"Dud" Lastrapes, Jr.
1980 – 1992
|Preceded by||Kenny Bowen|
|Succeeded by||Kenny Bowen|
Chairman of the
Louisiana Republican Party
1992 – 1994
|Preceded by||William Aicklen "Billy" Nungesser|
|Succeeded by||Michael Gordon "Mike" Francis|
|Born|| November 30, 1929|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Spouse(s)||Rhonda Rougelot Lastrapes (married 1957-1989, divorced)|
|Children|| William Dean Lastrapes (born 1958)
Bryan James Lastrapes (born 1959)
|Alma mater|| Opelousas High School
Univesity of Louisiana at Lafayette
William Dudley Lastrapes, Jr., known as Dud Lastrapes (born November 30, 1929), is a businessman and politician who from 1980 to 1992 was the first Republican since Reconstruction to have served as mayor of Lafayette, the fourth largest city in Louisiana.
Prior to his three-term mayoralty tenure, Lastrapes (pronounced LA STRAPS) was a member of the Lafayette Parish School Board from 1972 to 1980. After his mayoral service, Lastrapes served a term as chairman of his state's Republican Party from 1992 to 1994. In 1997, Lastrapes was appointed to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board by then Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr. He served until 2008 and was ineligible for reappointment.
Originally a Democrat, Lastrapes switched his registration to Republican in 1959, when he was not quite thirty years of age. At the time, the state Republican Party had fewer than nine thousand registered members. Hence very few living Louisiana Republicans have been members of the party longer than Lastrapes.
Lastrapes was born in New Orleans to William Dudley Lastrapes, Sr. (1897–1973), and the former Gertrude Schminke (1895–1985), but he was reared in Opelousas in St. Landry Parish in south Louisiana. The senior Lastrapes owned the Opelousas Credit Bureau and published the local Legal Times. Lastrapes graduated from Opelousas High School in 1946. He then attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then known as the Southwestern Louisiana Institute), from which in 1950, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and communications.
Thereafter, in January 1951, Lastrapes entered the United States Air Force for a full four-year stint. He was stationed in South Korea throughout 1953. He left the military with the rank of staff sergeant. He has been active in the American Legion.
Occupation and family
In 1955, Lastrapes went to work as a reporter and newscaster for the newly opened Lafayette television station KLFY-TV, Channel 10 (CBS). He left the station to go into radio but soon returned to KLFY as news director, a position that he maintained until 1970.
In 1957, Lastrapes married the former Rhonda Rougelot (born 1936); she was also born in New Orleans but reared in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and thereafter Lafayette, where she finished high school. The Lastrapeses, who divorced in 1989, have two sons. William Dean Lastrapes (born 1958) is on the faculty of the Department of Economics at the University of Georgia at Athens, where he lives with his wife and two children. Bryan James Lastrapes (born 1959) is senior vice president at QRI; he lives with his wife, twin daughters, and son in Houston, Texas.
In 1970, Lastrapes became a public relations officer of the former Guaranty Bank and Trust Company in Lafayette, later Chase Bank. In 1973, he went into the health and life insurance business. He worked in that capacity until he became mayor. He returned to his insurance business in 1992, after his mayoral service ended.
Lastrapes and Bowen
Lastrapes was reelected to a second six-year term on the school board in 1978, but he left after two years to become mayor. In 1979, he ran for aseat in the state Senate in the nonpartisan blanket primary. Though he polled more than 10,000 votes, he finished third, and the seat was won in the general election by the pro-life Allen Bares, who defeated fellow Democrat Pat Juneau, 54-46 percent.
Lastrapes then filed to run for mayor. He unseated the incumbent Kenneth F. "Kenny" Bowen in the primary held in April 1980. Lastrapes polled 10,609 votes (50.3 percent) to take the mayoralty outright without the need for a general election under the unique Louisiana primary system that began operating in 1975. Bowen trailed with 5,649 votes (26.8 percent), while another Democrat, George Landry, finished with 4,839 votes (22.9 percent).
Ironically, Bowen had been the unsuccessful Republican mayoral nominee in 1968. Bowen was defeated that year by 1,322 votes by the popular Democratic Mayor J. Rayburn Bertrand. Bowen was then elected in 1972, with 62 percent of the vote over three opponents in the then still closed Democratic primary. He was reelected in 1976. He won a third term in 1992 and succeeded Lastrapes, who did not seek reelection.
Mr. Republican Mayor
Under the Lastrapes administration, Lafayette annexed some thirteen square miles of area. The city grew rapidly from 1980–1984, and then there was a slowdown in the important oil industry. Lafayette rebounded in the late 1980s and attracted some new industries and expansion of existing ones. On March 18, 1983, Lastrapes recommended to the Lafayette City Council the construction of a four-lane river crossing at the Camellia Boulevard on the city's south side. After years of studies, protests, and delays, construction was completed in 2003.
Lastrapes was reelected in 1984, when he defeated a city councilman. And he was reelected on March 8, 1988, when he narrowly derailed a strong comeback attempt by Bowen. Lastrapes polled 13,424 votes (52 percent) to Bowen's 12,512 (48 percent). The mayoral election corresponded with the presidential primaries in Louisiana.
In 1985, Lastrapes recommended a 2 percent sales tax increase; voters approved it, along with a bond referendum that included the Camellia bridge. The sales tax revenue was used to hire city employees and to start capital improvement projects at a time when few others in Lafayette were building or hiring, said Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer of the Lafayette Consolidated Government. Like Baton Rouge, Lafayette has a combined city-parish government. According to Stanley, Lastrapes "understood the necessity of hiring good, qualified people to work in government."
Lastrapes was also mayor when the $64 million Cajundome opened in 1985 on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is also known as the mayor who hired many women in city government. Lewana Shearer of Lafayette's city-parish risk management and insurance division, was hired in the Bowen municipal administration in 1979. She started as a claims investigator and worked her way through the ranks to risk manager. She considers the Lastrapes administration to have been "the best years of my career because he gave women the opportunity to shine."
Lastrapes was not, however, the first Republican mayor in Louisiana. Smaller towns like Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish (Jack Breaux), Minden in Webster Parish Tom Colten, and Haughton in Bossier Parish (Elizabeth O. Sherwin) elected Republican mayors earlier. Alexandria had a Republican mayor by defection from 1972–1973, when Ed Karst switched parties in the last years of his single term.Karst did not remain Republican, however, as he later returned to the Democrats to seek a judicial position in Rapides Parish in 1978.
Republicans have since served as mayor of Shreveport (Hazel Beard and Robert Warren "Bo" Williams) and Baton Rouge (Tom Ed McHugh and Bobby Simpson), but no Republican has won in New Orleans, Lake Charles, or has been directly elected in Alexandria. There were also short-term Republican mayors in Monroe (Melvin Rambin) and Pineville (Leo Deslatte).
A Republican, Lester Joseph "Joey" Durel, Jr., reclaimed for his party the combined mayor/presidency of the City of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish in the 2003 primary election.
As GOP state chairman
Lastrapes was the second Lafayette Republican to serve as state party chairman in twenty years. Charles de Gravelles had held the post from 1968 to 1972, during a difficult period for the Louisiana GOP. As chairman, Lastrapes was also at the helm when Louisiana Republicans were in a downcast mood after the return of Governor Edwin Edwards to a fourth and final term as well as the first election of Bill Clinton as president. The Louisiana party held a convention in New Orleans in 1993, which was keynoted by former U.S. Representative and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp. (The 1988 national convention had also met in New Orleans.) Lastrapes had supported Kemp for the 1988 nomination; Kemp's failure to become a serious contender was what Lastrapes considered to be his greatest personal political disappointment.
Thereafter, Lastrapes worked to elect Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush as president, and he became a personal friend of the president. Bush carried Louisiana in the 1988 race, but not in 1992. In 1994, the GOP won control of both houses of Congress, and the mechanism was set in place to win the 1995 gubernatorial race to succeed Edwards. Then came a bitter GOP disappointment in the U.S. Senate race in 1996, with the disputed loss of Woody Jenkins. The Lafayette Parish GOP rebounded in 2003 to win the election for mayor-president.
Lastrapes attended three Republican national conventions as a delegate pledged to Reagan: 1976 in Kansas City, 1980 in Detroit, and 1984 in Dallas, He also attended the 1992 conclave in Houston as an observer.
One of Lastrapes' cousins through their common grandfather, Dr. William Robertson Lastrapes, Sr. (1869-1951), was Edward Taylor Lewis "Ned" Borie, Sr. (1927-2013), a chemical engineer in Baton Rouge. Borie was involved in grass roots Republican activities in East Baton Rouge Parish and was a delegate to the 1964 national convention in San Francisco, which nominated the Barry Goldwater. Borie died of head injuries sustained in a fall while on a family vacation in Italy.
Lastrapes was listed in 1984 as a member of the Council for National Policy, a conservative think-tank begun by Woody Jenkins, a Louisiana Democrat turned Republican. The CNP was envisioned as a balance to the Council on Foreign Relations. Another Louisiana Republican who joined the group was state Representative Arthur William Sour, Jr., (1924–2000) of Shreveport, who legislative service parallels the mayoral years of Mayor Lastrapes. Still another was state Representative and later state Senator Dan Richey, formerly of Ferriday in Concordia Parish.
A Roman Catholic, Lastrapes is a member of Lafayette Right to Life. He was active in Little League baseball when his sons were players. He is a veteran member of Rotary International and has been active in blood donor drives. He is also a cancer survivor.
Lastrapes and GOP growth in Acadiana
Years after leaving the mayor's position, Lastrapes was asked to give his take on why Republicanism took root in Acadiana. Here is his verbatim reply:
Well, the oil industry brought in a lot of people. You know, this was not as homogenized, if you can say it that way, a group of people, or citizens, where it once was maybe 90 percent Cajun, 90 percent Catholic. A lot of that changed when the oil industry developed so strongly beginning in the fifties and people from Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, California, whatever, came into the state, many of them still here, and they became a pretty nice blend of oil industry and local Cajuns. And many married locally and so on. So you've had that blend over the years, and I think some influence came into play too, not that we don't have some conservative Cajuns; we do, a fair number, but the influence of a lot of the oil people coming from these states. It was mostly a conservative influence that had a little play on the flavor of politics locally, and still does to this day. I would say most, somebody would maybe challenge me, but I would say most of the people in the oil industry tend to be on the conservative side of politics and today mostly on the Republican side of politics."
- William Dudley Lastrapes, Sr.. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on September 23, 2019.
- Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative (Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7), p. 37.
- Baton Rouge State-Times, April 19, 1980, 17B.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, March 8, 1988.
- Minden Press-Herald, November 9, 1966.
- Alexandria Town Talk, May 5, 1973.
- The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, September 17, 1978.
- Edward T. L. "Ned" Borie obituary. The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved on July 9, 2013.
- Index of Politicians: Booth-clibborn to Borzaga. politicalgraveyard.com. Retrieved on July 9, 2013.