what they were at this time. But it was quite a fire, everybody came out of the dormitories to gather at the scene to watch the blazes.”


Ms. Carter: “Well, you’ve given us some photographs that we’ll be able to scan in of Old Main, which, you know, we don’t have a lot of those. Where did you have classes after it burned?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, we had them in a number of different places. There were a number of classrooms surrounding the quadrangle, that’s where we had most of our classes. There was an agricultural building that was built, it was a temporary building. It was right near the square, I don’t recall exactly where, and we had a lot of classes in that. It was built out of plywood, and of course it was demolished after they put some permanent buildings there.”


Ms. Carter: “Probably didn’t have many cars at Tech then, and now we can’t even cross campus.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Everyone has a car now. I had a good friend and roommate who did have a car, James Kelly, he’s dead now. But he had a car because he sold magazines during the summer and so he had an automobile. I think there were two cars, two students that owned cars only in the junior senior hall. I forget who the other one was... (Pause) Burnham, Puffy Burnham had a car. He was a magazine salesman also.”


Ms. Carter: “That was a lucrative business then, in that day.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Oh yes.”


Ms Carter: “You shared your football experiences with us at Tech, which we were glad to hear.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Very brief, my football experience at Tech was very brief” (Laughs).


Ms. Carter: “We’re glad to hear our football team was good during those days.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Yes, they had a good team.”


Ms. Carter: “And then when you left Tech you went into the military.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, I didn’t go into it immediately, I worked for a couple of years. I finished Tech in 1939, and Pearl Harbor was in December, December 7th, if I recall in 1941. And I went in the early part of 1942, I’ve forgotten the exact date, I believe it was about April, as soon as I could get in and have everything arranged and get in the military. I took basic at Fort Eustis Virginia, which was, anti-aircraft artillery school primarily. Made a lot of good friends in the service, a lot of good people. One of my closest friends was Thompson Clark, we took basic together and Tommy later was the district attorney in this area for many, many years. And we went to preliminary OCS together but he got his commission and he was active for Mark Clark in Italy, during the invasion of Italy. And he died about 10 years ago I guess.”


Ms. Carter: “It’s amazing that how in such a short period of time when you served together in the military impacts your life and makes friendships and relationships for many, many years.”


Mr. Lancaster: “I was in the military for 3 years 7 months and 13 days as I recall” (Laughs).


Ms. Carter: (Laughs) “And then when you returned home, is that when you went to LSU? Because your law degree is from LSU, is that correct?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Now lets see when I got out of the army did I go to into LSU immediately? Well yeah, yes I did. After I got out I enrolled as soon as I could. There were a great many other who had just gotten out of the military, most of us ex-service in my class at LSU. Ms. Baggett she was one of the teachers she was quite a character, Lenore Baggett and Dean McMahan, Dean Hebert. Dean Hebert, He left while I was in law school, one of the judges to try the war criminals in Germany. He sat on that court. After that he came back to LSU and was later again Dean of the university law school. And the Interim, Henry George McMahan, very fine man. They were both exceptionally fine people I was very fortunate to have them as my professors. Along with them was Alan Ruving, but they had a very good faculty at LSU, still do I think.”


Ms. Carter: “I think we’re fortunate in Louisiana to have Tech and to have LSU and the opportunities for students to get their education there. I’ve been impressed with your life just with hearing from your grandson, Will, and working with him I knew that you were a distinguished and high caliber man and that you made many decisions and guided many lives in your career. And I was impressed when I went to the state archives and saw that in 1956 you served as representative and signed the bill that allowed us to have a state archives, to bring together our history, our documents together. And that was just the tip of the iceberg because we spoke all the way down there and all the way back of your experiences. I just wanted to let you know how delighted I was in learning that. And I’m going to be quiet and let you continue because I know there are more experiences that you can share with us, more work that you did. You’re a very humble man, and a very modest man and you are not elaborating on all the difference on all the difference that you have made on our law and on our state. “


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, I don’t know exactly what to tell you, um, I have enjoyed the practice of law for, well it will be 60 years, and incidentally, they are having all of us 60 year-olds down in New Orleans in the early part of January to give us a plaque, I guess for practicing for 60 years. Probably have your picture made with the chief justice, but anyway I’m going to try to go to that if I can get my wife to go. My wife, unfortunately has developed Alzheimer’s but she can still function to some extent in society, but not as well as she’s like to. I think my daughter is coming from the west coast and will’s father is going down, and I don’t know if my other son is going to make it or not but they are all going down to my 60th anniversary of practicing law.”


Ms. Carter: “That is quite an accomplishment. You mentioned your wife and I got the impression that she’s been by your side for many, many years, and been very active herself, in church activities and civic activities and a person who loved travel.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Oh, she does love to travel; she’s traveled all over and sometimes I couldn’t go with her. In fact, I got tired of all that traveling, but she traveled with her sisters, and her family. She and I made a trip to Italy a few years ago which we thoroughly enjoyed and we also went to Paris when I was on the board of governors of the Louisiana Bar Association. It was the year when we had our annual meeting in Paris. That was most interesting because Madame Diastang gave a cocktail party for those who were on the board of governors on the Louisiana Bar and the President of the Louisiana Bar. I believe Monroe was the president of the bar that year and I was on the board. We were guests of the Paris bar association. And the trip that we made to Italy was part of the LSU sponsored trip, which was really interesting. But she’s made a lot more trips than I have; I’ve gotten tired of traveling.”


Ms. Carter: “And you have quite a family, you have Will’s father, the judge here Michael Lancaster.”


Mr. Lancaster: “He practiced law with me from the time he got out of law school for 27 years he practiced with me. Then a vacancy came up on the district bench and he decided he would like to be judge and he’s in his second term now as district judge in three parishes, Madison, East Carroll, and Tensas. I was hoping he would come back and practice law once he retires from the judge’s bench but I don’t think he’s going to do that so I’m going to have to close this little practice out by myself. I have three children, Mike is my oldest, my daughter Patricia is a CPA and lives in Ocala, Florida, and my youngest son Hunter, is a civil engineer with a firm in Monroe. And I have three fine grandsons Will, Chris and a little boy named Ethan who is only 5 years old. I’m very fortunate they all turned out real well.”


Ms. Carter: “Well, I’ll agree with you on that. I have not talked with you yet about when you were a young man, whether you grew up on a farm or if you grew up in this area. I can tell by your life experiences that you have a good work ethic that you have honesty and integrity and that must have been instilled in you as a young child.”


Mr. Lancaster: “I was very fortunate, I had fine parents. My father went to Millsaps College in Jackson. He didn’t graduate but he learned how to play poker, he did go to Millsaps. My mother was from Franklin County, Mississippi. I was born in 1918, on June the 13th 1918. At my grandfathers, it would have been my great grandfather’s home in Brookhaven, Mississippi; He was the mayor of Brookhaven at that time. My father was running a plantation for Andrew Leonard out of Natchez, Later when I was about 8 years old he decided to buy this place in Madison Parish that my uncle told him about, Averton Plantation. That’s where I grew up from about that time on. It wasn’t a real large plantation but we grew cotton primarily. Cotton, soybeans and corn, but the cash crop in those days was cotton. It was worked in that time by half hands we had at that time about 20 families on the place and each grew their own crop. Then the landowner would get half the crop, instead of cash rent. There was also fourth hands, on the back part of the place, they had their own teams and their own equipment so they only paid a fourth of their crops as rent. Half hands planned on us providing the mules and equipment, tractors and that sort. My father would let me farm 10 acres of cotton for my cash money. And I would work that until I had to go back to school, so I’d have to hire someone to pick the cotton; I could pick some if it but couldn’t pick most of it… My father was quite a remarkable man, he loved to play poker. They had a game here in Tallulah all the time with Judge Snider who was the district attorney was one of the ring leaders in the poker game I think. My mother was sort of a devout Methodist and she didn’t believe in gambling, so I remember when she would fuss about him playing poker he’d say if it wasn’t for that poker game we would have lost the place during the depression (Laughs). When cotton dropped to a nickel a pound, the bottom dropped out of everything during the great depression. But he said he was able to hang on by supplementing the income with that poker game. He had the reputation of being a real good poker player; I think Will takes after him- Will plays poker.” (Laughs).


Ms. Carter: “I didn’t know that, Will.”


Will: “Yeah …”


Ms. Carter: “I wondered where you got all your money.” (Laughs).


Will: “Yeah, from poker.” (Laughs)


Ms. Carter: “He didn’t tell me that Mr. Lancaster, (laughs) he didn’t let me know that secret.”


Mr. Lancaster: “My father was ill for the last ten years of his life. He had a stroke when he was in his early 80’s he lived to be 94, but he as confined to a wheelchair most of the last several years of his life. Then my mother died three weeks after he did, she sort of just gave up when he died. They had been married 68 years when he died.“


Ms. Carter: “That’s remarkable, that really is a remarkable thing to have. And family- strong family values that keeps you together and working together. Will, do you have anything you’d like to ask your grandfather at this time?”


Will: “Can you tell us more about during the flood or the Great Depression I guess, during the Flood?”


Ms. Carter: “You talked with us about the flood.”


Mr. Lancaster: “1927 was the year of the big flood at that time that was just shortly, we moved to Madison parish after the flood. But at that time we were living in the area of Concordia parish called Aferton, we lived in a big old house, it was a two story house, it was facing the levee and when the water started rising my father built a walkway from the top of the levee to the top of the hall so he could come into the house and go upstairs. Then the water got too high, even for that and he stayed down there to look after the tenants and animals and so forth. And he fixed it where he had a bed right next to the upstairs window. And he could tie up his boat, and get right out of his boat into his bed.”


(Phone rings)

Will: “Lancaster Law Office, hello?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Who is that?”


Will: “I don’t know they may call back.”


Ms. Carter: “You had talked with us a little more about the flood when we went to Baton Rouge and I had forgotten about that.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, he arranged for us, during the flood to live near Natchez, we were in a house; it was an upstairs of an old building in a place called Washington, Mississippi, which is right out of Natchez. And we stayed there till the water went down then we went back to the low end of Concordia and I can remember where my mother was sitting on the front porch crying because in the house there was mud everywhere and if you opened the closets there would be snakes in there. It was a cake of mud everywhere, on the walls, on the floor the tank was flushed off. You had to boil everything you used, drinking water, cooking water, and you couldn’t use the water. She told my father to get her out of Concordia parish and that’s when he bought the place up here. That was 1927, the latter part of 1927. We moved up here. I had gone to a four pupil school for the fourth grade; there were five of us there at one time. It was lower grades; I had my aunt as a teacher, then another teacher before her, Ms. McUrn who was May Grayson who was a teacher when we moved to Tallulah. The room of the school was in my uncle’s house and all grades were taught in one room. I was in the fourth grade when we moved to Tallulah; I thought it was the biggest place I’d ever seen in my life. But my sister and I didn’t have any trouble fitting in and joining the classes. And we found out we were having as good of an education in that one room school as we did here. We didn’t have any problems. My younger brother was born in 1927. He was just a baby when we moved here; he died about four years ago. Donald was his name. My sister, there were three of us; she lives here in Tallulah, she was the librarian, the parish librarian. She retired and she still lives here. She’s a couple of years older than I am and in poor health but still here. My brother died four years ago I believe it was. His son retired, he was a colonel in the Air Force. I see them quite often. We still own the old Mississippi farm. Well, let’s see, we’ve owned it for about 150 years in the family. We owned it since my grandfather who was in Lee’s army of Northern Virginia. When Lee surrendered, he left Virginia and he joined his brother - they were both from Mississippi. Later on he acquired this place and we’ve had it ever since. Not a big place but it’s a rather nice place. It has a pretty lake on it. I think Will has seen it.”


Will: “Of course I have.”



 Ms. Carter: “Well, you shared with us your experiences of governor Huey Long and the assassination when we went to Baton Rouge. If you could remind us of those…?”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, I didn’t know of Huey Long, I knew Earl Long. Huey Long was killed the year I entered college I remember it so well. I had gone over there to play football, and I had a ride, my high school coach, M.A. Philips had come over to a meeting that Saturday and Sunday and that Sunday night he was coming back to Tallulah and I said ‘Coach, I believe I’m coming home with you.’  And so I caught a ride with him and his wife. We left Ruston and picked his wife up in Monroe and were driving back to Tallulah and we heard it on his car radio that Huey had been shot in the State Capitol. He was in the State Senate at that time. I was fortunate enough to know a lot of the people who were there when he was shot. The sheriff over in Tensas was, Sheriff Coleman was a state trooper at that time and was one of the Huey Long guards and was right there when he was shot in the Capitol Rotunda. And I knew Justice Fornett, who was the speaker of the house when Huey was shot, and he told me he saw when he was coming out of the governor’s office he saw Weiss shoot Huey. And he had no reason to lie after all those years, but there’s always been a great debate about whether Dr. Weiss shot Huey, and if he did why did he shoot him. There have been a lot of books written about it. I remember a time in New Orleans where Judge Fornett and another man who at that time was a district judge and had been member of the House when Huey was shot and they were telling what they saw. I wish I had a tape to take it down because they were eyewitness accounts of the assassination of Huey. There were rumors that body guards actually did the shooting, those who saw it said no, Ed Weiss shot him. And I had no reason to doubt them. They never did establish a clear motive except that Huey made some derogatory remarks about the Weiss of Dr. Weiss’ wife. They say that angered Weiss, but that’s the story. But the bullet holes are still there if you go to the Capitol and you’ll see them, around the around the post there. Then the guards shot Weiss of course, they opened fire after he shot Huey. Huey was taken across the lake to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and I think he died two days later, very shortly. They were working on that road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and they tried to get this well-known surgeon to operate on Huey and he started out, but had trouble on the road so they had to start without him. So they had to go on - they couldn’t wait, it was a local surgeon, I don’t remember his name, to do the operation. I wish I’d had a taped this point too, because I had one of the people who was in the operating room when Huey was operated on tell me about it. But I didn’t take it down, I don’t remember the details but anyway, Huey didn’t survive it. He and Earl were brothers, they had their ins and outs and at times they were close and other times they were not. Earl was quite a character.”


Ms. Carter: “Everyone is always interested in Louisiana history, and it has a unique history.”


Mr. Lancaster: “One of the best writers about that era was a Dutch from New Orleans. He was a feature writer for the Times Picayune, Herman Dutch. I got to know him very well because he used to be the reporter in the Legislature and he used to tell me some of those stories. But he’s written several books, you might want to read one:  it’s called Huey Long Murder Case, by Herman Dutch. His brother was a lawyer and a good friend of mine, Emhart Dutch.”


Ms. Carter: “I’ll have to check that book out, I haven’t read it.”


Mr. Lancaster: “I think the title of it is A Year Long Murder Case, I loaned mine to someone but I can’t remember who it was, I don’t think I’ve gotten it back.” (Laughs)


Ms. Carter: “They kept it. Well, one of the things you shared with us that day that I was impressed with is:  I know you play golf and enjoy that and you read, you stated that you read every night. Something interesting and I think you mentioned the National Geographic that you like to read that.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, I try to read at least 30 minutes or so each night just so... I just recently finished a book that my daughter sent me called the History of Oil. It was interesting, difficult reading, it’s not that thick. It starts with the discovery in Titusville, Pennsylvania. I think they have that well up there. And he gives the influence that petroleum has had on the history of the world since that time. It was a factor in World War I and World War II and still a factor. It states there that General Patton was very unhappy with Eisenhower because Patton had started the invasion then started across with his tanks to of course, Germany, and they ran out of fuel and he planned that Eisenhower allocated fuel to Montgomery’s army rather than to his army. He claimed that if he had that fuel that he wouldn’t have stalled and could have cut the war short by going ahead with his tanks on into Germany much faster than he did. Of course he ultimately got fuel but it was a question of a few weeks of allocation. And Eisenhower thought at that time Montgomery’s army needed it more that Patton’s did so they had a disagreement on that regard. It was really interesting. That book takes it all down to the present time and shows you what a tremendous impact the oil in Iraq and Iran has had on civilization on a recent history of the area. Some of the most tremendous supplies in the world are there, in that area. And that’s probably the reason we are so interested in it.” (Laughs)


Ms. Carter: “Most of us depend on the news media to give us the information and that’s not always correct. Of course you get conflict in reports too like that, and we don’t always go to a scholarly publication or something that’s written by someone who has studied and put the research in there to do a publication.”


Mr. Lancaster: “That book, it’s taken me about a year to read it. (Laughs) You know, at 30 minutes a night and I didn’t want to neglect my other reading I take up, Newsweek, National Geographic and two or three other magazines that keep me up to date on what’s going on in the world.  And then I read this history at the same time. I can’t remember who wrote it…Price.  He’s well versed.  It was difficult to follow all the characters. You forget from one time to another who that fellow was then you have to go back and reread what you already read.”

Ms. Carter: “This has been quite a history lesson for me. It was when we went to Baton Rouge. I’m very honored to be in the presence to be able to hear your conversation even to the point of explaining to me the land and where the river was, and the lakes that were there and the refining plant that was across the way and those things that I would have never noticed alone driving down there by myself.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Well, all of these, well, most of these lakes down here to Natchez to Vidalia, Lake Bruin, Lake St John, Lake St. Joe are old channels of the Mississippi River. The river meanders as you know, a flowing stream does that: it cuts on one side and builds on another. There is that cutting back and building back that causes the stream to meander that ultimately forms this pothole bins that as the river begins to migrate it cuts through and you have a lake left. And over the years they built a levee between main line of the river and these cut off lakes. Lake Bruin is, Lake St. John, and in Madison Parish we have a portion of this parish that is well on the east side of the main channel of the Mississippi River:  it’s called Australia Island.  And there’s a lake around Australia Island that was an old channel of the Mississippi.  It looks like a point bar.  I was with the Department of Agriculture, no, I got into some litigation involving Australia Island one time. I don’t remember the details but it went to the United States Supreme Court and a family from Sugarlot, Mississippi owns most of the land - the Evans family. There’s a lot of cotton grown in that end of the river. The main channel is well on to the west of that now.”


Ms. Carter: “Now, that I didn’t know.”


Mr. Lancaster:  “If you get you a map of Louisiana, when you see Madison Parish you’ll see point bar at one time and when they cut it off at one time it was an island, Australia Island. It’s about 17- 1800 acres, maybe 2000 acres completely on the other side of the river.”


Ms. Carter: “That was all very interesting and we were trying to think of a theme for having the Society of Southwest Archivists gather in the year 2009, and I just spent that time with you and Will and I said, “Well, let’s think about water and oil, because we have water and we have oil and they don’t mix but they are very valuable resources and part of our economy”. Then you mentioned in litigation one of your cases there, then I was thinking about that, since you practiced law for 60 years you must have had many, many, many interesting cases.”


Mr. Lancaster: “Oh yeah, I wish I could remember all of the details (laughs). I quit practicing criminal law two years ago. When I first started practicing the law there was no entrance in the Board. No money to pay for clients that were unable to hire a lawyer so the court appointed you one and it was your obligation to represent that man. So I handled a lot of those cases for free.

I had a client electrocuted: that was an experience.

There was a famous case called the Doughty Case that’s written up in magazines and there was an itinerary plaintiff who came here and found a house that was occupied but Mr. Doughty and his son, J.D. Doughty up north of here, and it burned and blew up and they found the remnants of this body and Mr. Doughty identified it as his son J.D. on whom they had recently taken out an insurance policy. As it turned out they located J.D. out in Oklahoma or somewhere so the question was who was this man and it developed that he was a tenant painter who they thought would never be missed and passed off as the deceased son and they could collect the insurance. It turned out that they electrocuted J.D.  I always remember I got out of town the day they electrocuted him. As I remember, they would bring the chair around and I was walking from my office to the courthouse, which was then across the street. And he hollered at me from the upstairs window and showed me the spot on his head where they had shaved for the electrode. So at that point I knew I had to get out of town. In those days when they would spring the electric chair it would dim the lights in my office.”


Ms. Carter: “You have been so kind to give us your time today.”


Mr. Lancaster: “My pleasure.”


Ms. Carter: “Be assured that we will have it at Tech for your great, great grandchildren should they want to