New Orleans Public Library
|Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans|
T. Semmes Walmsley (1889- )
During his service as Acting Mayor, Mr. Walmsley probably felt handicapped by a feeling that he should maintain the policies and political practices inherited with his succession. Beginning the new term as mayor in his own right, helped to his office by the support of thousands of independent voters who in past elections had registered their dislike and condemnation of political and factional practice that violates sound public policy and militates against good government, he enjoyed an exceptional opportunity for the betterment of city administration.|
In August 1929, Acting Mayor Walmsley and the Commission Council were attacked in the council chamber by an incensed mob, because the council chose to take under advisement a petition for immediate appeal of the “jitney” ordinance during the street car strike rather than submit to the demands for immediate action. As the results of that attack of organized government, Acting Mayor Walmsley announced his candidacy for mayor predicated on law and order.
T. Semmes Walmsley was nominated for Mayor of New Orleans, February 4, 1930; carried fourteen of the seventeen wards, defeating Francis Williams by a margin of 8628 votes; was re-elected to the office May 1934. This present term would have expired in 1938.
Before a throng that packed the commission council chamber and the corridors at the City Hall, he was inaugurated Mayor of New Orleans, May 5, 1930. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice O’Neil after a brief address of tribute. A fine gesture by Mayor Walmsley was an introduction of a resolution asking authority of the council to commission an artist to paint a portrait of the retiring mayor, Arthur J O’Keefe, who had been on sick leave, to be hung with the portraits of other mayors in City Hall. This was voted favorably. He ordered the mass of floral offerings received for his inaugural taken to the hospitals, homes of the aged and asylums at the close of the day.
T. Semmes Walmsley was born in New Orleans, June 10, 1889, the son of Sylvester Pierce Walmsley and Myra E. Semmes, members of old and highly honored New Orleans’ families. His father was a prominent cotton factor and his grandfather, Robert N. Walmsley, was for years President of the Louisiana National Bank.
He was educated at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama, afterwards taking a course of law at Tulane at University, from which he graduated with honors in June 1912. During college days he was an outstanding athlete, achieving much fame as captain and halfback of the football teams of 1909-10-11. He was one of the few four letter men Tulane ever had and the only one to ever receive fourteen varsity letters.
Upon his graduation he practiced law until 1917 when he entered the World War as captain of his company. On his return he again practiced law and in 1919 was appointed Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana which office he held until May 5, 1924. He served as City Attorney under the late Mayor Behrman from 1925 to 1926. Upon the death of Mayor Behrman he was elected Commissioner of Finance when Mr. O’Keefe was elected mayor.
On April 15, 1914, he married Miss Julia Havard of New Orleans and from this union a daughter, Augusta, was born. The family residence is at 2001 Palmer Avenue.
Shortly after Mayor Walmsley took the reign of office, he seemed to have incurred the displeasure of Huey P. Long, then Governor of Louisiana, who put forth every obstacle to prevent the functioning of city affairs.
On July 31, 1934 Mayor Walmsley felt that in order to prevent further conflict between the state and city, he would offer to resign his office. Provisos attached to this offer were not met by the opposing faction, so his resignation did not go into effect.
In July, 1935, the political developments reached the point where the Old Regular organization leaders asked for the resignation of Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley. Mayor Walmsley refused to meet this request.
On September 8, 1935 during the session of the Louisiana Legislature, Senator Long was shot and fatally wounded.
On June 30, 1936 after eleven years of service in City Hall, Mayor Walmsley resigned from office in a ceremony none the less dramatic for all that its details were prearranged. His resignation was in accordance with his promise that he would relinquish the office of mayor when and if legislation restoring home rule to the City of New Orleans was enacted and a sound program for the city’s finances was promised. He expressed the opinion that these conditions had been “satisfactorily met.”
Finance Commissioner A. Miles Pratt served as Acting Mayor for about two weeks and then retired to become Collector of Customs for the Port of New Orleans. He was succeeded as Acting Mayor by Mr. Jesse S. Cave, who was slated to replace Mr. Pratt on the Commission Council, also by Commissioner Fred. A. Earhardt. In fact, on July 15, 1936 New Orleans had the unique distinction of having been served by three mayors on one day.
Robert S. Maestri, Commissioner of Conservation, was already endorsed by the Old Regular organization and the Louisiana Democratic Association, as a candidate for mayor. A special Democratic primary was called by the Orleans Parish Democratic Committee on July 25th, and Robert S. Maestri was elected mayor without opposition for a term ending 1942.
Among the public accomplishments which have weathered the hectic years of this administration was the construction of the Municipal Auditorium, the completion of the new Criminal Courts and prison buildings, the paving of over one hundred miles of streets in New Orleans, the extension of City Park to the lake, the conversion of Canal Street into a great white way, one of the world’s most beautiful and best illumined business thoroughfares. The issue of six millions in bonds for the completion and development of Pontchartrain lakefront was approved by Marshall C. Hoppin, airport specialist of the Federal Department of Commerce, who desired early construction of the great lakefront airport. The installation of seven or more giant pumps, the largest in the world, is only a part of the broad drainage system of this city.
A plan for the complete rebuilding of twenty-three public markets within two and one-half years at an estimated cost of $3,000,000, a long recognized necessity from the standards of cleanliness and sanitation; the substitution of trolley coaches for trolley rail cars, all these were some of the accomplishments carried to a successful conclusion in the early days of the administration of Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley.
|Members of the Walmsley Administration|
July 15, 1929-June 30, 1936
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