Philippe Lamour (Landrecies 1903 - 1992)

Even though Philippe Lamour spent most of his life in southern France, he is not a southerner but a northerner : he was born in 1903 to a peasant family in Landrecies. He was too young to fight during World War I, and he got his baccalauréat in 1918. He then started to study law, because he was planning to become a lawyer.

He proved to be very successful : as soon as 1924, he was a trainee lawyer. He participated in several important trials of the 1930s, like the famous Stavisky affair. He also met Geneviève at that time, the woman who was to become his wife. He worked occasionally as a journalist too.

1924 : Philippe was a trainee lawyer

His career as a journalist will become even more important during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). He decided to leave France and to work in Spain as a reporter, living with Republican troops.  In his articles, Lamour kept denouncing this tragic conflict and the outrageous passivity of western democracies.

He was also extremely worried about the rise of Hitler in Germany. He was one of the few clear-headed men in France to demand immediate military action against this fledgling dictatorship, but he ended up being branded as a warmonger. Thus, his repeated warnings proved vain : France was severely defeated in may 1940 by Nazi troops. Philippe Lamour and his family took refuge in the remaining free French territory, in the south. They settled on a private family estate near Marseille. During the war, the Lamours had to become farmers and to eke out a living this way.

Philippe Lamour in Marseille, during the war

The end of the war was the real beginning of Lamour’s career. He started to do several things at the same time. First, he became an important figure in the world of agricultural unions : he was elected at the head of the General Agricultural Confederacy and lobbied the French government in order to get more public aid for farmers. He was remarkably successful : in 1946, Philippe Lamour was proud to drive the very first French combine harvester. The agricultural revolution was on its way.

His job as a unionist didn’t prevent him from getting important jobs in the French public administration : after France was liberated, he was nominated “Assistant Commissioner of the Republic”, which allowed him to work with Jean Monnet for the reconstruction of the country. He also had the idea of creating the very first labels of origin for French products : in 1947, the “Superior Wine” label was born thanks to him.

Philippe Lamour achieved the greatest work of his life in the 1950s and 1960s : the huge regional development project of southern France. Several regions have been totally transformed by what he did : among other things, Lamour introduced hydrology in the Southeast, drained the swampy coasts of Languedoc and created a thriving rice-growing economy in Camargue. Such big responsibilities brought him closer to some great men : he had an long conversation with general De Gaulle when the latter inaugurated a pumping station in February 1960.

February 1960 : Philippe Lamour and general De Gaulle at the pumping station

A month later, Lamour even met with Nikita Krushchev, the successor of Stalin !

March 1960. Philippe Lamour and Nikita Krushchev

Philippe Lamour retired in the 1970s. He moved to a quiet farm near Marseille, and wrote an autobiography called Le Cadran Solaire (“The Sundial”). This very insightful book tells about a man who lived through three different republics and who met a good deal of famous leaders. It was one of the most popular best sellers of the 1970s.

He died in 1992, very far from his native Landrecies. Our town didn’t forget him, though : our new public library was recently named after him and was inaugurated by his wife.

Next : Jean-Marie Leblanc