Jewel Joseph Newman (March 3, 1921 – October 4, 2014) was an American Democratic politician and community organizer from the historically black Scotlandville neighborhood of his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The son of Joseph "Papa" Newman and the former Florence Knox, Newman graduated at the age of twenty in 1941 from the then segregated black McKinley Senior High School in the capital city of Baton Rouge. He attended the then all-black Southern University, at which he was a member of the Reserve Corps program. He was quickly called to active duty in the United States Army, in which he served until his discharge in 1945 at the rank of Sergeant 4th Class. For fifteen years thereafter, he owned and operated an Esso service station in Baton Rouge.
Even before he entered politics, he was involved in bringing Little League competition to Scotlandville. In 1972, Newman won the first of his three four-year term on the East Baton Rouge Parish Council as the representative from the Scotlandville area. In 1983, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives to succeed Joseph Delpit, who had also been the first African American city council member from Baton Rouge. Newman served a single term in the House from 1984 to 1988 which corresponded with the third term of Governor Edwin Edwards. He defeated the 31-year-old lawyer Kip Holden, later the first black to serve as Baton Rouge Mayor-President. Through his "Help Our People for East Baton Rouge" program, Representative Newman in 1985 raised $14,000 through bingo games to keep open three food stamp offices in north Baton Rouge, which had been marked for closure under state budget restraints. In the 1987 nonpartisan blanket primary, Holden unseated Newman. The two subsequently became warm friends.
After his legislative term, Newman continued to work as a community organizer. He served on the boards of the American Cancer Society and several organizations seeking to control narcotics, the predecessors to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in public schools. He also worked against alcohol abuse through Mothers Against Drunk Driving. His activities paved the way for the first community centers in Baton Rouge. He sat on the board of the Foster Grandparents Program and the Louisiana Lottery Corporation. An active Roman Catholic, Newman served on the board for Catholic Community Services in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He was a member of the charitable St. Vincent de Paul Society of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. With other craftsmen from St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Newman helped to build the Immaculate Conception sanctuary, which was completed in 1959. He managed the St. Vincent de Paul dining room for two years in Baton Rouge until sidelined by illness. He also worked to establish the Bishop Ott shelters and a thrift store for the needy.
On October 4, 2014, Newman died at the age of ninety-three. He was survived by his wife of more than a half-century, the former Sallie Gillespie Newman (born September 1928); children, Brenda Joyce Cooks (born May 1948), Linda Cooks Narcisse (born January 1950) and husband Johnny S. Narcisse (born December 1949), Edwin Cooks (born April 1951) and wife Jocelyn H.Cooks (born May 1953), Urlecia Cooks, and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two other daughters, Constance Newman Douglas and Karen Newman Norris (1948-2005). A memorial mass was held on October 11, 2014, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Newman donated his body to the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.
Joseph Delpit called Newman "the hardest-working elected official I knew, including me ... There wasn’t a person who needed help that Jewel would not get out of his bed at midnight to see about helping him.”
Mayor Holden said that Newman, who later became his mentor, "paid special attention to the needs of people in the district he represented, which is also the district I grew up in. If someone called to say they [sic] had a problem with their ditch, he would go out to the home himself to see what the problem was.”
The Jewel J. Newman Community Center on Central Road off Interstate 110 North is named in his honor.