The events leading up to Day’s election as East Baton Rouge’s only woman sheriff began on March 29, 1924. That was the day her husband was on patrol with another deputy when they stopped to break up a fight in the parking lot of a gambling hall off Scenic Highway. After they quelled the discord, Robert Day and his deputy went into the building and found some bettors.
“They were taking names of gamblers down in a back room when, for some reason, shots were fired,” said Eastin, whose research, compiled mostly from old newspaper articles and reviews of old laws, will be the subject of an upcoming presentation. “They say somebody ‘blew out the light’ and fired a pistol.”
In addition to the sheriff, at least one of the gamblers was fatally shot. Another was shot in the stomach and later developed pneumonia, but Eastin couldn’t find any record of his death. The deputy with Day wasn’t injured.
The violence led to the bittersweet and historic appointment of the first and only female sheriff in parish history. It appears that Eudora Day would have been the first female sheriff in the state if not for Ella McCoy Gilbert, who was appointed Franklin Parish sheriff for a brief time after her husband, Jesse S. Gilbert, died while serving as sheriff in February 1924.
Regardless, it would take a campaign featuring daily marches and the offering of classes where residents were taught how to write-in “E.S. Day” on the ballot for Day to prevail in the election.
The teachers at the school, which was on Third Street, shortened her name to “E.S. Day” because it was easier to write, especially for anyone with subpar literacy.
Campaigners even developed a slogan — “Don’t Stamp the Rooster” — in an effort to prevent voters from electing Day’s opponent, Edward B. Young, who appeared under the Democratic Party’s section of the ballot, which then was identified by a rooster.What the article doesn't mention is that the Klu Klux Klan supported her opponent and ran both over-handed and under-handed campaigns against her. Big newspapers ads were run alleging that it was illegal to write in a candidate, and that anyone who did so would be prosecuted and face jail time. Despite these tactics, on the day of the election the turnout was 75%, the largest voting percentage in East Baton Rouge's history, and most of the voters didn't vote the whole ticket but only wrote in "E.S. Day" for sheriff.
My grandfather was 16 when his father was shot. The the originals of the photographs in the Advocate article used to hang at my grandparents house, and the resemblance between Grandpa and his father the sheriff was very striking. My mom was 10 or 11 when Eudora Day died in 1965, and remembers her well.