Autocrat Club – Officers & Building Committee, 1954

One of New Orleans’ most popular clubs is the Autocrat Club; and its clubhouse, long situated on Saint Bernard Avenue, has been the site of many festive affairs. The Autocrate Club was originally formed in 1909 and later re-organized in 1914, with Arthur Boisdore as its first president. The Autocrat Club has always been a civic and community-oriented club which lent its chambers to civil rights meetings, maintained a lending library for members when public libraries were segregated, and even served as a send-off point for colored soldiers during the First World War. Shown below are members of the Club who were instrumental in the planning and construction of the present clubhouse when it was dedicated in 1954.

George J. McKenna, Jr., President, and Peter J. Labuzan, Jr., Vice-President

Arthur J. Chapital, Jr.; Emile A. Soupenne, Jr.; Paul L. Ellsworth; W. J. Ferrand; Oscar Daste, Jr.

Albert Alvarez, Emile Frick, Joseph Azemard, Percy Paul, Lester D’Aunoy, Randolph Hithe; (Not shown – Richard Gumbel, Sr.)

31 thoughts on “Autocrat Club – Officers & Building Committee, 1954

  1. I Love this stuff. Thank you so much for your research.

    When I was growing up one always heard GREAT things about the ‘Autocrat’ (pronunced – Autta Crat) and it’s members. It was truly the Center Piece of the 7th Ward. It was the gathering place of many very important gents and ladies. I hope that one day it will become that great club it once was.

  2. These were the men who were the leaders in my day. Mr. McKenna, Mr Chapital and Labuzan friends of my father. He belonged to the Beau Brummels.

    • My Great Grandfather is Arthur Chapital Sr. His son, Aldridge Chapital is my grandfather. My father is Marvin Chapital. I am Chaleen Chapital, by birth.

  3. What history!! My Father-in law is in the bottom photo, Lester D’Aunoy. He spent a lot of his leisure time there, every evening! We did not know this photo existed.
    Thanks again,
    Bobby & Eula D”Aunoy Dupré

    • Hey there I was looking for a photo of Richard Guillemet sr. And Marlene D’Aunoy. It’s quite old and I would really love to have a copy of it. Thanks!

  4. My Uncle, George McKenna Jr, loved the Autocrat Club. My grandfather, who lived around the corner N. Roman, spent every night there. But my best memories are of all the dances held there, with such great bands.They were so much fun. Some of my best memories of growing up in New Orleans in the 7th Ward.

  5. I too, have fond memories of the Autocrat Club as it was the most prestigious organization in the seventh ward and certainly the home of most of our social events-especially during the segregated South. It was assuredly a place where you felt welcomed, safe and familial, because most of us were parishioners at Corpus Christi and we were from the same schools and neighborhoods of the 7th ward. Just thinking about it brings joy to me. Keep up the good work.

  6. I am Lester D’Aunoy’s granddaughter-in-law and we are researching the D’Aunoy family tree. I’m glad I found this picture. If anyone knows any history on the Lester D’Aunoy family or any other current family members, please notify me at daunoy.genealogy@gmail.com.

  7. I lived on No. Roman Street, around the corner from the Autocrat Club, which was practically in my backyard. My grandfather was one of the builders and original members; his name was on the plaque in front of the building.

  8. My mother and her family, the Gumbels, resided and grew up in a home that was in the location where the downstairs Hall was enlarged/renovated on the side of the original Autocrat Club building. I believe the address was 1721 St. Bernard. The home was moved around the corner to make way for the addition when my siblings were teenagers My grandfather’s name is also on the plaque outside, and he was a founding member until his death at 88. His name was Richard Dunbar Gumbel Sr.

  9. My father was an officer of the Autocrat Club. His name was Verdun. He served as Treasurer in the 1980’s, as far as I remember. He died in 2005 after Katrina. My dad didn’t die in the storm, but as a result of it. (He had a heart attack!)
    Does anyone have any photos of him and his wife Vertner socializing?

  10. My father Oscar Daste Sr. was responsible for putting a brick front over a wood framed building. I laid some of those bricks along side of my father. When I left in 1950 to go into the service, I was the youngest member in the Autocrat— 19 years old. Brian Gumbel’s grandfather use to mentor me. He always wore a straw hat.

  11. Do you have more pictures you can post? My dad and his brother, Carroll J. Forstall and Albert Forstall were both members at the Autocrat club. My Aunt Albertine Forstall Simon had her beauty shop down in the basement before they renovated it.

    • Hi Charlotte, Just read your comment about the Autocrat Club. I too would be interested in more pictures of the Autocrat Club. Carroll and Albert Forstall were my uncles. Albertine Forstall was my mother. Any other pictures would be greatly appreciated.

  12. My parents, Jesse and Celestine Cook belonged to the Original Illinois, Bunche, Autocratic and many other clubs and organizations. Wonderful memories of the royal gallantry and elegance of their events.

  13. What were the requirements to become a member of the Autocrat Club? Was the club open to all the people of New Orleans.? Thank you for any information. I also grew up in the Seventh Ward.

  14. What were the requirements for membership in the Autocrat Club? Was it open to the public? I also grew up in the Seventh Ward.

  15. My dad, Anthony Angelain was also a member. My sister, Sylvia also had her wedding reception there, as well as she and I along with friends attended many functions ( b-days, Mardi Gras balls, reunions….). We lived in the 6th ward and socialized in both the 6th & 7th wards. I Attended St. Peter Claver Church and School, but on Wednesdays it was novenas at Corpus Christi. My oh my, what wonderful memories!

  16. I’ve often heard about this “brown bag test” to determine who could and who could not enter places like the Autocrat Club in New Orleans. I have always believed this to be a joke, not anything remotely associated with reality. In looking at the brown-skin photos of many of the early members of the club it is obvious that this “joke” is just that, a joke.
    While it is wholly possible that black-skin folks were quietly denied membership (in keeping with the racist tendencies of many Creoles) the paper bag test just ain’t true !
    I would welcome hearing from anyone who has had real life experiences with the brown bag test.

  17. I just discovered this website. (So cool.) My grandfather, Virgil Fauria, and his brother, Edwin “Beansie” Fauria, were early members of the Autocrat Club. I will check my mother’s old stash of photos and documents, maybe I can help with preserving some of the history. I live in Los Angeles and recently retired.

  18. WHILE THE “BROWN PAPER BAG” TEST MAY NEVER HAVE OCCURED IN REALITY, IT WAS A PSYCHOLOGICAL BENCHMARK EVER PRESENT IN THE MINDS OF MANY OLD LIGHT-“COMPLECTED”
    CREOLE FAMILIES. DARK-SKINNED MEMBERS AND FRIENDS FROM “GOOD
    FAMILY NAMES” WERE TOLERATED AS “DROP PUPPIES” AND WERE OFTEN CALLED “TE NEGRE” (PETIT NEGRE. A NICE “TYPE” WHO IS A LITTLE BLACK). THE MISGUIDED CHOICE TO SHUN RELATIVES AND FRIENDS WHO WERE DARK-SKINNED IN MANY CASES WAS A SURVIVAL CHOICE IN A WHITE RACIST NEW ORLEANS SOCIETY…A BREAD AND BUTTER CHOICE WHICH FORCED MANY CREOLES TO BECOME PASSABLANC, THE
    EASIEST WAY TO GET A GOOD JOB AND EARN A DECENT LIVING……. IN RETROSPECT, IT IS VERY EASY FOR US TO CONDEMN OUR ANCESTORS FOR USING A LITMUS TEST (BROWN BAG) TO
    APPROVE, INCLUDE OR MARRY A PERSON OF COLOR BASED ON THAT OL’ SAYING: “IF YOU WHITE YOU RIGHT, IF YOU BLACK GIT BACK, IF YOU BROWN, STICK AROUND.”…. INSTEAD, WE SHOULD
    CONDEMN THE WHITE SUPREMICISTS, THE HOLDERS OF POWER AND WEALTH FOR ENFORCING EXCLUSION BASED ON SKIN COLOR, AND CREATING A “FOR COLORED PATRONS ONLY” SOCIETY.

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