Jerry P. Shinley Archive:
Guy Banister, Crusading Publisher



Guy Banister, Crusading Publisher
Author: jpshinley
Date: 1998/07/29

       When George Singelmann filed his $50,000 libel suit against Glenn Clasen and James Arthus, his lawyer in this action was identified as Lawrence Hennessey, Jr. (NOTP; February 28, 1962; s1, p9) Interestingly, Hennessey had earlier defended Guy Banister in a criminal defamation case filed in 1958. At the time, Banister was the publisher of a weekly paper, The West Bank Herald, based in Gretna. The charge was filed by oilman Louis J. Roussel, who claimed he was defamed by a garbled account of an SEC action against a firm selling stock in Roussel's Universal Drilling Company. Roussel's partner was Louisiana State Supreme Court Supreme Justice, John B. Fournet. (NOTP; December 17, 1958; p36)

       Banister, represented by Hennessey, applied to the federal courts for relief. The case was made that Banister's rights were threatened because local prejudice made the outcome of a trial in Gretna a foregone conclusion. The charge was made that Jefferson Parish Judge John C. Boutall was "a member of the political faction which ... received heavy financial contributions from Louis J. Rousell." Herald publisher Banister had published articles "exposing various political figures allied" with this faction. (NOTP; March 5, 1959; p4; March 21;, 1959; p16) The state was represented by special attorneys Clem Sehrt and Edward Boyle, who actually represented Roussel. Judge Skelly Wright ruled against Banister and remanded the case to the local courts. (NOTP; May 14, 1959; s1, p28)

       The case came to trial in March of 1960 in the court of Judge L. Julian Samuel. Hennessey was still Banister's lawyer. Despite earlier predictions, Banister was acquitted because he had been out of town when the article, which the court indeed found libelous, was published. (NOTP; February 25, 1960; s4, p9; March 29, 1960; s1, p17)

       N.W. Ayer and Sons' Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals lists a R. M. Stewart as publisher and editor of the West Bank Herald, 535 Lafayette Street, Gretna for the years 1957 through 1959. In 1960, Dr. Frederick D. Beck is the publisher and T. A. Fox, Jr. is the editor. In 1961, there is no listing.

       The "Martin and Lewis Report", p 13 mentions a "'Doctor' Frederick Doughty-Beck (a chiropractor) residing at 932 Jackson Avenue, who knew Banister, [George Lincoln] Rockell, ... and Kent Courtney..."

       Hennessey participated in the defense of another publisher, William L. Donnels of "The Federationist", charged with criminal libel. The complainant in this case was New Orleans Mayor Chep Morrison. Donnels charged that Morrison "associated with Communists and fellow travelers", in part, because Morrison's secretary, Rosalie Brener Grad, had been a member of the Southern Conference on Human Welfare. (The successor to this group was the Southern Conference Educational Fund.) Other members of the defense team were Rudolph Becker, Guy Johnson and William Morgan. "James C. Garrison" was a special counsel for the prosecution. (At this stage Garrison was part of the Morrison political machine.) (NOTP; January 8, 1960; s1, p22)

       Banister, Singelmann, Donnels. It is not always fair to judge a lawyer by his clients. However, in this case, Hennessey made his own statement as president of the subtly named White Educational Association. In an announcement for an August 1960 meeting, it was promised that Hennessey would "discuss possible action to be taken to keep the New Orleans Public Schools open and segregated." (NOTP; August 10, 1960; s1, p9) A few days later, the White Educational Association sponsored a meeting which featured GNOCC chairman, Emmett Lee Irwin, as a speaker. (NOTP; August 25, 1960; s1, p26)


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