Jack Breaux

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Jack Louis Breaux, Sr.​

Mayor of Zachary
East Baton Rouge Parish
Louisiana, USA​
In office
1966​ – 1980​
Preceded by Stanley M. Noble ​
Succeeded by Jessie Pendergest, III ​

Born November 6, 1926​
Carencro, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana​
Died January 26, 1980 (aged 53)​
Baton Rouge
Resting place Azalea Rest Cemetery in Zachary​
Nationality American
Political party First Republican since Reconstruction to have been elected to the office of mayor in the state of Louisiana.​
Spouse(s) Betty Ellis Breaux​
Children Dr. Jack Breaux, Jr.​

Frank William Breaux​

Alma mater University of Louisiana at Lafayette​
Occupation Business executive​

United States Navy in World War II

Religion Presbyterian

Jack Louis Breaux, Sr. (November 6, 1926 – January 26, 1980),[1] was the Republican mayor of Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish for nearly fourteen years — from his first election in 1966 until his death of a brain tumor. He was the first member of his party since Reconstruction to head the municipal government of a Louisiana city.​

Breaux (no relation to Democratic former U.S. Senator John Breaux) was elected as a part-time mayor in the spring of 1966. In 1978, the Zachary municipal charter was altered to provide for a full-time mayor, and Breaux (pronounced BRO) was again chosen to lead his community.​

Background

Breaux was born in Carencro in Lafayette Parish, where his father, Lawrence L. Breaux, had been mayor. He graduated from Carencro High School and thereafter served in the United States Navy in World War II.

After the war, he attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana, from 1947 to 1950. He moved to Zachary in 1951. He was an industrial and labor relations supervisor at Copolymer Rubber and Chemical Corp., until his retirement to become Zachary's full-time mayor in 1978.​[1]

As Zachary mayor

Using a door-to-door campaign approach, Breaux was elected mayor on June 14, 1966, by a 15-vote margin, 353 to 338, to unseat incumbent Democrat Stanley M. Noble.[2] When Breaux became mayor, Zachary had a population of about 4,000; the 2000 census showed the count at just under 12,000.​

Under the Breaux administration, Zachary was named the "most progressive" city in Louisiana.[3] Mayor Breaux initiated the expansion and improvement of many city projects and programs, including the widening of Louisiana Highway 64. As mayor, Breaux led the drive for annexation of several outlying areas of the city. In his last race for mayor, he cited his achievements as improvements in roads, water, and the city drainage system.​[1]

On Breaux's watch, Zachary became the first Louisiana city to elect delegates to draft a home-rule charter, which provided for the full-time mayor. The new charter took effect in the fall of 1978. It formally organized the departments of city government and delineated the powers of the mayor and the city council.​ Breaux was a member of the Capital District Law Enforcement Planning Council, the Capital Economic Development District Council, Inc., Zachary Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, Capital Region Planning Commission, Recreation and Parks Commission, Louisiana Municipal Association (including a term as vice president), and the Republican State Central Committee[1]

Other campaigns

In 1975 and 1976, Breaux unsuccessfully sought election as a Republican for sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish and for the Baton Rouge mayor-president position, a combined municipal-parish office. In the sheriff's race, Breaux, who was opposing Democratic incumbent J. Al Amiss (pronounced AIM ISS), ran third with 19.6 percent and narrowly missed a general election berth. Amiss led the field with 31.9 percent, and another Democrat, D.P. "Skip" D'Amico trailed with 22.9 percent in the primary.[4] Amiss defeated D'Amico and served from 1972 until his death early in 1983. A Republican, Elmer Litchfield, was subsequently the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff from 1983 until his retirement in 2006 because of health problems.​

Breaux ran third again in the 1976 primary for the mayor-presidency, having finished with 21.7 percent to the incumbent Democratic Mayor-President Woodrow Wilson Dumas, who nearly prevailed outright with 47.3 percent of the ballots. The second-place candidate was the outgoing Democratic mayor of neighboring Baker, Pete Heine, who polled 27 percent in the primary.[5]

While he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, former California Governor Ronald W. Reagan came to Baton Rouge to campaign for Breaux. In that campaign stop, Reagan likened himself to an "honorary Cajun coonass." Breaux was of Cajun descent.[6]

In 2001, a Baker Republican, Bobby Simpson, became mayor-president, but he was unseated after one term in 2004 by the African American Democrat Kip Holden, a former state representative. Simpson had succeeded a Democrat-turned-Republican Tom Ed McHugh, in office for three terms as mayor-president from 1989 to 2001 and later the executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association.​

Breaux hence started the path which made possible the future breakthroughs by the Republicans Litchfield and Simpson.​

Death and family

Breaux underwent neurosurgery in November 1978, just after becoming the full-time mayor. He was readmitted to the hospital in August 1979. His illness requjired him to take a leave of absence from mayoral duties. He died in Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge.​[1]

Services were held on January 28, 1980, at Breaux's church, Plains Presbyterian in Zachary. Burial was at the Azalea Rest Cemetery.​ Survivors included his wife, the former Betty Ellis (born December 1929), a Zachary teacher; his mother, Mrs. Lawrence L. Breaux of Lafayette; two sons, Dr. Jack L. Breaux, Jr. (born 1951), and wife Carolyn Derbes Breaux (born 1948), of New Orleans, later of Baton Rouge, and Frank William Breaux (born 1954), then of Guadalajara, Mexico, and later of Baton Rouge; a brother, William R. Breaux (1924–1995) of Lafayette, and a granddaughter, Jennifer Ann Breaux of New Orleans.​[1]

Legacy

Tom Ed McHugh, who chaired the charter commission, said that Breaux saw the change in government as "another opportunity to serve the community." He said that Breaux's death was a great loss to the Republican Party: "I think it's a very tragic thing; we hate to lose our oldest Republican mayor in terms of service. He was a great asset to the community, not only as a mayor, but as an individual."​[1]

James H. Boyce, the former state Republican chairman from Baton Rouge, said that Breaux "got his job done" and had a good relationship with the community. ... The fact that a Republican could go into a community like Zachary and be reelected and get his program adopted is a great tribute to him."​ Baker Mayor Mike Cross, a Democrat who later served in the state Senate, lamented Breaux's death: "Zachary is going to be the one to lose ... [he] did a tremendous amount to put Zachary on the map."​[1]

On November 8, 1966, Arthur Thomas "Tom" Colten (1922-2004), a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, was elected mayor of Minden in Webster Parish, five months after Breaux won as the mayor of Zachary. Breaux and Colten were the first two Republican mayors of the 20th century in Louisiana.​[7]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Jack Breaux obituary, Baton Rouge Advocate, January 27, 1980, p. 1 and obituary section​.
  2. Lake Charles American-Press, June 15, 1966, p. 10.
  3. This definition of "progressive" means "moving forward," not the expansion of government associated with the former Progressive movement.
  4. Louisiana Secretary of State, Baton Rouge, Election returns for November 1, 1975.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election returns for August 14, 1976.
  6. "Reagan hits nerve with 'coonass' comment", Minden Press-Herald, May 7, 1976, p. 1.
  7. Minden Press-Herald, November 9, 1966, p. 1.

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