|Intro||American attorney and politician|
|Was||Lawyer Politician Attorney Mayor|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||18 September 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Death||17 July 1992, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (aged 60 years)|
Charles Edward Karst, known as Ed Karst (September 18, 1931–July 17, 1992), was an American attorney and politician remembered for his controversial tenure as the mayor from 1969 to 1973 of Alexandria in Rapides Parish in central Louisiana. In 1991, Karst launched a bizarre "No Party" gubernatorial campaign in which he threatened if elected to fire the members of the Louisiana Supreme Court, an elected body over whom the governor has no jurisdiction or, if defeated, as he was, to kill the justices, who had upheld his earlier disbarment. At times, Karst was a member of both the Democratic and the Republican parties, but he ran for governor with the "No Party" label, as permitted in Louisiana.
The New Orleans-born Karst, a son of Charles Karst, Jr. (1890–1981), was educated in the Roman Catholic Jesuit High School in New Orleans. He then attended Tulane University, and Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. He relocated to Alexandria to practice law during the 1960s.
Karst and Snyder
In 1969, Karst emerged as a sharp-tongued candidate for mayor after it became clear that the scandal-plagued 16-year incumbent, William George Bowdon, Jr., might not win a fifth consecutive term. Bowdon's father had been mayor from 1941 to 1945; Bowdon had won the position in 1953 to succeed Carl B. Close. In the April 5 Democratic primary, Karst led with 4,093 votes (36 percent) to John K. Snyder's 3,128 (27.5 percent). Snyder, an admirer of the late Governor Earl Kemp Long, considered himself a "populist". The third place candidate, John B. Honeycutt(1911–1998), who had earlier run unsuccessfully for sheriff of Rapides Parish, polled 2,021 votes (17.8 percent). Bowdon trailed in fourth place with 1,784 votes (15.7 percent). Three other candidates polled a total of 359 votes (3.2 percent).
In the mayoral runoff election held on May 17, 1969, Karst prevailed, 6,016 (53.7 percent) to Snyder's 5,188 (46.3 percent). With Karst's victory, Governor John J. McKeithen cancelled the general election scheduled for June because only Democrats had filed for the Alexandria municipal offices. Even in 2018, no Republican is seeking the office of mayor in Alexandria.
Karst soon found himself at odds with two fellow Democratic council members under the commission form of municipal government, Streets and Parks Commissioner O'Hearn Mathews, a former city marshal, and Carroll Edwin Lanier (1926-2012), an electrician who won the since nonexistent post of finance and utilities commissioner. Mathews and Lanier had upset Commissioners William Henry "Bill" Lambdin, Sr. (1894–1980), and Leroy Wilson (1905–1978), respectively, both caught up in the anti-incumbent tide. Wilson's nephew, George I. Wilson (1935–1983), was the manager of the city utilities office and remained in place after the change of administration. Ray Robert Allen (1920-2010) remained as city secretary-treasurer under the Karst administration.
Karst v. Fryar
While he was mayor, Karst entered into a business relationship with the Alexandria architect Joe Fryar. The two developed the former Karst Park, a 500-unit low-income housing project in Alexandria, and they planned to expand into other cities. Karst would have provided the contacts with municipal officials, and Fryar would have handled the design and construction of the housing units. When Karst demanded payment, the two wound up in court in a protracted legal battle. Karst sued Fryar for slander and breach of contract; Fryar in turn sued Karst for extortion, blackmail, physical assault, and forgery. Fryar's attorney, Joseph Minos Simon(pronounced SEE MOAN), Sr. (1924-2004) of Lafayette, accused Karst of extorting about $46,000 from Fryar between January 1972 and March 1974. Karst testified the money was payment for a clandestine business relationship which Fryar had initiated in the late 1960s. Karst admitted to striking Fryar at Fryar's office parking lot in early 1973. Simon argued that Fryar was trying to end the business relationship with Karst, but Karst claimed that the physical attack came over "disparaging remarks" that Fryar had made about his executive assistant. Karst was 6'3" and weighed 235 pounds; Fryar, merely 5'6". Karst asked Fryar for half of his property as settlement. Simon also submitted a letter, dated April 1974, as evidence in which Karst told Fryar to accept his settlement proposal, or he would implicate Fryar in criminal wrongdoing. Another letter from Karst to Fryar, dated August 1974, includes a request from Karst for $250,000 cash and a written statement from Fryar indicating that the money is a loan so that it would be exempt from federal income tax. Karst admitted to writing the letter but claimed the amount sought was a one-half settlement of their business dealings. As part of the proposed settlement, Karst wanted Fryar to deed him half of all the Karst Park land and improvements.
After Karst left the mayor's office in June 1973, he moved to Mexico, where he resided for more than two years and, according to Simon, lived off Fryar's payments. While in Mexico, Karst said that he returned to Alexandria in a vain attempt to settle the dispute with Fryar. Simon asked if Karst had told Fryar that disclosure of their partnership deed would have a devastating effect on Fryar's career. Karst replied, "Possibly." Simon then asked if Karst also told Fryar if the U.S. government knew a city official had interest in a federal housing project, the government might cancel the project. Karst denied having made such a statement.
Karst said that a document stating the business arrangement was prepared in 1970 but dated 1968. In 1972, Karst prepared another such deed, defining the half-ownership arrangement of Karst Park and other properties. The documents were to be recorded only if either man died or an arrangement could be made to dissolve the partnership. In his suit, Fryar claimed that Karst had forged Fryar's signature on one of the deeds and that Karst had originally coerced him into entering the partnership.
Karst and the GOP
Karst hired the controversial "Radical Right" activist, Kent Courtney, formerly of New Orleans and later a resident of Avoyelles Parish, as his executive assistant. It was unclear how much impact Courtney had on Karst's political decisions. Early in 1972, Karst switched his affiliation to the Republican Party and vowed to work for the establishment of a two-party system in Louisiana. In the congressional election that year, he hosted the Republican candidate, Roy C. Strickland, then a trucking executive from Ascension Parish near Baton Rouge. Strickland, who opposed the Democrat former U.S. Representative Gillis Long of Alexandria, recalls having spent the night in the Karst home during that campaign and the mayor's stated commitment to building a Republican Party (GOP).
Karst, however, soon bowed out of municipal politics. He was critical of the commission form of government and advocated a change to the mayor-council format, which was finalized in the summer of 1977. Karst did not seek reelection as mayor in 1973. Snyder, meanwhile, defeated the favorite of the business community, reform state Representative Ralph Warren "Buzzy" Graham (1937-2014), the owner of an insurance agency. Karst watched the campaign on the sidelines. Again, no Republicans ran for any city offices that year, but Karst soon became bored with the GOP. By 1978, he was again a Democrat and ran unsuccessfully for a 9th Judicial District judgeship in Rapides Parish.
Karst was suspended from his law practice after he falsely accused 9th Judicial District Judge Guy Humphries of political corruption. The allegation came after Humphries ruled against Karst in several lawsuits against architect Joe Fryar in a dispute over a public housing project formerly known as "Karst Park". The bar association initiated disbarment proceedings against Karst on the grounds that his slurs against Judge Humphries constituted misconduct. In a hearing in 1981, Karst admitted that the allegations that he hurled against Humphries were false. Karst failed to be reinstated to his law practice, as the Louisiana Supreme Court denied each appeal.
1991 race for governor
In the 1991 gubernatorial nonpartisan blanket primary, remembered for the David Duke and Edwin Edwards candidacies, Karst ran without a party label and polled some 9,300 votes, or 1 percent of the total. He threatened the Supreme Court justices with an Uzi. In the campaign, Karst said that "Louisiana's root problem is not lack of jobs and pay raises for teachers, police, and other public employees. It is unchecked corruption by the Five Supremes (There are actually seven members of this court.), self-anointed high priests of the Louisiana Way who worship at the temple of corruption in New Orleans.... I will have no choice but to execute them, blow them away."
Legal and health issues
In April 1992, Karst was arrested and held on a $100,000 bond in the custody of the Orleans Parish Prison on two counts of public intimidation for having made threats on the judges' lives. Karst, meanwhile, contracted cancer and died some two weeks before he was to stand trial. His opposition to the judges stemmed from a protracted civil court battle that left him suspended from his law practice and nearly destitute. Judge Jerome Winsberg set August 4, 1992 as the court date after he determined that Karst was competent to stand trial. However, on July 2, 1992, Karst suffered a perforated stomach, according to then public defender Craig Colwart. Exploratory surgery at New Orleans Charity Hospital revealed that Karst had terminal colon and liver cancer. "He was doing OK after the surgery and then he took a turn for the worst," Colwart said. Two weeks before his death, Karst's last appeal for reinstatement to the bar was denied.
Karst faced felony charges that could have brought a ten-year sentence. Fryar was also imprisoned in an unrelated matter stemming from the former Westside Rehabilitation Center in Cheneyville in south Rapides Parish.
Karst was divorced from the former Judith "Judy" Ward-Steinman, remarried as Judith Karst-Campbell (February 16, 1941 – January 20, 2020). The daughter of attorney and radio station owner Irving Ward-Steinman, she held the Ph.D. degree in colonial history from Tulane University and had a career as a radio broadcaster. She owned in Alexandria stations KRRV, known for country music, and KDBS, a Christian outlet. She started the Rape Crisis Center in Alexandria. She subsequently lived with her second husband, Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Campbell (born 1939), in Hiawassee in Towns County, Georgia, and then the Sea Gate Community in Morehead City in Carteret County, North Carolina, where she died at the age of seventy-eight. Her memorial service was held there at St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
As the divorced Judy Karst, she ran as a Democrat for mayor of Alexandria in 1977 but polled few votes; the leading candidates were Snyder, Champ Baker, the former executive director of the Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning and Development district in Alexandria, and Carroll Lanier, who unseated Snyder in a runoff contest that year.
Ed Karst lived in New Orleans for the last decade of his life. After the divorce, Karst was convicted in Rapides Parish of two misdemeanor counts of trespassing on property owned by his former wife and his former father-in-law, Irving Ward-Steinman, from whom he had rented office space but never paid rent.
The Karsts had three children: son Alexander Regard Karst (June 8, 1970) of Falls Church, Virginia, in suburban Washington, D.C., and daughters Alicia Barrows Karst (born 1972), and Jacqueline Ward Karst Fitzgerald of Marietta, Georgia. He was also survived by a brother, Charles Karst, III, of Montgomery, Alabama, and two sisters, Jacqueline Winter of River Ridge in Jefferson Parish and Katherine Bosworth of New Orleans. Private services for Karst were held at Lake Lawn Cemetery in New Orleans on July 20, 1992. Burial, however, was in the adjacent Metairie Cemetery. Like the Ward-Steinmans, Karst was an Episcopalian.