Three Governors at Hall of Fame party in Lafayette
By James Ronald Skains
Two former Governors of Louisiana were present at the 2016 Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held Saturday, March 12 at the Cajun Dome Convention Center in Lafayette. Not only were former Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco present, but so was newly elected Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards.
Joining Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna on the elevated speakers table was newly elected Lt. Governor, Billy Nungesser.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler was also in attendance. This led Governor John Bel Edwards to relate a recent story of his travel around to the state to help with the victims of floods in north, central and southeast Louisiana. "Billy and I were traveling around the state surveying the storm damage in a King Air airplane when we hit a pocket of turbulent air that caused the King Air to suddenly drop a few hundred feet, causing Billy and me to both hit our heads on the overhead. I quickly looked at Billy and said, "Another drop like that one and Secretary of State Tom Schedler will be the new governor of Louisiana."
The event that started with a reception at 6 p.m. on Saturday March 12, was a high energy, jovial enjoyable affair. Chairman of the Political Hall of Fame, the legendary Theodore "Ted" Jones kicked off the event with a welcome and an introduction of Pastor Will Bill Nash of Mangham who gave the invocation. Pastor Nash is also a writer and historian, having written a book titled, "High Hat Jones", about former Governor Sam Jones of Lake Charles. He is also currently writing a book about the Winnfield Long family.
Ted Jones earned his way into the Political Hall of fame in 2004 by having worked with all the governors of Louisiana from Earl K. Long until the election of Bobby Jindal. Jones a tax lawyer, political consultant, and lobbyist in both Baton Rouge and Washington, DC also worked for US Senators Russell Long and John Breaux as well as several Louisiana based Congressmen.
Of particular pleasure for Jones during the banquet was his honor to introduce his longtime sidekick and legendary Louisiana political guru, Raymond Strother, as master of ceremonies. Strother, after a long career in the political trenches beginning with his mentor Gus Weill, rose to the top of his profession in both Louisiana and national politics.
Ted Jones set the jovial mood for the banquet by picking on one of the inductees, shipyard owner, Donald "Boysie" Bollinger by reminding the audience that Bollinger had supported then Senator Mary Landrieu in her 2014 re-election campaign: "Senator Landrieu had helped Boysie land a $150 million government contract for a new ship. I'll tell you the truth, I would have supported Mary for a whole lot less than a $150 million."
Later, Jones directed another verbal barb at Bollinger when he said: "I would rather have Boysie's money than be Governor of Louisiana." This led Governor John Bel Edwards to later quip in his remarks, "I'd rather be governor of a state that had Boysie's money!"
The first induction of the night was the Political Family of Officeholders award which went to The Chehardy Family of Jefferson Parish. The Chehardy Family political legacy started in 1965 when the patriarch of the family, Lawrence A. Chehady was appointed Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He also served as a delegate to the 1973 Louisiana Constitutional Convention. Chehardy served until 1976 and was succeeded by his son, Lawrence E. Chehardy.
L. A. Chehardy was later elected to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal where he served until he retired in 1991. The younger served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish for 34 years. Both the father and son were powerful proponents and protectors of the state homestead exemption, lobbying for a higher homestead exemption for home owners.
A younger sister, Susan M. Chehardy became an attorney after finishing Loyola Law School in 1985. She became a district court judge in the 24th Judicial District before being elected to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. In 2013, Judge Chehardy became the first female Chief Judge of the Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Donald T. "Boysie" Bollinger is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bollinger Enterprises, LLC, the parent company of Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. Each inductee had a short video which was presented during their induction into the Political Hall of Fame. It is obvious from the video showing a youngster Donald Bollinger of how he obtained his nickname.
Even as a youngster he had an ever-young face which he has retained today with his long wavy gray hair and jovial demeanor. Bollinger's career biography reads like a "Who's Who in Business and Civic Affairs" both locally, state and national levels.
"Boysie" in his acceptance speech of the induction award related advice from his father, the founder of Bollinger Shipyards: "Either get involved in politics and civic affairs or get out of business." His advice was well taken and has served me well in my business" career Bollinger noted.
Randy K. Haynie, a native and former oilfield rough-neck was the second inductee. Randy is a member of the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame, and can be credited with a major role in the success of the 2016 induction ceremony. He has a unique tie to yesteryear politics in Louisiana as his Baton Rouge office is the former home of Governor Earl K. Long across Capitol Lake from the state Capitol.
Randy was directly responsible for a number of the financial supporters for the event. He has also been credited with writing the book on modern day lobbying standards for Louisiana. Haynie, the "go-to-lobbyist in Louisiana" is well respected by his peers, his clients and both present and past members of the Legislature and the Executive branch of state government. He has been plying his trade in the State Capitol for 36 years.
The next inductee is well known to the voters of Louisiana having run four state wide races, three of which he successfully won. Richard Ieyoub served as Louisiana for 12 years from 1992 to 2004. Ieyoub was recently appointed LA Commissioner of Conservation by Governor John Bel Edwards.
Sam "High Hat" Jones, as former Governor Earl K. called him, was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1940 defeating Earl K. Long. However, he had a rematch with Long in the 1948 Gubernatorial campaign and lost. One historian, in writing about the campaign, simplified the Jones loss by saying: "Long out-promised Jones."
Former State Senator Bob Jones, son of Sam Jones accepted the induction award for his father who died in the late 1970's. "My dad was a reformer in state government and made a lot of positive reforms for Louisiana including Civil Service and competitive bidding on state contracts. My father had no experience in state government when he was elected Governor in 1939 after the "Louisiana Scandals" which sent former Governor Richard Leche and the then president of LSU to prison. He built no political dynasty, but ran and served as governor both times as an independent type governor."
John Mamoulides was a "powerhouse district attorney" in Jefferson Parish for three decades. Mamoulides, a native of Crowley, had an Air Force career before entering Tulane Law School in 1957. Known for his hard-work ethic, Mamoulides worked as an Air Traffic Controller in New Orleans while flying in the Air Force Reserves and working at night in the Accounting Department at Whitney Bank. He carried his work ethics into the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's office. Although now in his 80's, Mamoulides accepted his induction award in person and gave an interesting acceptance speech.
Braxton (B.I. Moody) III graduated from Rayne High school before attending Auburn University where his college career was interrupted by service in WWII. Later, Moody obtained an accounting degree from then SSI (now University of Louisiana). He launched a business career that spanned several industries including banking, food industry both retail and manufacturing, oil and gas, and the founding of a 22-member chain of weekly and small daily newspapers. The ULL College of Business Administration was renamed in his honor, the B.I. Moody College of Business. Although Moody is now in his early 90's and wheel chair bound,he is still alert and forceful. He was a major political supporter of former Governor Edwin Edwards. Moody and his wife, the former Thelma Hebert are the parents of nine children, 48 grandchildren and 48 great grandchildren.
The last but not least inductee in the class of 2016 was former Lafayette City Judge Kaliste Saloom, Jr. As the son of Lebanese parents, Saloom noted that anything is possible in America where a second immigrant can achieve success in their chosen profession. A member of a counter-intelligence unit in World War II, Saloom, Jr. graduated from Tulane in May of 1942 before entering law school.
Upon returning home to Lafayette from the military in November of 1945, he opened his own law practice. Eight years later, Saloom, Jr. was a City Court Judge of Lafayette where he served as the only judge for some 30 years. In 1993, after 40 years of service to the Lafayette community on the City Court, Judge Saloom retired from active duty. However, at age 98, Saloom, Jr. is still active in Lafayette community affairs. He gave a rousing acceptance speech at the March 12 event.
More than 400 people attended the Political Hall of Fame event held on the second floor of the Cajun Dome Convention Center. Hats off to Carolyn Phillips, Executive Director of the Political Hall of Fame Museum in Winnfield, for her leadership and planning for the event. Carolyn had a big smile on her face after Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser announced that the LTG's office would provide enough funding to keep the doors of the Winnfield Political Museum open and functioning.
Two key members of the Old Jimmy Davis band, Ted Jones and Al Harris, and Harris' sidekick guitar player Lamar Posey, ended the Political event with a rousing rendition of Davis' classic , "You Are My Sunshine."