I have had the great pleasure of knowing and respecting Charles Riddle III for four decades now. He has not only been one of the most interesting fellows that I’ve ever met, but he and his ancestors have fought for what was right for the people of Avoyelles parish for almost five generations now.
There is enough information on Charles’ family that can fill a book, but I will just summarize the pertinent details here. Charles’ grandfather, Charles Riddle I, served as a noted state representative, representing Avoyelles parish in the late 20s and early 30s. He is probably best known as an important witness used during the Coroner’s Inquest of Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, the alleged assassin of U. S. Senator Huey P. Long, in September of 1935. He witnessed Long’s shooting in the Capitol Building, a building in which Charles III would also serve some seven decades later. Charles’ father, Charles Riddle II, was a prominent Avoyelles District Attorney in the 50s and 60s. Along with the great Camille Gravel and Judge Edmund Reggie, he guided Louisianans into electing John F. Kennedy as President.
Charles III’s life somewhat modeled on both his grandfather and father as he has served as state representative and as District Attorney. Early on in his life, while talking to his father, Charles III said he was interested in possibly becoming an attorney. His father encouraged him in that direction saying, “Even if you don’t practice law, having a law degree would help you in almost any field.” Regarding Charles’ strong interest in history, as a senior in high school, he was assigned to write a paper on Louisiana history. Charles researched and wrote about the Huey Long shooting, without ever knowing of his grandfather’s personal history with the event. When Charles learned of his family’s connection, he was hooked on history.
With a history and a legal degree from LSU, Charles always kept his interest in history and writing in the forefront of his mind. He started his writing career by penning short stories as well as writing very personal letters to each of his five siblings about their relationships while he was at Manresa House of Retreats in 1987. Charles’ first formal short story was about his mother’s 63rd birthday party and the many family arguments that ensued, entitled “First, Let’s Close the Shades.” Charles’ first book, “The Outhouse Report”, published in 2012, is a fascinating account of some of the shenanigans and “misspeaks” of our state legislators. This book has been well-received by readers around the state. Charles has even written a humorous play on the bicentennial history of Marksville that has been produced.
Charles’ expected masterpiece, to be published this spring, is the edited diaries of John Waddil, the District Attorney of Avoyelles Parish who spearheaded the release of the “Twelve Years A Slave” hero, Solomon Northrup in 1853. In a conversation with Waddil’s great, great-granddaughter, Liz Brazelton, several years ago, Charles first learned of the diaries. It was a long and tough job for Charles to get the book published. It was difficult to transcribe the old diaries which were written in the old handwriting, which required additional research required to fill in the gaps. It was even difficult to find a worthy publisher for this historical epic. But, after over four years of work, this long-awaited, unknown account of Solomon Northrup’s odyssey will be a delightful treasure for readers to open. So, thanks to Charles Riddle III for bringing this important account of a slave’s freedom from out of the darkness.