John D. Watkins

John Dyer Watkins
Louisiana State Senator for Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne, and Webster parishes
In office
Succeeded by

John C. Vance

James Brice
Judge of Louisiana's 2nd Judicial District Court (since 26th District)
In office
Personal details
Born (1828-09-27)September 27, 1828
Minden, Webster Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died 1895 (aged c. 66)
Resting place Minden Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mahala Flora Morrow Watkins
Relations A. B. George (law partner)

John T. Watkins

Lynn Kyle Watkins
Parents Thomas G. and Nancy L. Dyer Watkins
Alma mater Cumberland College
Occupation Educator and Lawyer
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Rank Lieutenant colonel and judge advocate

John Dyer Watkins (September 27, 1828 1895) was an educator, lawyer, politician, and judge from his adopted city of Minden in Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, USA.


A native of Caldwell County in western Kentucky, Watkins was the oldest of five children of Thomas G. Watkins, a colonel of the state militia, and the former Nancy L. Dyer. He graduated from the since defunct Cumberland College in Princeton, the county seat of his native Caldwell County.


Watkins came to North Louisiana as a teacher/principal for two years at the former Minden Male Academy, a forerunner of Minden High School. He engaged in the private study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. He left the field of education when he was named district attorney for Claiborne Parish, which then included neighboring Webster Parish, an entity created in 1871. He was the DA from 1854 to 1859. During the American Civil War, he was named the enrolling officer of the Confederate States Army at Monroe in Ouachita Parish in northeastern Louisiana. He was made lieutenant colonel of his battalion and was judge advocate of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Watkins served as a state district court judge from 1865 to 1869, but was removed on ostensible grounds of war injuries. He therefore resume his law practice in Minden.[1]

In 1879, he was a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. From 1880 to 1884, he was a state senator[2] and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He was the Democratic nominee for Louisiana's 4th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives but was denied the position because of Reconstruction political wrangling.[3] In 1884, Watkins was a successful presidential elector for Grover Cleveland in the hard-fought national campaign against Republican former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives James G. Blaine of Maine.[1]

When Watkins left Minden Male Academy, his assistant, A. B. George, became the principal. The academy was the alma mater of many of the leading citizens of North Louisiana, including Watkins's son, John T. Watkins and John N. Sandlin, both eight-term members of Congress for the 4th District. Sandlin unseated John T. Watkins in the 1920 Democratic primary election. Sandlin's brother, McIntyre H. Sandlin, was mayor of Minden from 1894 to 1896, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1896 to 1900, and the Webster Parish tax assessor from 1904 to 1937. Thomas Wafer Fuller, another Minden Male Academy alumnus, editor of the Minden Signal-Tribune and the Webster Parish school superintendent,[3] served a term in the state Senate as well.[2] William G. Stewart, a pioneer farmer who lived in Webster Parish as a child prior to the American Civil War, was later president of the Webster Parish School Board. The since defunct William G. Stewart Elementary School in west Minden was named in his honor. Daniel Webster Pratt, a two-term nonconsecutive Webster Parish sheriff, also graduated from Minden Male Academy. Alexander McIntyre Leary, a businessman and the mayor of Minden from 1903 to 1905, was still another Minden Male Academy alumnus. The institution was supported by such families as the Drakes, Drews, Crichtons, and Webbs.[3]

Watkins had first met A. B. George, a native of Wilcox County in southern Alabama, as a fellow student at Cumberland College, from which George graduated in 1850. He then came to Minden to work with his friend Watkins. George had also read law at night and was admitted to the bar in 1855 and joined Watkins in the formation of a law partnership. George was also a town alderman and from 1856 to 1858 the mayor of Minden, having succeeded W. Jasper Blackburn, a former newspaper editor who held Louisiana's 5th congressional district seat from 1868 to 1869. Like Blackburn, George was also an editor of a newspaper, The Minden Democrat, and like Watkins a district attorney, state senator, district judge, and delegate to the 1879 constitutional convention. George left Minden after his election to the Louisiana Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[3]

Watkins was married to the former Mahala Flora Morrow (1834-1899), a native of Walton County in north central Georgia. In addition to John T. Watkins, the couple had a second son, L. K. Watkins, also a lawyer and member of the Minden City Council, who was in practice with his father near the end of the latter's career.[4]

Watkins was Methodist; Mrs. Watkins, Southern Baptist.[1] The couple is interred at the historic Minden Cemetery.[4]


  1. 1 2 3 ""Judge John D. Watkins" in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana"". Chicago and Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Company. 1890. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Membership of the Louisiana State Senate since 1880: Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne, and Webster parishes" (PDF). Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 John A. Agan (Webster Parish official historian). "The Impact of the Minden Male Academy". Minden Press-Herald in Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Mahala Flora Morrow Watkins". Retrieved March 24, 2015.
Preceded by
No records before 1880
Louisiana State Senator
for Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne, and Webster parishes

John Dyer Watkins (alongside John C. Vance)

Succeeded by
John C. Vance

James Brice

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