Democrat Louis Wiltz served as governor of Louisiana from 1880 until his death in 1881.
Democrat Louis Wiltz served as governor of Louisiana from 1880 until his death in 1881, dying less than half way through his term. Before becoming governor he served as mayor of New Orleans, lieutenant governor of Louisiana, and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Louis Alfred Wiltz was born in New Orleans’s Third District on January 12, 1843, the son of J. B. Theophile Wiltz and Louise Irene Villanueva Wiltz. After attending public and private schools in New Orleans, Wiltz began a career in the mercantile industry. When the Civil War (1861-1865) began Wiltz joined the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of captain in Company E of the Chalmette Regiment. By the time of Louisiana’s surrender, he commanded a post in Franklin. During the war, he married Marie Michaella Guerinière Bienvenu in 1862, with whom he had seven children.
After the war, Wiltz took an active role in the Democratic Party. In 1868, voters elected him to the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he rose to the rank of speaker. Four years later, he was elected mayor of New Orleans. As lieutenant governor in the Francis T. Nicholls administration, Wiltz served as president of the Constitutional Convention of 1879, during which Democrats struggled to regain power from the Radical Republicans.
As governor, Wiltz worked to establish a Bureau of Agriculture and Immigration and supported the construction of new railroad lines. Critics charged that many in his administration, particularly State Treasurer Edward “E.A.” Burke, were corrupt. (Burke, who helped the Louisiana Lottery receive a twenty-five year state charter, later fled to Honduras after being convinced for embezzling state bonds worth more than one million dollars.) Wiltz had served less than half of his term when he died on October 16, 1881, a victim of tuberculosis. Lieutenant governor, Samuel McEnery (the brother of former governor John McEnery) succeeded him.
Adapted from Sidney Romero’s entry for the Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, a publication of the Louisiana Historical Association in cooperation with the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
Sources: Miriam G. Reeves, The Governors of Louisiana (1962); Roy Clashan, American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975 (1975); New Orleans Daily Picayune, October 16-18, 1881; Correspondence with the Church of St. Martin de Tours, St. Martinville, July 24, 1983.