Lula Wardlow


Lula Wardlow

Lula Ethredge Wardlow (April 9, 1876 -- August 1, 1970) was a businesswoman, Methodist minister, and the first woman ever elected as mayor of a Louisiana community. Mrs. Wardlow was the mayor of Montgomery, Louisiana (population 787 in 2000), a village in northern Grant Parish, from 1926-1930.

Mrs. Wardlow was born in Grant Parish to Wesley Ethredge and the former Alpha Jane Baker. Both of her parents were from distinguished pioneer families. Wesley Ethredge was a planter, merchant, and owner of a cotton gin. She was educated in the Montgomery public schools and studied for two years at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. On April 3, 1901, she married Felix Graves Wardlow, a merchant and farmer in Montgomery, located some forty miles north of Alexandria in north central Louisiana and twenty-five miles southeast of Natchitoches.

She became a lay Methodist preacher in 1909 and was admitted pending study and internship in the then Methodist Protestant Church in 1912. She was ordained an elder in 1916 and was conference evangelist from 1913-1920. She pastored the Hicks circuit from 1921-1922 and other circuits in north Louisiana thereafter.

She was elected mayor of Montgomery as a Democrat but on a call for "reform" and incorporation of the Montgomery community. She was reelected to a second two-year term in 1928 but resigned in 1930 to devote more time to family and the ministry. Her great-nephew, Stephen Lee "Steve" Gunn, was elected as Montgomery mayor some seventy-two years after Mrs. Wardlow vacated the office. Gunn, an independent, was elected in 2002 and again in 2006 with minimal opposition.

Mayor Wardlow was featured in Louisiana newspapers in the late 1920s as the state's first woman mayor. She was remembered for "progressive" programs, including gravel-surfacing of the town's dirt streets and securing the first electric, water, and gas systems for the community. There was also strict enforcement of anti-gambling and prohibition laws which worked to clean up the community image. Through the years, governors, gubernatorial candidates, and other politicians called upon her when they campaigned in Grant Parish.

After her political stint, Mrs.Wardlow was pastor of the Methodist Church in Colfax (pronounced COLL FAX), the Grant Parish seat of government. In 1939, she attended the historic national conference of Methodism, which officially merged her own Methodist Protestant Church with the Methodist Episcopal churches, both South and North into what became the United Methodist Church. She retired from full-time ministerial duties in 1942 but continued to accept interim pastoral assignments in nural north Louisiana for another two decades. In 1952, at the age of seventy-six, she embarked on a short missionary assignment to rural villages in Cuba. She has been called one of the three most important women in the 150-year history of Louisiana Methodism.

Mrs. Wardlaw died at ninety-four and is interred in the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in Winn Parish, east of Montgomery.

References

"Lula Wardlow," "A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography", Vol. 2 (1988), pp. 824-825

Mable Fletcher Harrison and Lavinia McGuire McNeely, "Grant Parish, Louisiana: A History" (1969)

"Alexandria Daily Town Talk", July 6, 1929; September 9, 1929; August 2, 1970

"Shreveport Times", July 16, 1967

"Who's Who in Methodism" (1952)

External links

* [http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/la/grant/town/montgome.txt A History of the Town of Montgomery]


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