Historical marker to memorialize Gov. Sam Houston Jones

(Source: Louisiana Secretary of State Web site)
(Source: Louisiana Secretary of State Web site)
Historical Marker Unveiling- Fort Polk JRTC Brig, Gen. Clarence K.K. talking about why Sam Houston Jones is a hero.
Historical Marker Unveiling- Fort Polk JRTC Brig, Gen. Clarence K.K. talking about why Sam Houston Jones is a hero.

He's a man history remembers for leading Louisiana from an era of corruption to much needed reform: Governor Sam Houston Jones.

And a special ceremony was held in Merryville to unveil an historical marker to memorialize Jones.

Jones served one term as governor from 1940 to 1944.  Speakers at today's ceremony described the qualities that made him a great statesman, governor and American.

Jones was born in a two room cabin on a piney woods farm in Merryville, but through education and determination made his way to the state's highest office at a time when historians say corruption was rampant.

In a ceremony kicking off Merryville's centennial celebration speakers remembered Jones as a man whose values are just as relevant today as they were in Louisiana in the forties.

Brigadier General Clarence K.K. Chinn told how Jones, a veteran of WW1, promoted Louisiana for key military maneuvers and training. "The Louisiana maneuvers are really about us learning how to use our new technology, which at that time were tanks, airplanes, motorcycles. All that was new technology because before that, you have to remember, we were all horse calvary," said Chinn.

And said Chinn, "Governor Sam Jones, he was instrumental in bringing those maneuvers to Louisiana. And by doing so, really what he did, he set in motion a chain of events that still impact this state and will for many, many more years to come. Today historians agree that the Louisiana maneuvers were so effective in preparing our military for combat, they hoped predispose a favorable outcome for the free world at the end of World War II."

And Richard Hartley, with the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor's Office,  spoke of Jones fearless determination to reform Louisiana government. "His aim as governor was to see that every single cent of public money dedicated to some specific purpose went to that purpose. Jones main campaign promise was to bring honesty to state government," said Hartley.

The governor's son, Bob Jones of Lake Charles, attributes his father's success to his unwavering values. "He had drummed into him those piney woods values, of honesty, integrity, service to your fellow man, service to God and his stuck them in his back pocket and he took them to Baton Rouge with him and I think that's why he was successful," said Jones.

Members of the Jones and Boyer families unveiled the historical marker that will memorialize the governor. It's permanent home will be at Sam Jones birthplace in Merryville.

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Here's a schedule of centennial events:

A block party in downtown Merryville 6-10 p.m. Friday

A pet parade and show  at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Merryville Centennial Parade at 11 a.m.

Performers to include Beauregard Courtesy of DeRidder, the Bebop's of Sulphur, the Merryville High School flag line, Clarence Hudson, Mickey and the Boys, Signed Sealed and Delivered and Thomas and Theresa gospel groups and Austin Hebert.

Fireworks at 10 p.m. 

Festival organizers also remind people of other Merryville natives who went on to prominence on the state and national scenes. In addition to Gov. Jones, notable products of Merryville include Lt. Gov. Lether Frazar, dean and first president of McNeese State College, now a university; state Sen. Jesse Knowles, a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March of World War II, and Christian Keener "Red" Cagle, quarterback at Southwest Louisiana Institute, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, three time All-American halfback at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and New York Giants player.

The grave marker for Charles "Leather Britches" Smith is still readable in Merryville. Smith lived in the Sabine River bottom and was always seen in his tanned leather pants with two Colt.45s strapped to his legs. He joined up with striking sawmillers who took part in the Grabow riot which left 30 men dead or wounded. Smith was tracked down and shot by law enforcement officers after he fled from Grabow.

Another well known as a Merryville resident is the late Gussie Loftin Townsley, Merryville's "Grandma Moses." She produced primitive paintings depicting life in rural Louisiana.

The Merryville Historical Society's museum, at 628 N. Railroad Ave., displays a number of pictures and relics relating to the community's past, including an humble memento of the massive Louisiana Maneuvers which encompassed much of southwest and central Louisiana during World War II. It is a bucket used to draw well water Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower used to freshen up with after his troops cross the Sabine River.

A 1987 painting of Merryville High School by the late Gussie Loftin Townsley, Merryville's "Grandma Moses." Townsley produced primitive paintings depicting life in rural Louisiana.