Judge Richard J. Putnam *
Inducted on July 14, 2001
Richard Putnam was born September 27, 1913 in Abbeville. He graduated from Abbeville High School in 1930, then Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, BS Cum Laude, 1934, and Loyola University School of Law, JSD in 1937. With law school behind him, he began practicing law in Abbeville in September, 1937 after being admitted to the Louisiana Bar.
He served his country in the Navy during World War II in Naval Intelligence. He received an Honorable Discharge in 1945 with the rank of Lieutenant Senior Grade U.S. Naval Reserve. After the war, Putnam, now married to Dorethea Gooch, returned to Abbeville to resume his law practice and raise a family and was soon elected District Attorney in the 15th Judicial District in 1946 where he remained for six years. At the completion of one term as district attorney, he was then elected judge, in 1954, without opposition, of the 15th Judicial District of Louisiana, comprising the parishes of Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Judge Putnam as a U.S. District Judge. While serving as DA in the case of State V. Alleman, 218 La. 821, 51 so. 2d83, (1950), in a successful prosecution for murder, Putman introduced the first voice recorded confession of a murder suspect ever used in the courts of Louisiana.
Of the thousands of cases that Judge Putnam has decided over, one case that stands out occurred in 1992, involving a large deposit of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Three major oil companies and a pipeline company were parties with some thirty-five attorneys involved. The case was settled, after three weeks of negotiations in Judge Putnam's chambers in Lafayette, for $1,394,000,000, being one of the largest monetary settlements ever in the history of the Western District of Louisiana.
Culturally, there was a case that he decided which has had long-term positive effects for Abbeville, Putnam declared Magdelin Square to be owned by the public, thereby preventing the city from using the land for construction of the city municipal building. Although Judge Putnam retired from active service in 1974, he is still sitting in the Lafayette division of the Western District of Louisiana where he still carries a regular calendar of approximately 150 cases with regular dockets throughout the year. Putnam has published approximately 140 opinions in the Federal Reporter system. The 15th Judicial District Bar Association has honored him on several occasions. He is father of 4 children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.