Difference between revisions of "David Thibodaux"

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Revision as of 22:39, 30 May 2019

David Glenn Tibodaux​

District 7 member of the
Lafayette Parish School Board​
In office
1995​ – 2007​
Preceded by Jerome "Jerry" Bourque​
Succeeded by Mark Cockerham​

Born December 1, 1953​
New Iberia, Louisiana
Died March 24, 2007 (aged 53)​
Lafayette Parish, Louisiana​
Resting place Cremins at St. John's Cathedral Cemetery in Lafayette​
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Melody Faul Thibodaux​
Children Three daughters
Two sons​
Alma mater Cathedral Carmel High School​

University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Kansas State University

Occupation Professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette;

Author; political activist​

David Glenn Thibodaux (December 1, 1953 – March 24, 2007) was an influential professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for twenty-seven years and a member for twelve years of the Lafayette Parish School Board, of which he was a president and vice-president. A notable political figure, he ran four times for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 7th congressional district, since disbanded.

Thibodaux authored in 1992 Political Correctness: The Cloning of the American Mind[1] and in 1994 Political Correctness: Are There Limits to this Lunacy?.[2]

School board service

​ In 1994, Thibodaux was elected to the District 7 seat on the Lafayette Parish School Board. He was re-elected in 1998, 2002, and was unopposed for his fourth term in 2006. Thibodaux was elected by the board to serve twice as board president, and had been elected to serve as vice-president in January 2007, shortly before his death. As a board member he advocated for a reduction in teacher-student ratios, pay increases for teachers, and for additional construction and maintenance of parish schools. He was integral in procuring unitary status in the lingering 40-year-old desegregation lawsuit against the school board. He made an impassioned plea for unitary status before Judge Richard T. Haik of the United States District Court. Haikk is a brother of another Louisiana Republican figure, Suzanne Haik Terrell of New Orleans.

Thibodaux stressed the need for money in the classroom, rather than expanded administration, which frequently placed him at odds with Lafayette Parish Superintenden James Easton.​ Soon after his death, at the request of Thibodaux's family, the Lafayette Parish School Board appointed Mark Cockerham (born 1976), a former student of Thibodaux's who had worked in his congressional campaign, to fill the District 7 vacancy until a special election could be held in conjunction with the regular primary elections scheduled for October 20, 2007. With the endorsement of Thibodaux's family, Cockerham was re-elected to serve a full term in the election that fall.​ ​ In 2011, the Lafayette Parish School Board announced the opening of the David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School, a facility designed to provide students with career and technical industry-based certification and college credit, which was a vision Thibodaux had fought for in the years before his death.

Louisiana Republican pioneer

​ At the time of Thibodaux's death, Roger F. Villere, Jr., then the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, heralded Thibodaux as a pioneer of the GOP in southwestern Louisiana. Disenfranchised with the controlling Democratic Party due to widespread corruption throughout the state in the 1970s and 1980s, Thibodaux sought to enhance the position of Louisiana's Republican Party to restore a viable two-party system to his state. He served as a delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention, which met in New Orleans, and was elected to the Republican State Central Committee, where, as a member of The Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism, he rallied against David Duke's 1991 gubernatorial campaign against Edwin Edwards.

In 1990, Thibodaux ran for the U.S. House. The 7th district had never been held by a Republican and was a known Democratic stronghold, famously held by Edwin Edwards from 1965 to 1972, before Edwards was elected to his first of four terms as governor. Edwards supported his protégé, John Breaux, to run as his successor. Breaux held the seat until 1986 before being elected to the U.S. Senate for the first of three termss. Breaux then supported Jimmy Hayes of Lafayette, who won the seat as his successor in 1986. In 1990, Thibodaux lost his bid to the two-term incumbent Hayes. Thibodaux received almost 70,000 votes, nearly 40 percent of the vote.​

In 1996, Thibodaux launched a third campaign for the 7th District seat. Hayes switched to Republican affiliation and vacated his House seat to seek the open U.S. Senate position in 1996. With the 7th congressional seat open, Thibodaux saw the election as the best opportunity for a Republican to carry the district for the first time.​ Under the nonpartisan blanket primary, Thibodaux lost a spot in the general election against Democrat Christopher J. "Chris" John by only twelve votes. On election night, Thibodaux was projected as finishing in second place, ensuring a spot in the general election, over 200 votes ahead of the third-place finisher Democrat Hunter Lundy. However, after a week of ballot recounts, John led with 45,404 ballots (26 percent). Lundy trailed with 38,605 votes (22 percent), just 12 votes ahead of Thibodaux's 38,593 votes (also 22 percent). While Thibodaux was the endorsed Republican candidate, three other Republican candidates campaigned as well. The presence of the three other Republicans, Jim Slatten, Peter Anthony Vidrine (born November 1957) of Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, and Charles "Charlie" Buckels, with a total of 25,840 votes (15 percent), cost Thibodaux an opportunity to enter a face-to-face showdown with the Democrat Chris John in the general election. Vidrine ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 38 in 2011 and subsequently joined the Constitution Party.

With only twelve votes separating Thibodaux from a spot in the runoff, many urged Thibodaux to challenge the election results amid widespread reports of irregularities and election fraud across the state. In Louisiana's election for U.S. Senate that year, Republican Woody Jenkins contested the results of his narrow loss to Democrat Mary Landrieu claiming election fraud, including ballot tampering, voter fraud, and illegal busing in precincts statewide, including those in the 7th District. Jenkins brought his challenge to the U.S. Senate, arguing for a new election in front of the Senate Rules Committee. After a 10-month investigation revealed that fraud had occurred, the committee voted 8–7 along party lines to uphold the election results. Thibodaux chose not to pursue his own challenge of the results of the House race. Chris John went on to defeat Hunter Lundy in the general election and held the seat until he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, when he was defeated by the Republican David Vitter. ​ When John vacated the seat, Thibodaux decided to run again. However, when a recently retired physician, Charles Boustany, Jr., a longtime friend and supporter of Thibodaux in previous elections, decided to enter the race, the Republican party gave Boustany the endorsement. In the general election, Thibodaux backed Boustany, who then defeated state Senator Willie Mount of Lake Charles with 55 percent of the vote, and became the first Republican elected to represent Louisiana's 7th District, which was disbaned after the 2010 census.

Boustany called Thibodaux's death "a great loss for the people of Lafayette Parish, particularly for those of us who were proud to call him a friend. He will always be remembered for his passionate and relentless pursuit of improving public education for our communities in Lafayette Parish."​ ​Party chairman Roger Villere, Jr., declared a statewide day of mourning and remembrance for Thibodaux, whom Villere described as: "a Republican pioneer in Acadiana". I ask all Louisiana citizens to join me in honoring Dr. David Thibodaux and the life he devoted to making Louisiana a better place. I ask all of you to keep David's family and friends in your prayers."​ ​

Thibodaux as a "movement conservative"

Bill Decker of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser described Thibodaux, accordingly:​

"[He was] a movement conservative who might not appreciate the appropriation of Democrat Al Smith’s nickname. But Thibodaux was a happy warrior. [He] taught a generation of kids at ULL, and took on mamby-pamby language and knee-jerk liberals in a pair of books. At the time of his death, he was locked in the battle for which he may be remembered most: his duel with U.S. District Judge Richard Haik over school desegregation. Thibodaux fought Haik every way he knew how.

"His opposition was about the proper role of the judiciary, not about indifference to the kids. His push for reduced class sizes, lovingly detailed in dozens of conversations over the years, was about improving education in Lafayette schools that serve low-income students. And his biggest allies in the fight against the court-ordered desegregation measures were the two black school board members, [Democrats] Ed Sam and Rickey Hardy, who resented the closure of schools in black neighborhoods." ​ Mrs. Thibodaux told The Daily Advertiser that her husband "gave everything that he could. He was the only person I knew that lost sleep over someone else’s children."

Personal life and death

Thibodaux was born in New Iberia in Iberia Parish, to Albert Joseph Thibodaux and Charlie Janet Thibodaux (November 15, 1932 – January 27, 2006). He graduated from Cathedral Carmel Roman Catholic High School in Lafayette. He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from ULL, (then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana). He obtained his Ph.D. from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, before he joined the UL Lafayette faculty in 1980.​ ​ In addition to his father, Thibodaux was survived by his wife, the former Melody Faul; five children, Benjamin Albert Thibodaux and his wife, the former Wendi Robertson, Shannon Ashley Thibodaux, Jeremy David Thibodaux, Claire Michaelle Thibodaux, and Rachel Christine Thibodaux; one grandson; two sisters, and two brothers. Besides his mother, he was preceded in death by two brothers.

Thibodaux died in 2007 in a Lafayette area hospital after sustaining injuries in a motor vehicle accident on U.S. Route 90. The accident occurred at an intersection where fatalities had occurred previously. After Thibodaux's death, the Lafayette City Council had a stop light placed at the intersection to prevent further loss of life.

School board president Carl LaCombe, a Democrat and close friend who served as a pallbearer along with Thibodaux's two sons, Ben and Jeremy; his two brothers, Patrick and Jimmy; and his lifelong friend Alfred Boustany; said that Thibodaux "worked tirelessly to help the children of Lafayette Parish. He never stopped."​ ​ According to his obituary in The Daily Advertiser, the passionate Thibodaux was a man of the people and for the people. Dedicated to making a difference in the world, he served in public office and actively participated in his community. Family values and education were his passions and this showed in all of his endeavors. He was not afraid to fight for everything he believed in, even against great odds. . . . "​ ​ Services were held on March 28, 2007, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lafayette. Thibodaux's eulogist was Alfred Boustany, Jr., his best friend since elementary school, and a cousin of Charles Boustany, Jr. Judge Richard Haik told those in attendance: "You are David's eulogy. People from all walks of life came here out of respect and love."​ ​ Thibodaux was cremated and placed in his family tomb located in the cemetery of St. John's Cathedral.​ ​

Legacy: David Thibodaux High School

​ In 2011, the Lafayette Parish School Board announced the opening of the David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School. The mission of the new school was to provide students career and technical industry-based certification and college credit, which was a vision Thibodaux had fought for in the years before his death.​ The school was rededicated as the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy the following school year, which extended enrollment from 6th through 11th grade, with a 12th grade to be added for the 2013 school year. Students at the school train specifically for careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – hence the acronym

Principal Jeff Debetaz states that students at the STEM Academy choose from several specializations that include biomedical, environmental science, nutrition and dietetics, engineering, early childhood development and advanced learning. "Traditional courses, like English and history, are part of the curriculum, but technology is incorporated into every subject", Debetaz said.​

The program not only gets students ready for college, it also offers dual enrollment. Through an arrangement with Southwest Louisiana Community College, STEM Academy students can take classes that count toward a college degree, as well as a high school diploma.​ There are more than one thousand students at the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.

References

  1. The Cloning of the American Mind. Amazon.com. Retrieved on May 30, 2019.
  2. Political Correctness: Are There Limits to This Lunacy. Amazon.com. Retrieved on May 30, 2019.

​​​​

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