Adras LaBorde

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Adras Paul LaBorde, Sr.​

(Louisiana journalist and
political columnist)​

Political party Democrat

Born December 12, 1912 (12-12-12)​
Bordelonville, Avoyelles Parish
Louisiana USA
Died March 6, 1993 (aged 80)​
Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana​
Spouse Blanche Bordelon LaBorde (1913–2004)

Children:
Joyce LaBorde Cessac
​ Adras LaBorde, Jr. (1943–1972)
​ Michael Anthony LaBorde​

Religion Roman Catholic

Adras Paul LaBorde, Sr. (December 12, 1912 – March 6, 1993), was a reporter, managing editor, and political columnist for The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, the largest newspaper in central Louisiana.

He was active from the mid-1940s into the early 1990s. Considered an authority on 20th-century Louisiana government and politics, he wrote some ten thousand columns under the title, "The Talk of the Town," a play on the name of the newspaper. LaBorde wrote about the strengths and the foibles of the states politicians.​[1]

Background

LaBorde was born to Enos LaBorde, Sr. (1886–1962), and the former Lily Bordelon (1891–1955) in Bordelonville in heavily Cajun Avoyelles Parish, south of Alexandria. He graduated at an early age from Bordelonville High School.[2] As a young man, he worked as a radio operator on a ship. During long voyages at sea, he developed his interest in serious reading. Largely self-educated, LaBorde read encyclopedias and serious works of nonfiction, always learning and eager to improve his employment prospects.

He married Blanche Bordelon (1913-2004), also of Bordelonville. Later, while living in New Orleans, LaBorde did a newscast in French for radio station WWL (AM). He also wrote a training manual on radio language for pilots, which was used by the military during World War II. The manual was called Roger, Wilco.[1]

During World War II, LaBorde served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, forerunner of the Air Force, Blanche and their two children (a daughter and son) accompanied him to his stations: San Antonio, Texas; Arkansas City, Kansas, and Abilene in Taylor County, Texas. A second son, their third child, was born after the war, when they had returned to Louisiana and settled in Alexandria.[1]

Journalism career: The Alexandria Daily Town Talk

LaBorde started at The Alexandria Daily Town Talk in 1945.[1] George Washington Shannon(1914-1998) had preceded him as a staffer and later advanced to be the editor of the Shreveport Journal.[3] LaBorde learned the business from the ground floor. In 1950, he was named managing editor, a post that he held for twenty-seven years.[1]

In 1977, LaBorde was promoted to "executive editor", a title that he held through his last year of full-time employment. Unlike many print journalists who move from one newspaper to another seeking upward mobility, LaBorde stayed with The Town Talk in a career that spanned parts of six decades.[1]

LaBorde had no formal education beyond high school. He had attended Tyler Commercial College in Tyler, Texas, which for a period of time claimed to be the largest business training school in the United States. The college offered instruction in bookkeeping, shorthand, telegraphy, business administration, and finance.[1][4]

A columnist's dream: colorful politicians, Louisiana style

LaBorde witnessed the state's transformation of rivalry betweeLongism and anti-Longism. Beginning in the 1960s, and the slow rise of serious Republican competition to the traditional Democratic Party majority. He saw the "good government" types battle the "old guard," and sometimes found little difference between the antagonists. He did not endorse candidates for office on the editorial page. (The newspaper has since abandoned this policy of neutrality.) He wrote extensively on leading figures of the region, state and nation.

His subjects included Governors Jimmie Davis, Sam Houston Jones, Robert F. Kennon, Earl Long, John J. McKeithen, David C. Treen, Buddy Roemer, along with Bill Dodd, Allen J. Ellender, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., Russell Long, high-profile attorney Camille Francis Gravel, Sr. (1915-2005), Charlton Lyons, John K. Snyder, and many others, including his perhaps most demanding subject, four-term Governor Edwin Edwards.[1]

Promoting "good government"

While LaBorde liked to report on campaigns and elections, he also focused on the intricate workings of government and the bureaucracy. He believed that government could be a force for good in society if the right people, with the proper motivation, were elected.​

He had a great interest in city charters, "good government" in general, and sportsmen's issues. Sometimes, LaBorde ventured into national politics, offering unsolicited advice in his columns for presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. He was irate over the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration in 1973 and 1974, but mostly addressed state or local matters.[1]

LaBorde adjusted the newsroom to modern demands. He knew that the paper had to attract subscribers to stay afloat. In the summer of 1973, computers were introduced at The Town Talk to improve efficiency and to increase the volume and quality of news stories

Staff development

LaBorde demanded integrity, accuracy, originality, and speed from his reporters and editors. Many of his reporters advanced in the fields of journalism and public relations.[1]

He developed his staff and provided opportunities of women and minorities. Reporter Elizabeth Roberts Martin, a 1966 graduate of Louisiana State University, was promoted as the first woman to hold editing positions at The Town Town Talk.' LaBorde hired Cleo Joffrion, an Alexandria native, as the first African-American reporter at the paper. He promoted Cecil Williams, a native of the Kentucky coal-mining area, from assistant managing editor to business edito, from which position Williams won numerous awards.[1][5]

LaBorde sent a young reporter Leonard Sanderson, Jr., to Baton Rouge in 1974 to cover the legislature. Later Sanderson moved to Washington, D.C., where he set up his own consulting firm.[1] Jeff Cowart, an Alexandria native and LSU graduate who began as a reporter under LaBorde, in 1988 was appointed as first press secretary to Governor Buddy Roemer and later established a management consulting firm, Media National, in suburban Washington, DC.[6]

Three Town Talk staffers, Larry Collins, Betty Luman, and Chet Hilburn, moved on to the larger Houston Chronicle. Jack Harp came from Ruston to The Town Talk at the age of twenty-two to work on the "wire desk." The technology changed so much over the following three decades that the term "wire desk" was replaced by "Metro desk." Rebecca Jo Tubb Mulkey (1949–1999), originally from Magnolia, Arkansas, wrote feature stories before moving to the Torrance Daily Breeze in Torrance, California. William Chaze went on to become an Associated Press editor, foreign news editor for U.S. News & World Report and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Defense and Diplomacy.[1]

LaBorde's tenure at the newspaper coincided with the management of publisher Joe Dorsey Smith, Jr. (1922-2008). The Town Talk was owned by Mrs. Smith's father. Thereafter, Joe D. and his first wife, Jane Wilson Smith, sold the paper to Central Newspapers, Inc., of Indianapolis, Indiana, which later sold it to the Virginia-based Gannett Company.[1]

Active professionally, LaBorde was the charter president of the Central Louisiana Press Club and held membership in the United Press Newspaper Association of Louisiana. Fluent in French, LaBorde promoted his cultural heritage through the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, better known by the acronym CODOFIL.[1]

Environmental issues

LaBorde was a staunch conservationist. He worked to publicize issues and advance conservation in the region. He urged Governor Edwards to promote the state purchase of the Saline-Spring Bayou Wildlife Management Area in Avoyelles Parish. He urged Edwards to acquire the land encompassing Spring Bayou He lobbied in his columns for removal of oilfield pollution from the Little River.

He was a former president and state director of the Rapides Wildlife Association. For a while he wrote the column "Nibbles and Potshots" on fishing and hunting for The Town Talk sports section.[1]

The poem "Elegy for a Bayou," by his grandson the poet Christopher Cessac, is dedicated to him.[7]

Political anecdotes

  • John McKeithen​

In 1968, after Governor McKeithen failed to gain the Democratic vice-presidential nomination at the convention in Chicago, which nominated Hubert Humphrey to run against Richard Nixon and George Wallace, he privately threatened to resign and turn over his office to Lieutenant Governor Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock (1915-1987). McKeithen's executive secretary summoned LaBorde and publisher Joe Smith, Jr., to Baton Rouge to talk McKeithen out of a hastily considered resignation.

In a 1974 interview, LaBorde said that he first thought the threat of resignation was "a joke". He and Smith spent a half day with McKeithen and insisted that he complete his term. LaBorde advised McKeithen that he had become too defensive and overreacted to media reports. The two urged him to develop a thicker skin and stand up to his critics. McKeithen completed his second term, but struggled with many controversies and political setbacks.[8]

  • Edwin Edwards​

Governor Edwards sometimes stopped at LaBorde's home when he passed through Alexandria. Once he was accompanied by an entourage of state troopers with sirens sounding. Neighbors thought that there had been a tragedy. Mrs. LaBorde was embarrassed and asked Edwards not to visit again unless he came without the entourage.​

Edwards gave the principal speech at LaBorde's retirement dinner from The Town Talk. After official retirement, LaBorde continued "The Talk of the Town" column twice a week. He did not live to see Edwards complete his fourth term as governor. LaBorde's daughter, Joyce Cessac, said that LaBorde would have never tolerated Edwards' crimes, but that her father had thought that Edwards was an exceptional leader so long as good economic times prevailed in Louisiana.[1]

  • Allen Ellender​

Though LaBorde required his reporters to be objective regarding their subjects, he personally had a soft spot for another south Louisiana politician, his fellow "Cajun", U.S. Senator Allen Ellender from Houma in Terrebonne Parish, with whom he liked to swap "fish stories." It was said that with their dark-rimmed glasses, LaBorde and Ellender bore a physical resemblance, though Ellender was more than twenty years LaBorde's senior. Ellender died during his 1972 reelection campaign.[1]

Ransdell biography

In 1951, LaBorde published a biography, A National Southerner: Ransdell of Louisiana (Benziger Brothers), about the career of Democratic Senator Joseph Eugene Ransdell (1858–1954) of Louisiana. An Alexandria native, Ransdell was a lawyer and district attorney in Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish. He was elected to the Senate in 1912, the year of LaBorde's birth.[9] Ransdell was defeated for renomination in 1930 by Governor Huey Long.[1]

Personal life and family

The LaBordes were strong members of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Alexandria. LaBorde became friends with Alexandria Bishop Charles Pasquale Greco (1894–1987), and they were active in the Knights of Columbus.[10] LaBorde was a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and held the St. Gregory distinction.[1]

Bishop Greco hosted an annual party for The Town Talk staffers. The first native of Mississippi selected as a bishop in the Catholic Church, Greco wrote With God's Help, memoirs published posthumously by the Knights of Columbus. LaBorde worked on the Catholic newspaper for the bishop. When the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, LaBorde strongly objected. He continued to oppose abortion for the remainder of his life.[1]

LaBorde died of stomach cancer at the age of eighty. He had been able to fulfill his desire to be active until the end of his life. Adras and Blanche LaBorde are interred at Alexandria Memorial Gardens.[1]

LaBorde and his wife, Blanche, had a daughter Joyce (born 1934), and two sons, Adras Paul II (1943–1972) and Michael Anthony (born 1947) of Baton Rouge.[1] Joyce LaBorde became a kindergarten teacher and married Albert Joseph Cessac (1931–2012), a native of Perry in Vermilion Parish. They had seven children, who have all married in turn: Cheri (Cessac) McBurnett and husband Mark, Stephen Cessac and wife Darsha, Kenneth Cessac and wife Laura, Denise (Cessac) Long and husband Mike, Kevin Cessac and wife Mary, Nannette (Cessac) Baucom and husband Danny, and Chris Cessac and wife Jeanne Sinclair.[11]​Adras LaBorde, II, earned a Master of Science degree in forestry fromLSU in Baton Rouge; he married and had a son. He died of cancer at the age of twenty-nine. Adras LaBorde, III, (born 1966), became an attorney, working in the Rowe law firm of Baton Rouge, specializing in litigation, admiralty, and maritime law.[1]

Legacy and honors

  • LaBorde received the Edward J. Meeman Conservation Award by the Scripps-Howard Foundation for "distinguished journalism in the field of conservation."[1]
  • On January 28, 2012, LaBorde was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, based in Winnfield.[12]

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 "Bordelonville native among six to be inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame January 28", Avoyelles Today, January 4, 2012.
  2. PIERRE LaBORDE FAMILY of Avoyelles Parish. Msstate.edu (March 28, 2005). Retrieved on June 20, 2006.
  3. John Andrew Prime (June 10, 2010). George Washington Shannon. findagrave.com. Retrieved on June 22, 2015.
  4. Tyler Commercial College
  5. "Cecil Williams obituary," Alexandria Daily Town Talk, May 4, 2008.
  6. Media National, official website
  7. https://www.rattle.com/elegy-for-a-bayou-by-christopher-cessac/
  8. Jack Bass (1995). The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and Political Consequence Since 1945. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 170. 
  9. Senator Joseph Ransdell. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved on January 11, 2012.
  10. Review: "Charles Pasquale Greco, With God's Help", City University of New York
  11. Albert Joseph Cessac. obitsforlife.com. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  12. Warren Hayes (January 29, 2012; no longer on-line.). La. Political Hall inducts former Pineville mayor, 5 others. The Alexandria Daily Town Talk.

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