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James S. Leslie (October 27, 1937 – July 9, 1976), known as Jim Leslie, was a journalist for The Shreveport Times who became a public relations and advertising executive in Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. He is known for having been a homicide victim in the state capital, Baton Rouge on July 9, 1976, in a case described by the police as a "professional hit." George W. D'Artois, the Public Safety Commissioner in Shreveport, was twice arrested in the case; the first time he was released for lack of evidence. He was arrested again on charges of first-degree murder in April 1977, suspected of contracting for the murder of Leslie, but he died in June of that year during heart surgery. No one was tried in the case.

James S. "Jim" Leslie
Jim Leslie of Shreveport, LA.jpg
Born(1937-10-27)October 27, 1937
Place of birth missing
DiedJuly 9, 1976(1976-07-09) (aged 38)
Cause of deathUnsolved homicide
Resting placeForest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport, Louisiana
ResidenceShreveport, Louisiana
Alma materMissing
OccupationJournalist for The Shreveport Times
Public relations advertising executive
Spouse(s)Carolyn S. Leslie
ChildrenScott and Mickey Leslie

Leslie had been hired by D'Artois in 1974 to manage communications in his reelection campaign; he had been in office since 1962. In the mid-1970s, D'Artois was the subject of an extended investigation by the Shreveport Times. Leslie had told a friend earlier in 1976 that D'Artois had tried to pay him with city funds for his work on his 1974 campaign, and warned him against testifying before a grand jury. With a full-scale investigation of the commissioner underway, Leslie was called to testify to a grand jury about alleged corruption in D'Artois's department.

BiographyEdit

James S. Leslie, called "Jim" much of his life, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1937. He attended public schools before going to college. After graduation, he became involved in journalism and worked for The Shreveport Times for years as a reporter. He developed a wide network among colleagues, and with people in city and state government.

Leslie later went into public relations for businesses. Ultimately he became an advertising executive, and also became involved in political communications. He conceived of a number of campaigns.

He married Carolyn S. and they had two sons, Scott and Mickey.

1974 campaignEdit

In 1974 George D'Artois, the Public Service Commissioner in Shreveport since 1962, hired Leslie to create his communications as part of his campaign for reelection. In 1970 D'Artois faced a greater challenge from a Republican competitor, and he was aware of growing Republican strength in the city and state, as white conservatives started to leave the Democratic Party. D'Artois gained reelection.

A team of reporters from the Shreveport Times began working on a series of investigations about D'Artois in the mid-1970s. One line led to Leslie, who still held two uncancelled checks from the 1974 campaign. He told reporters that D'Artois had tried to pay him with city funds for his services, rather than from the campaign account, which was the only legal source. He told friend and former colleague, Elliot Stonecipher, that D'Artois had told him to cash the checks, and warned him against testifying in an upcoming grand jury.[1]

1976 activitiesEdit

In the summer of 1976, Leslie was involved in the advertising campaign in support of a right-to-work bill under consideration in the Louisiana State Legislature. It was controversial, as labor unions strongly opposed it.[1] Much of the lobbying in favor of the bill had been directed by Edward J. Steimel of the relatively new organization, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which opposed strong unions in the state. The Taft-Hartley Act permits states to prohibit closed shops that require employees of companies to join or pay dues to a labor union.

Leslie had been staying in the capital as the bill was considered in the state senate. After celebrating the victory with colleagues near the state capitol, Leslie returned to the Prince Murat Inn in Baton Rouge, where he had been staying while the bill was being considered. He parked in one of the few spaces available. Before he could reach the hotel, he was shot and killed instantly in the parking lot by an unknown assailant. It was found a panel in the boundary fence had been removed, and the shooter used the space to hit Leslie. Given the lack of evidence, Baton Rouge detectives described it as a "professional hit."[1]

The Sheriff of Caddo Parish was Harold Terry (1925-2016), who had taken office nine days before. He informed the Leslie family in Shreveport about the executive's killing. Josiah Lee "J. L." Wilson, III (1940-2015),[2] then a reporter for The Shreveport Times, reported that deputies told him that Sheriff Terry's eyes were red from weeping as he left his office to meet with the Leslie family.[3]

There was speculation that George W. D'Artois, Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner, had hired a man to murder Leslie, in relation to a Caddo Parish grand jury.[1] D'Artois was arrested in August 1976 on charges related to Leslie's murder, and forced to resign his office. He was released at the time for lack of evidence, but was going to be tried in a separate case for theft of city funds in the amount of $30,000 for payment of police informants.

After his trial was repeatedly postponed because of his poor health, D'Artois was later arrested again on April 19, 1977 on charges of first-degree murder of Leslie; the warrant was signed by District Judge Gonzalez of Baton Rouge. Initially D'Artois barricaded himself in the attic of his house and refused to accept the warrant. Saying he refused to go to the Caddo Parish Jail and would only go to the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail, he had appealed to the state supreme court against arrest because of his health. The Louisiana State Supreme Court refused to block a trial of D'Artois on other charges, of theft of $30,000 in city funds, as noted above. While there had been media speculation that Leslie had been murdered because of his activities on the right-to-work bill, the East Baton Rouge Parish police said there was no evidence to support that.[4]

The same day, police from Concordia Parish arrested Donald Gardner of Shreveport in the 1976 shotgun murder of Russell Griffith, Jr. in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, and first-degree murder of Leslie. Griffith had been suspected as Leslie's murderer. Gardner was first arrested in the fall of 1976 and described as the key figure between D'Artois and Leslie's murderer(s). Also arrested in connection with Griffith's murder in 1977 was Kenneth C. Brouillette of Lettsworth, Louisiana, who was being held at the Concordia Parish Jail. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's office said that Gardner and Griffith were accused of killing Leslie for $30,000, paid by D'Artois, in retaliation for Leslie's testimony before a Caddo Parish grand jury about D'Artois's activities.[4]

D'Artois died in June 1977 during open heart surgery in San Antonio, Texas. He never faced trial for his role in the case. The killing of Leslie was never fully solved, and no one was convicted of either Leslie's or Griffith's murders.

Recent studiesEdit

In 2009 Bill Keith published a book related to the case: The Commissioner: A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death, a study of the D'Artois administration, the commissioner's connection to crime bosses, and the unsolved Leslie murder. Keith was a state senator from Shreveport at the time of Leslie's homicide. He had also served as a journalist with The Shreveport Times and the since defunct Shreveport Journal.

In 2013, Jere Joiner, a retired police detective from Shreveport, published Badge of Dishonor, an exploration of the corruption of the D'Artois administration, and the commissioner's ties to the alleged murders of Leslie and Griffiths. Elliott Stonecipher, a political consultant, analyst, and friend of Leslie, was reported as saying that he "never once doubted that D'Artois was behind the assassination." Stonecipher said that Leslie had told him that he believed D'Artois would try to have him killed.[1] Others had suggested in 1976 and 1977 that passage of the controversial right-to-work bill may have been the catalyst for Leslie's homicide, but the East Baton Rouge Parish police said there was no evidence for that. They said they found many strands between D'Artois and Leslie's killers.[4]

Leslie is interred at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport. After George W. D'Artois died, he was also interred there. Each was a lifelong resident of the city.

MemorialEdit

The American Advertising Federation of Shreveport-Bossier set up the annual Jim Leslie Memorial Scholarship to honor the late public relations executive. They annually award $2,500 to a student studying Advertising, Marketing, or a related field at any 4-year institution in North Louisiana.[5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Badge of Dishonor: George D'Artois and His Alleged Murder Plot against Jim Leslie". KTBS-TV. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
  2. ^ "Josiah Lee "J. L." Wilson, III". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  3. ^ Bill Keith (2009). The Commissioner: A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-58980-655-9. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c AP, Monroe News-Star, 19 April 1977; accessed 17 March 2019
  5. ^ "Jim Leslie Memorial Scholarship". aafsb.org. Retrieved June 25, 2019.