Peggy Wilson (Louisiana politician)

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Margaret Henican "Peggy" Wilson

Member of the New Orleans
City Council for District A
In office
Preceded by Bryan Wagner
Succeeded by Suzanne Haik Terrell

At-large member of the
New Orleans City Council
In office
Preceded by Two at-large members:

Joseph I. Giarrusso
Dorothy Mae Taylor

Succeeded by Two at-large members:

Jim Singleton
Eddie L. Sapir

Born June 24, 1937
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gordon F. Wilson, Jr.
Relations Ellis Henican (nephew)
Children Gordon Peter Wilson

Carter Cleveland Wilson

Residence New Orleans, Louisiana
Alma mater Academy of the Sacred Heart (New Orleans)

Barat College

Occupation Educator

Public relations specialist
Political consultant

Religion Roman Catholic

Margaret Henican Wilson, known as Peggy Wilson (born June 24, 1937), is a Republican former politician from her native New Orleans, Louisiana, who served for three terms from 1986 to 1998 on the New Orleans City Council.[1]


Wilson is one of five children of C. Ellis Henican, Sr. (1905-1997), and the former Elizabeth Cleveland (1909-1987), who are entombed at All Saints Mausoleum in New Orleans.[2] She was reared in the Uptown section of New Orleans. A brother, C. Ellis Henican, Jr. (1933-2015), a Tulane University Law School graduate, practiced law in New Orleans for fifty-seven years until his death at the age of eighty-one; he taught securities regulation at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and was married until her death to the former Patricia McGraw. Her other siblings are Alice H. Perrier, the widow of Claude Perrier; Dorothy H. Heidingsfelder, wife of Charles Heidingsfelder, and Joseph Henican, whose wife is also named Margaret. One of her nephews, Ellis Henican, is a Fox News Channel contributor.[3]

Wilson graduated in 1955 from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans and in 1959 from the Roman Catholic-affiliated Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois, thirty miles north of Chicago. After teaching in parochial schools, she operated from 1980 to 1985 the public relations firm in New Orleans, Peggy Wilson & Associates.[4]

Miss Henican married attorney Gordon F. Wilson, Jr. (born December 10, 1932). The couple has two sons, Gordon Peter Wilson (born 1963) and Carter Cleveland Wilson (born c. 1972).[5]

Political life

Peggy Wilson was elected to the city council in 1986 for District A in the Lakeview neighborhood. She defeated the Democrat Joseph DiRosa, a former at-large council member who had been allied with former Mayor Victor H. Schiro and narrowly lost the 1978 mayoral election to Ernest Nathan Morial, the first African American in that position.[6]Wilson introduced the referendum which enacted term limits for the city council and mayor with 67 percent voter approval.[7] Herself term-limited in 1994, Wilson switched to one of the two at-large seats, along with Jim Singleton, an African-American Democrat who served on the council for a total of twenty-four years. In her career in municipal government, Wilson was called the "watchdog" of the city council. She was frequently at odds with the mayors, the city administrators, and her council colleagues[4] but served as council president.[7] She was unseated in the at-large seat in 1998 by Singleton and Eddie L. Sapir, another Democrat.[4]

In 1988, Wilson played an influential role in locating the 1988 Republican National Convention to New Orleans, at which the Bush-Quayle ticket was nominated to run against the Democrat Dukakis-Bentsen slate.[4]

In 1991, Wilson lost a race for Louisiana insurance commissioner, a statewide position vacated earlier in the year by Democrat Doug Green, who faced multiple federal corruption charges and landed a long prison sentence.[8] Her principal opponent was James H. "Jim" Brown, originally from Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana and a state senator and Louisiana Secretary of State from 1980 to 1988. Brown led in the primary with 572,719 votes (40 percent). Wilson trailed with 435,355 votes (30 percent). Former Commissioner Sherman A. Bernard (1925-2012), another Democrat, drew 270,749 votes (19 percent). Two other Democrats and two other Republicans shared the remaining 11 percent of the ballots.[9]In the general election on November 16, in which Democrat former Governor Edwin Edwards defeated David Duke for the governorship, Brown secured a large victory over Wilson. He polled 1,002,038 (60 percent) to her 674,097 (40 percent). Wilson lost Orleans Parish by a wide margin but carried the suburban parishes of Jefferson, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany. She outpolled Duke, who was a drag on the other Republican candidates that year, by some three thousand votes though Duke carried more than a dozen mostly smaller parishes in North Louisiana.[10]Brown himself was forced from the insurance position in another scandal in 1992.[11]

In 1996, Wilson, still on the city council, ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate. She finished with 31,877 votes (2.6 percent).[12] Victory went to Mary Landrieu of New Orleans, the narrow but disputed general election winner over the Republican Woody Jenkins of East Baton Rouge Parish, who had led a multi-candidate field in the primary.

On April 22, 2006, Wilson was one of twenty-two candidates for mayor of New Orleans. In a nationally televised debate, Wilson said that New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, should exclude the return of "pimps, welfare queens and drug dealers." Her Democrat critics called her "Peggy the Purging Princess." Pundits noted that her support in the heavily Democratic city was much weaker than had been expected,[13]772 votes (0.71 percent). By contrast, a second Republican candidate, Rob Couhig, who had lost previous races for the United States House of Representatives, drew 10,312 votes (9.5 percent); from the primary, the incumbent Clarence Ray Nagin and then Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu went into a runoff election, called the general election.[14]Nagin prevailed, 52 to 48 percent.[15]

After her service on the city council, Wilson was appointed by Republican Governor Murphy Joseph "Mike" Foster, Jr., to the New Orleans Levee Board. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Wilson referred to Mayor Nagin as "not corrupt ... but he didn't know anything about city government or how to run a city. It's just the most unbelievable ineptness."[16] Years later, in 2014, Nagin was convicted on twenty of twenty-one charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering related to bribes from city contractors before and after Hurricane Katrina.[17]


  1. New Orleans City Council members since 1954. Retrieved on February 17, 2015.
  2. C. Ellis Henican. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.
  3. C. Ellis Henican, Jr. obituary. The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on July 10, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Biographical Note. Retrieved on September 28, 2014.
  5. Gordon F. Wilson. Retrieved on September 29, 2014.
  6. Councilman Joseph DiRosa. Retrieved on September 29, 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Peggy Wilson (President of the Council). Retrieved on September 29, 2014.
  8. Jim Bradshaw (October 2002). Louisiana's seen several jailed state officials. Retrieved on June 15, 2013.
  9. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 19, 1991.
  10. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 16, 1991.
  11. James Harvey Brown. Retrieved on September 28, 2014.
  12. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, September 21, 1996.
  13. Lovell Beaulieu. The Lo-Beau Report. The New Orleans Tribune. Retrieved on September 29, 2014.
  14. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, April 22, 2006.
  15. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, May 20, 2006.
  16. Inept New Orleans Officials. (October 18, 2005). Retrieved on September 29, 2014.
  17. "Ex-New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin sentenced to 10 years", USA Today, July 9, 2014. Retrieved on July 9, 2014.