WALTER LOUIS COHEN, SR. (January 22, 1860 – December 29, 1930)
Walter Louis Cohen, Sr. was an African-American Republican politician and businessman. He was the son of Bernard Cohen and the former Amelia Bingaman. Like his better-known compatriot Homer Adolph Plessy, Cohen was a free black prior to passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was also a Kohen. He noted that he was part of the most-hated ethnic group and most hated religious group by the resurging Ku Klux Klan. Educated in New Orleans, he was married to the former Antonia Manadé, and the couple had three children: Walter Cohen, Jr., Bernard J. Cohen, and Margot C. Farrell. Walter L. Cohen’s political activity mushroomed in the 1890s, after the Reconstruction era, when he became one of the few blacks to hold appointed office into the 20th century. U.S. President William McKinley named Cohen a customs inspector in New Orleans. McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, appointed him registrar of the federal land office. Louisiana at the time, elected a registrar of state lands, among them the first woman in statewide elected office in the 20th century, Lucille May Grace. A successful businessman, Cohen was the founder and president of the People’s Life Insurance Company in New Orleans, a large industrial company whose clients were blacks. Cohen was a member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in New Orleans.
Walter Louis Cohen was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 22, 1860. He died in New Orleans on December 29, 1930, and is interred there at St. Louis Cemetery III, 2022 Saint Bernard Avenue. Cohen’s death came some six years before black voters began a longstanding shift from Republican to Democratic Party allegiance with the reelection in 1936. He was 69.