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Sylvan N. Friedman (May 19, 1908 – March 18, 1979) was a Louisianamarker politician. Friedman was a rare Jewish member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature, having served from Natchitoches Parishmarker in the House of Representatives from 1944-1952 and then in the State Senate from 1952 until his retirement in 1972.

Early years and background

Friedman was born in Natchezmarker in Natchitoches Parish. He was a large landowner, a farmer, and a cattleman, having served as a president of the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association.Prior to his legislative service, Friedman was a member of the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury, the equivalent to the county commission in other states, including eight years as the jury president. During his tenure, Natchitoches Parish in 1939 erected its existing courthouse in downtown Natchitochesmarker.

Legislative years

In the state House, Friedman and Numa T. Delouche filled the Natchitoches Parish seats vacated in 1944 by John O. Williams and Arthur C. Watson, an attorney and bank director who later was chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. In Friedman’s second House term, which began in 1948, Delouche was replaced by Roy Sanders of the Chestnut community north of Black Lakemarker. When Friedman won election to the Senate, his House seat was taken by Curtis Boozman (1898-1979) of Natchitoches.

As a senator, Friedman served with four governors: Robert F. Kennon, Earl Kemp Long, Jimmie Davis, and John J. McKeithen. During his lengthy career, he was a member of the legislative budget committee. He also served on committees on higher education, finance, and judiciary. Friedman unseated state Senator Lloyd F. Wheat in the Democratic primary. At various times, in addition to Natchitoches Parish, he represented Red Rivermarker, Winnmarker, Grantmarker, and a portion of Rapidesmarker parishes.In 1963, then freshman State Representative Paul Lee Foshee, Sr., did not seek reelection but instead unsuccessfully challenged Friedman for the Senate seat. In his last term from 1968-1972, Friedman and Cecil R. Blair, an Alexandriamarker businessman, represented a since disbanded two-member multi-parish district, which included Grant Parish. Friedman served a term as Senate President Pro Tempore, in which capacity he was the acting governor if the chief executive and the lieutenant governor were both simultaneously out of state. The position made him third in succession to the governorship.

A personal friend of Earl Long, Friedman frequently dined with the governor, eating cornbread, greens, sweet potatoes, and drinking buttermilk in the old Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge. During Long's tenure, Friedman had a room reserved at the mansion and was a late night "political talking companion."

Friedman lost his bid for a sixth term in the 1971-1972 election cycle, having been eliminated as the third-place candidate in the primary. Former Representative Paul Foshee then defeated state Senator Willard L. Rambo of Georgetownmarker in the runoff election. Thereafter, Foshee prevailed against a weak Republican opponent in the general election held on February 1, 1972. In 1975, Foshee was unseated by Donald G. Kelly, a Natchitoches attorney and horse breeder, who held the seat until 1996.

Friedman was a member of the Southern Regional Education Board. He was a former "Man of the Year" of the Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce. In 1988, Northwestern State Universitymarker in Natchitoches renamed its student center in Friedman’s honor. As a senator, Friedman had been instrumental in obtaining the student center, as well as Prather Coliseummarker and several residential halls and classroom buildings.

Death and legacy

Friedman died at the age of seventy. He was part of a small but influential Jewish community in Natchitoches Parish, one of whose members founded the oldest still standing hardware store in Louisiana. He is interred next to his wife, Elizabeth H. Friedman (October 12, 1912 – July 3, 1969), at the Jewish Cemetery in Natchitoches. There is an accompanying marker identified as "Infant" Friedman, November 7, 1945. The couple had a surviving son, Sam Friedman, a businessman and attorney who in 2009 reopened the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleansmarker. Friedman had a namesake nephew, Sylvan I. Friedman, of New Orleans, son of Friedman's brother, Harry Friedman, Sr.

Leon Friedman (1886-1948), probably the uncle of Sylvan Friedman, served in the Louisiana House from Natchitoches Parish from 1932-1940.

In 2006, Friedman was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfieldmarker. As is customary for the organization, cartoonist Pap Dean prepared a caricature of the late Natchitoches lawmaker.


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