Moon Landrieu dies; New Orleans mayor led on civil rights
His death was confirmed by his daughter Madeleine Landrieu. He recently had a heart attack.
Mr. Landrieu was the father of Mary Landrieu, a former three-term U.S. senator from Louisiana, and Mitch Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans who currently serves under President Biden as a senior implementation adviser. implemented last year’s $1.2 trillion legislation to improve the nation. Infrastructure.
Mr. Landrieu had been the first of his family to enter politics – his parents “had no political power, no money, nothing at all”, he once said – and he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as Secretary of the Department of Housing. and urban development from 1979 to 1981. But his legacy rested primarily on his political career in Louisiana during and after the civil rights movement.
“Despite continued fierce resistance,” wrote historian Arnold R. Hirsh, Mr. Landrieu “saw and brought the future to New Orleans.”
Mr. Landrieu first held elected office as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he was elected in 1960 amid turbulent racial tensions. Six years earlier, the United States Supreme Court had banned racial segregation in public schools with its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. However, many white parents and politicians intensely resisted the decision, and Southern schools remained unintegrated.
Although he was one of the most junior members of the legislature – he was 29 when he took office – Mr Landrieu took issue with the efforts of Gov. Jimmie H. Davis (D) and his supporters segregationists to thwart the integration of New Orleans public schools. . On at least one occasion, Mr. Landrieu was the only legislator to vote against the governor. He reportedly received death threats.
After a court ordered the integration to continue, federal marshals were dispatched to escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges to first grade at the city’s William Frantz Public School on November 14, 1960, while she became one of the first black students to enter an elementary school in the South. She endured teasing and threats as she walked to school in a scene depicted in Norman Rockwell’s painting ‘The Trouble We All Live With’.
Lucille Bridges, who supported her daughter Ruby during school desegregation, dies at 86
From 1966 to 1970, Mr. Landrieu served as a member at large of the New Orleans City Council, where he continued his efforts for racial equality. His wish, he told the Southern Oral History Program, was to “destroy every remnant of racial and religious prejudice in this city.”
After passage of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, he pushed through a measure that offered additional protections against discrimination in New Orleans public housing. Decades before the modern movement to remove Confederate symbols from public places, he successfully advocated for the Confederate flag to be removed from council chambers.
In 1970, with 90% of the black vote and the support of many liberal whites, Mr. Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans. One of his main campaign pledges had been to bring more African Americans into local government and public service.
“The black people who worked at City Hall were mop-and-broom workers,” said Norman C. Francis, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who served nearly five decades as a as president of Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black and Catholic university in the United States. “Moon made it known that we were going to change that.”
Among other appointments, Mr. Landrieu named as administrative director Terrence R. Duvernay, an African-American who later served as assistant secretary of HUD in the Clinton administration. When Mr. Landrieu took office in 1970, less than 20% of municipal civil service jobs were held by African Americans. By the time he left eight years later, the figure was 43 percent, according to Hirsch’s 1992 volume “Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization.”
“He showed great political courage, moral vision [and] great courage to fend off those who were against the future,” said Lawrence N. Powell, professor emeritus of Southern history and race relations at Tulane University in New Orleans, in an interview.
According to his account, Mr. Landrieu has not done enough to bring African Americans into the “mainstream of economic life”, although he has sought to award more government contracts to minority-owned businesses.
His tenure was not without controversy. The Superdome, the stadium that remade the New Orleans skyline, opened under his watch in 1975 at a cost of more than $160 million and amid a cloud of questions about its funding, management and its construction.
Some historic conservatives have opposed Mr. Landrieu’s renovation of the French Market in New Orleans’ French Quarter. But this project, along with the construction of the river walk known as the Moon Walk, has helped attract tourists to the city.
Decades after leaving office, Mr. Landrieu has retained widespread respect for his efforts to improve race relations in the city. He used “every inch of his body to change New Orleans when it came to civil rights,” Francis said.
Mitch Landrieu, who served as mayor from 2010 to 2018 and was the first white man to hold the position since his father’s term, presided over the dismantling of the city’s Confederate monuments. He came to national attention in 2017 with a speech on the matter.
Mayor of New Orleans: Why I’m taking down my city’s Confederate monuments
“These monuments deliberately celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy,” said Mitch Landrieu, “ignoring death, ignoring the enslavement and terror it truly represented.”
He later described the speech as “the culmination of not only my work but also my father’s”.
Maurice Edwin Landrieu, the younger of two sons, was born in New Orleans on July 23, 1930. His father was employed by the city as what Mr. Landrieu described as a “blue collar.” His mother ran a local grocery store and later became a real estate agent.
Mr Landrieu was nicknamed “Moon” as a child and legally changed his name in 1969 to be listed as “Moon Landrieu” on ballots.
He was a gifted athlete and pitched for the Loyola University New Orleans baseball team, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1952 and a law degree in 1954.
He served in the military before establishing a law firm in 1957. He found an early political mentor in New Orleans Mayor deLesseps S. “Chep” Morrison.
In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Landrieu has invested in real estate development projects in New Orleans. During Senate hearings on his nomination as HUD secretary, he faced questions about possible conflicts of interest with his government job, but was easily confirmed. Among his priorities as secretary of HUD was the revitalization of downtown areas.
Mr. Landrieu served as a judge on the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly a decade until his retirement in 2000.
In the years following his departure from public office, Louisiana became increasingly Republican. Mary Landrieu, who rose to national prominence as her state’s spokesperson in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was defeated in her re-election bid by Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in a a second round in 2014.
Survivors include his wife of nearly seven decades, the former Verna Marie Satterlee of New Orleans; nine children, Mary Landrieu of New Orleans and Washington, Mitch Landrieu, Mark Landrieu, Michelle “Shelley” Landrieu, Madeleine Landrieu, Martin Landrieu and Maurice Landrieu Jr., all of New Orleans, Melanie Cook of Mandeville, La ., and Melinda Seiter of Mobile, Alabama; 37 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Landrieu once reflected as mayor on his early years in public service and the strengths he overcame as he continued his civil rights work, beginning with his service in the legislature.
“I never thought I would be re-elected,” he said, recalling his stance against school segregationists, “but I didn’t care.”
“It was one of those crises of conscience…when a man has to decide what to do with himself,” he observed. “I thought about it…and I prayed about it, and I just decided that I wasn’t going to sell myself for it. If that’s what I had to do to stay in public service, I just wasn’t going to do it. I just did what I had to do.