Louisiana and Republican Presidential Politics, 1976 

It is usually best to let embarrassing moments in history recede into the past.  Bringing up old battles lost is unbecoming.  But history should record that in the razor thin victory of Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Republican national convention, Louisiana played a major role.  The Louisiana Republican Party voted, by a large majority, to send its delegation to the national convention pledged  to vote for Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford.  The same was true of the Mississippi Party.

 As the convention voting proceeded, the leaders of the Louisiana and Mississippi delegations, Betty Heitman and Clark Reed, repudiated their pledge and switched their votes to Gerald Ford.  These key defections were crucial in swinging the nomination to Gerald Ford.

 Betty was appointed Co-Chairman of the National Republican Party.  I don’t know what Clark Reed got out of it.  For a young idealist the event was devastating.  It was my first lesson in “real politick.”  It seemed that we were no different from those we were trying to replace.

 In 1975, I was one of the Ronald Reagan 100, a group that raised Reagan’s first million dollars for his first presidential  race.  The Louisiana Republican Party was gaining strength and we had the promise of becoming a viable political force in the State.  Much of the enthusiasm of the local party came from the influence of Ronald Reagan.  Then came the defection of our chief delegate to the nominating convention to Gerald Ford.  Though it was a great disappointment to the new Republican Party, this did not deter the Party from gaining dominance in the State in the following three decades.

Ward Bond