Democrat James Noe served as the interim governor of Louisiana after the death of Governor Oscar “O.K.” Allen on January 28, 1936, and before the inauguration of Governor Richard Leche on May 12 of the same year. Though he was a very wealthy man, Noe supported of Huey P. Long’s Share-the-Wealth plan to redistribute wealth, advocating its basic tenets even after the Long’s assassination. He ran unsuccessfully for governor twice, in 1940 and 1959, but had more success establishing radio and television stations in Louisiana.
James Albert Noe was born December 21, 1890, near Evans Landing in Harrison County, Indiana. The son of John M. Noe and Belle McRae Noe, he attended county schools. During World War I (1939-1945), he served as a first lieutenant in the 369th Infantry in France. After the war he moved to Monroe, Louisiana, where he found success and wealth working in the oil industry. In 1922 he married Anna Gray Sweeney, with whom he had three children: Gay, James Albert, Jr., and Linda McRae.
Voters in the twenty-ninth senatorial district, which then included Ouachita and Jackson parishes, elected Noe to the state senate in 1932. Having entered the race on the advice of Huey P. Long, a business partner and friend, Noe acted as spokesperson for Longism on the senate floor. After serving as president pro tempore of the state senate, Noe became lieutenant governor in 1934 following the resignation of John B. Fournet. This made him next in the line of succession when O.K. Allen died in 1936.
During his brief administration, Noe appointed Huey Long’s widow, Rose McConnell Long, to complete her husband’s term in the U.S. Senate. (Huey P. Long had been assassinated on September 10, 1935.) He also completed the paperwork to receive six million dollars of federal aid for Louisiana’s highways and began the process of establishing a state public welfare office under the national Social Security Act. Noe ran for governor in 1940 on his own merits. Though Noe clamed Long wanted him to be the next Louisiana governor, other Long supporters insisted that the Kingfish had anointed Richard Leche, the ultimate victor, as the next governor.
After his loss to Leche, Noe became increasingly estranged from those inside the Long political machine. He went on to found two radio stations—WNOE-AM and FM radio stations in New Orleans in 1936 and KNOE-AM and FM in Monroe in 1944–and a television station, KNOE-TV in Monroe in 1953. In 1959 he launched another unsuccessful campaign for governor, this time losing to reform candidate James “Jimmie” Davis. Northeast Louisiana University awarded him an honorary law degree in 1971. He died in Houston, Texas, on October 18, 1976, and is buried in Monroe.
Sources: Who’s Who in America, 39th ed. (1976-1977); Miriam G. Reeves, The Governors of Louisiana (1972); New Orleans Times-Picayune, obituary, October 19, 1976; other biographical material in possession of James A. Noe, Jr.
Adapted from Richard Hayne’s entry for the Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, a publication of the Louisiana Historical Association in cooperation with the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. http://www.lahistory.org.
Author: Richard Hayne
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Richard Hayne "James Noe." In knowlouisiana.org Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published September 14, 2011. http://www.knowlouisiana.org/entry/james-noe.
Richard Hayne "James Noe" knowlouisiana.org Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 14 Sep 2011. Web. 22 Jun 2018.
Cowan, Walter Grieves and Jack McGuire. Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals, and Reformers. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
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