Jerry P. Shinley Archive:Guy Banister and the Free Electors
Guy Banister and the Free Electors
Orleanians who carefully examined their ballots in the December 7, 1963, gubernatorial primary, would have found some interesting choices at the bottom of the ballot in the races for spots on the State Democratic Central Committee. Some examples:
Ward 4 William Guy Banister
Ward 6 Jack S. Martin, Sr.
Ward 7 Mrs. Delphine Roberts
Ward 12 Vernon Gerdes
Ward 16 George Higginbotham
(NOTP; Dec 6, 1963, S2-P2)
What could have prompted such a curious group to run for such an obscure position? It all began as a scheme to deny JFK, in the 1964 elections, Louisiana's electoral votes regardless of the outcome of the popular vote.
In May of 1963, "200 persons from throughout" Louisiana met in Baton Rouge to establish the Louisiana Commitee for Free Electors. State Senator Harold Montgomery of Doyline was elected chairman. Two representatives from each Congressional District were chosen. Guy Banister was selected to represent the First District. (NOTP; May 12, 1963; s 1, p 11) Pages 322 to 327 of Glen Jeansonne's book, "Leander Perez" (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1977) describe the interest of Perez in the Free Elector Campaign. Note the mention of Perez's control of the First District on page 323. Banister probably couldn't have been chosen to represent that district without at least the tacit approval of Perez.
The previous year, Senator Montgomery had introduced a resolution condemning the activities of the FBI in Louisiana. "We are outraged by the prostitution of the once great [FBI], and its present misuse as a political police force, not dissimilar in method and result to the Gestapo or NKVD..." Robert Kennedy was especially singled out for responsibility. (NOTP; July 4, 1962; s 2, p 1)
In pursuit of the Free Electors scheme, Montgomery sponsored a bill in the Louisiana legislature. When that failed to pass. Leander Perez pushed a resolution through the State Democratic Central Committee to pick Presidential Electors in the primary before the Democratic party had even formally nominated a candidate. There was one catch. A new Central Committee would be elected on December 7. The Free Electors would need to maintain control of the Committee. They sponsored a slate of 344 candidates, including Jack Rogers, counsel of the the Louisiana Un-American activities committee. (NOTP; Dec 7, 1963; S1-P2)
Ultimately, the Free Electors failed. The assassination didn't increase their popularity. Banister only received 814 of the ~10,000 votes cast in Ward 4. (NOTP; December 10, 1963; S1-P23) Perez and his circle ended up supporting Goldwater in '64.
Back to the top
Back to Jerry Shinley Archive menu
Back to Jim Garrison menu
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page