The New Year brings with it a new type of post to CreoleGen. In addition to our regular articles on the people, places, and institutions of Créole Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, we are beginning a series of posts (published at sporadic intervals) under the heading of “Faces From the Album.” This series will consist of brief biographical sketches of men and women of yesteryear from all walks of life. The goal is to highlight their lives through the wonderful digital platform we have here on CreoleGen.
Alexander Ferdinand “Alec” Laneuville, Sr. was a business and civic leader in New Orleans. He distinguished himself as an active worker in the Republican Party and by his appointment as the first Negro Special Assistant in the Office of the Administrator of the Veterans Administration in the Southeast Region. He was born on 3 August 1895 to Ferdinand Laneuville and Sidonie Chessé. Mr. Laneuville attended Xavier and Dillard Universities, where he studied government and personnel management. He also took courses in corporate organization and accounting. Much of his professional experience was in the field of life insurance, having begun as an agent for the Unity Industrial Life Insurance Company in 1919 and worked his way up to supervisor and later agency director. He was a manager of the Gertrude Geddes Willis Insurance Company and an agency officer for the Keystone Life Insurance Company. He was an organizer and founder of the Majestic Insurance Company and a past president of the Musicians Union (colored). Mr. Laneuville served two terms as president of the Autocrat Club, which was one of his great passions. He held membership in the League for Civil Rights, the New Orleans Insurance Executives Council, the National Insurance Association, the Urban League, and the N.A.A.C.P. Mr. Laneuville was a stalwart Republican who worked tirelessly for the 1952 campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower. He played an active part in planning for Eisenhower’s Birthday Campaign visit to the city in October 1952. Mr. Laneuville served as a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, Secretary of the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee; and Vice-Chairman of the First Congressional District Republican Committee. He was a delegate to the 1952 Republican National Convention at Chicago. On 13 February 1920, he was married to Elina Gueringer, the daughter of Paul Gueringer and Elina Azemard. Mr. and Mrs. Laneuville had three daughters Lorraine Laneuville Jones, Joan Laneuville Armour, and Marilyn Laneuville Populus, and a son, Alexander F. Laneuville, Jr. Mr. and Mrs. Laneuville moved to Plainfield, New Jersey in 1961, where they lived until his passing on 17 March 1970. He was buried from Corpus Christi Church and interred in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 2.
Sources: The Times-Picayune, 19 March 1970, page 20; The Louisiana Weekly, 30 October 1954, pages 1, 8.
Harold J. Reed was born in New Orleans in 1908 to James and Josephine Reed. His father, James J. Reed, Sr., was a successful businessman who operated the Broadway Mattress Works for several decades. His mother, the former Miss Josephine Davis, was the daughter of Joseph Davis and Cecile Grant. Mr. Reed’s theatrical career started when he was just eighteen years of age, while he was employed at the Alpha Hotel in Chicago. He won a contest sponsored by the famous Regal Theater, after which he started singing regularly at the Sunset Cabaret and skyrocketed to fame with the songs “Was it a Dream?” and “Ramona.” In 1936, he was joined by his brother Herman Reed and together the two made a dynamic team. Mr. Reed lived and performed for some time in Manhattan, where he was married on 25 May 1931 to Miss Pauline Novak, a native of Chicago. Upon moving to Los Angeles, Reed lived in the South Park neighborhood. In late September 1942, he was questioned by police officers concerning the “sex murder” of an elderly white woman who lived in the neighborhood and who was found assaulted and strangled less than fifty feet from her home. Reed was detained by police after some neighborhood children reported seeing a dark-complexioned white man loitering near the scene of the crime. After a thorough investigation and having no reason to detain him, he was released from police custody. He was not seen again until some three days later when his crushed and mangled body was found at the bottom of a 250-foot cliff in Elysian Park. He had no known problems weighing upon him and no proclivity toward suicide or depression. Reed’s friends and acquaintances and the black press feared that his death as they termed it was a “streamlined lynching.” At the time of his death, he had lived in Los Angeles for approximately a year and was waiting to be called into the United States Army. His remains were returned to his grieving mother and family in New Orleans and interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Source: The Louisiana Weekly, 24 October 1942, pages 1-2.
In September 1955, it was widely reported in the local press that Professor Asa H. Atkins of Xavier University and Mr. Clifford H. Denson, an insurance executive, were the first negroes to serve on an Orleans Parish grand jury. Those reports however were in error, for that distinction belonged to Ruffin J. Walker, Sr. a longtime resident of 2236 Cadiz Street in the city’s Thirteenth Ward. Mr. Walker was born Joseph Ruffin Walker in Saint James Parish on Christmas Day, 25 December 1889, to Joseph Walker and Aline Poirier. Mr. Walker was a veteran of the First World War and a building contractor who moved to Uptown New Orleans in 1920. Ruffin Walker enjoyed a long and successful career as a building contractor and over the course of his career invested in real estate. Mr. Walker was seated as a member of the Orleans Parish grand jury on March 3, 1941. He was initially selected for the jury because he was assumed to be a white man based upon his complexion. Upon informing the court officials otherwise, he was permitted to remain on the jury. During the six months in which he served, the grand jury brought indictments on the Commissioner of the State Department of Conservation, William G. Rankin and former Governor Richard Leche. Mr. Walker was married to former Miss Lillian Mary Dugas (d. 6 February 1949), also a native of Saint James Parish. They had six children: Freddie Walker; Ruffin Walker, Jr.; Oralie Walker Depland; Anita Walker Odell; Lillian Walker Hill; and Wilbert Walker, who died at an early age by drowning in the New Basin Canal. Ruffin Joseph Walker died in 1958 at sixty-eight years of age.
Source: The Louisiana Weekly, 24 September 1955, pages 1, 8.
Arthur Joseph Monette, Jr. was born in New Orleans on 11 November, 1910 to Arthur J. Monette Sr. and Deborah Alix. He worked as a painter and resided at 1704 Aubry Street. On 22 February 1936, he married Anne Harrietta Ladmirault, the daughter of Felix Ladmirault and Harriet LeDuff of Pointe Coupee Parish. Arthur J. Monette was among the civilian workers who came under fire during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. For his calm and bravery during the attack, Mr. Monette received a citation which read: “For most efficient action and unusual presence of mind on your part and that of the personnel of your shop during the attack on the fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, in handling all emergencies or rescue work that came to your attention in a calm, cool, and outstanding manner.” In 1953, he married Lillian Marine, who died in 1972 in Los Angeles California. The following year he was remarried to Anne Harrietta Ladmirault, a marriage which lasted until his death in Los Angeles on 14 October 1989 at the age of seventy-eight years.
Source: The Louisiana Weekly, 31 October 1942, page 3.
Jari C. Honora