Political Hall of Fame Induction held in New Orleans World War II Museum

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

There probably have not been so many people from Winnfield in one room in New Orleans since the heydays of Huey P. Long, who was the founding political figure of the Winnfield based Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

There were tables with plates set up for over 350 guests in the World War II Museum Freedom Pavillion in New Orleans. Ticket prices were $250 each for the 26th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet. "I am genuinely pleased to see such a wonderful turn out from the New Orleans area here tonight," Jack McGuire, author of the book, Win or Die Trying, which revealed in detail Earl K. Long's last political race in 1960 when he was elected to the US Congress but died before he could take office. "Our Political Hall of Fame event has been well received in New Orleans and everyone has been very generous in their help."

The Louisiana Political Museum Hall of Fame Foundation Board Members include: Elinor Craven, Gregg Davies, Kyle France, John Georges, Randy Haynie, Theodore L. Jones, Jack McFarland, Jack B. McGuire, June Melton, Russell L. Mosely and Deano Thornton.

The Board decided in 2015 to begin holding the Annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet in Winnfield on odd number years and in a city outside of the Winnfield area on even numbered years.

The 2016 event was held at the Cajun Dome Annex in Lafayette and was a huge financial and public relations success. In the first Political Hall of Fame in 1993, there were 12 giants of Louisiana political history inducted.

Those first inductees included three members of the Long Political dynasty, four former Governors of Louisiana outside the Long family. In 1997, four years after the first Induction Banquet Ceremony occurred, another former Louisiana Governor and elected US Senator, Oscar K. Allen was inducted.

Former Governor Allen was there at the beginning of Huey P. Long's political career. Allen was approximately eight years older than Huey P. Long. Oscar K. Allen has perhaps not been given the credit due for his role in shaping the Long political dynasty. Allen, among other things, was a sawmill owner in Winn Parish with a medium size sawmill sitting on the banks of the Dugdemona River east of Winnfield.

During the early days of the Long Political Dynasty, timber was "king" in Louisiana. Sawmill owners all over Louisiana had various amounts of cash money. Allen invested some of his money on the political future of Huey P. Long. He also introduced Huey P. Long to many other sawmill owners with cash on hand who contributed to the Long campaigns during the 1920's including the legendary timberman Henry Hardtner of Urania Lumber Company.

The Long political figures were then able to take the money from the timber industry and go to major population centers in Louisiana and pay to have their names on sample ballots and obtain plum speaking engagements to political activists in every corner of Louisiana.

Fast forward to March 10, 2018 which ironically is the 100th year anniversary of Huey P. Long being elected to his first public office, Louisiana Land Commissioner which later became the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The event was in an awesome location, perhaps New Orleans number one daily attraction, the World War II Museum.

The program was an array of past and present Louisiana elected offcials including sitting Governor John Bel Edwards who gave the opening remarks.

Lt. Governor Billy Nunguesser was on the program and gave a brief overview of the Museum System he oversees in Louisiana which includes the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Museum in Winnfield. Former Louisiana Congressman and three term US Senator John Breaux was Master of Ceremonies.

The legendary Ted Jones, Chairman of the Hall of Fame Board, gave the Welcoming remarks followed by Pastor Kurt Young with the Archdiocese of New Orleans with the invocation. Former Senator Breaux led the Pledge of Allegence to the Flag of the United States of America.

Two special awards were presented before the introduction of the Political Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The first special award went to Henry Andrew Heltz, an aide and longtime confidant of former US Senator Russell B. Long.

The Political Family of Officeholders Award went to the New Orleans based Braden family; Dr. Henry E. Braden III and Henry E. "Hank" Braden IV. The 2018 Class of Inductees was heavy on New Orleans based political figures. Pastor Avery C. Alexander was a 24 year veteran of the Louisiana House of Representative and lifelong member of the NAACP.

The next inductee was Quentin D. Dastugue of Jefferson Parish. At the age of 23, Dastugue was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, becoming the third youngest to ever be elected to the Louisiana House. As a legislator, Dastugue was Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation when he the authored the Transportation Trust Fund and the TIMED Program. At the start of his second term in office in 1984, he switched to the Republican Party. A writer of Louisiana Poliitcs with the Houma Courier, the Times- Picayune, and the New Orleans Advocate since 2013, James Gill knew the name of only one Louisianan when he moved from England to the New Orleans at age 35 -- Huey P. Long. He still writes current Louisiana political news for the Advocate on a weekly basis. The next New Orleanian to be inducted was former State Representative Charles D. Lancaster, Jr. An attorney by trade, Lancaster spent a total of 32 years in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Newell D. Normand has held the title of Sheriff of Jefferson Parish since 2007 when he was elected with 91% of the vote. He was re-elected with 92% in 2011 and then fell off slighty to 88% of the vote in his 2015 campaign. Normand spent a total of 37 years in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office. Another inductee was long-time New Orleans Physician, Researcher and Surgeon, Alton Oschner, Sr. Dr. Oschner, a native of Kimball, South Dakota, founded Oschner Hospital and Clinic which in 2018 bears his name.

The real hero of the evening and the man who received the longest standing ovation at the event was US Congressman Steve Scalise. Scalise received nearly fatal wounds in 2016 while practicing for a Congressional Baseball game between the Democrats and Republicans. Congressman Scalize still was on crutches at the Hall of Fame event but the fire had certainly returned to his tone of speech.

The third ranking Republican member of the current US House of Representatives exerts considerable influence in Washington,DC. The only "outsider" of the New Orleans area to be inducted was current Commissioner of the Division of Administration under Governor John Bel Edwards, Jay Dardenne. Dardenne is a long time fixture in Louisiana politics, first serving on the Metro Council in Baton Rouge, then as State Senator for 15 years, then elected to twice as Secretary of State and twice as Lt. Governor.

He ran unsuccessfully fo the Governor's office in 2015 against his current boss, John Bel Edwards and former US Senator David Vitter. The 2018 Induction event at the World War II Museum was certainly a classy event that all folks from Winnfield and the Piney Woods can be proud of. The Gold Sponsors for the event were Bollinger Shipyards, Goldring Family Foundation, Long Farm Village (Russell Mosely in Baton Rouge), the Acadian Companies, the Haynie Family Foundation of Lafayette, the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP, and the Ballard Brands of products and restaurants. Platinum Sponsor was Ochsner Health System. Silver Sponsors were Ted & Carmen Jones, Crescent River Port Pilot's Association, Winn Parish Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, and State Representative Jack McFarland of District 13.

Carolyn Phillips presents award to Rep. Steve Scalise