Adras LaBorde

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Adras Paul LaBorde, Sr.
Born (1912-12-12)December 12, 1912
Bordelonville in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana USA
Died March 6, 1993(1993-03-06) (aged 80)
Alexandria in Rapides Parish, Louisiana
Nationality American
Occupation Managing editor and executive editor of Alexandria Daily Town Talk newspaper
Political party
Democrat
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Blanche Bordelon LaBorde (1913–2004)
Children

Joyce LaBorde Cessac
Adras LaBorde, Jr. (1943–1972)

Michael Anthony LaBorde (born 1947)
Notes
(1) His "Talk of the Town" column covered Louisiana politicians in depth, but LaBorde was a crusader for the environment, too.
(2) LaBorde wrote a biography of former U.S. Senator Joseph E. Ransdell, an Alexandria native.

Adras Paul LaBorde, I (December 12, 1912 – March 6, 1993), was a reporter, managing editor, and columnist for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, the largest newspaper in Central Louisiana. His career stretched from the mid-1940s into the early 1990s. 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 Louisiana's vast array of determined politicians.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Adras Paul LaBorde was born in 1912 to Enos LaBorde, Sr. (1886–1962), and the former Lily Bordelon (1891–1955) in Bordelonville in Avoyelles Parish. He graduated at an early age from Bordelon High School.[2] As a young man, he worked as a radio operator on a ship.[3] Amid the isolation of the sea, he developed his interest in serious reading. Largely self-educated, LaBorde read encyclopedias and serious works of nonfiction to keep himself occupied and to improve his employment prospects.

He married Blanch Bordelon, also of Bordelonville, and they started a family. Later, while living in New Orleans, LaBorde did a newscast in French for radio station WWL. 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 and stayed in the United States. 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 settled in Alexandria.[1]

Career: Alexandria Daily Town Talk[edit]

LaBorde started at the Alexandria Daily Town Talk in 1945. George W. Shannon had preceded him as a staffer and later advanced to be the editor of the Shreveport Journal. LaBorde learned the business from the ground floor and in 1950, he was named managing editor. He held that position for twenty-seven years.

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]

His staff joked that he had no formal education but "the school of hard knocks". 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[edit]

LaBorde witnessed the state's transformation of rivalry between Longism and anti-Longism. Beginning in the 1960s, and the slow rise of serious Republican competition to the traditional Democratic 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—a policy that the newspaper has since changed—but wrote extensively on keading figures of the region, state and nation.

His subjects included the following, in alphabetical order: Ernest S. Clements, Jimmie Davis, William J. "Bill" Dodd, Allen J. Ellender, Jimmy Fitzmorris, Camille Gravel, Jack P.F. Gremillion, Francis Grevemberg, William J. Guste, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., Sam H. Jones, John Hainkel, Paul Hardy, Shelby M. Jackson, Robert F. Kennon, Raymond Laborde, Dudley J. LeBlanc, Blanche Long, Earl Kemp Long, George S. Long, Gillis William Long, the legacy of Huey P. Long, Jr., Russell B. Long, Speedy O. Long, Charlton Lyons, John McKeithen, Wade O. Martin, Jr., Louis J. Michot, deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr., James A. Noe, Mary Evelyn Parker, Otto Passman, Dave L. Pearce, William M. Rainach, Edward G. "Ned" Randolph, Jr., Charles E. Roemer, III, John G. Schwegmann, John W. "Jock" Scott, Nauman Scott, John K. Snyder, David C. Treen, many others, including his perhaps most demanding subject, Edwin Washington Edwards.[1]

A "good government" columnist[edit]

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. Yet, he believed that government had an element of compulsion.

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 R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and the first George H.W. Bush. He grew irate over Watergate in 1973 and 1974, but mostly addressed state or local matters.[1]

Despite his "old school" demeanor, LaBorde adjusted his newsroom to modern demands. He knew that the paper had to attract subscribers to stay afloat. Computers were introduced at the Town Talk in the summer of 1973 to improve efficiency and to increase the volume and quality of news stories.

Staff development[edit]

LaBorde demanded integrity, accuracy, originality, and speed from his reporters and editors. When his near legendary but quiet temper flared, he could, without a trace of humor, stare down the culprit over the rim of his glasses. 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 of Norman, Oklahoma, a 1966 graduate of Louisiana State University, was promoted as the first woman to hold editing positions in the Town Talk newsroom. 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 editor. Williams won numerous awards.[1][5]

LaBorde sent the young reporter Leonard Sanderson, Jr., to Baton Rouge in 1974 to cover the legislature; later Sanderson moved to Washington, DC, 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 Governor Buddy Roemer's first press secretary. Cowart went on to establish his own 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 of Ruston came to the newspaper at the age of 22 in 1972 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 on to the Torrance Daily Breeze in Torrance, California. William Chaze went on to become an AP editor, foreign news editor for US News & World Report and editor in chief of the Journal of Defense and Diplomacy. All owed a part of their success to LaBorde's demanding tutelage.[1]

LaBorde's tenure at the newspaper coincided with the management of publisher Joe D. Smith, Jr., a native of Grant Parish, and his first wife, Jane Wilson Smith, whose father had owned The Town Talk. The Smiths sold the paper to Central Newspapers, Inc., of Indianapolis, which later sold it to the Virginia-based Gannett.[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[edit]

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 lobbied in his columns for removal of oilfield pollution from the Little River, and he urged Edwards to acquire the land encompassing Spring Bayou. 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]

Political anecdotes[edit]

  • John McKeithen

In 1968, after Governor John McKeithen failed to gain the Democratic vice-presidential nomination at the convention in Chicago, which nominated Hubert Humphrey to run against Richard M. Nixon and George Wallace, he privately threatened to resign and turn over his office to Lieutenant Governor Taddy Aycock. McKeithen's executive secretary summoned LaBorde and publisher Joe D. 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 became 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.[7]

  • Edwin Edwards

Governor Edwin 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" 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 served in the U.S. Senate for thirty-six years. LaBorde was greatly saddened by the sudden death of Ellender in the 1972 reelection campaign.[1]

Other journalism works[edit]

In 1951, LaBorde published a biography, A National Southerner: Ransdell of Louisiana (Benziger Brothers), about the career of Democratic Senator Joseph E. Ransdell (1858–1954) from Louisiana. An Alexandria native, Ransdell was a lawyer and district attorney in Lake Providence, the seat of East Carroll Parish. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1912, the year of LaBorde's birth.[8] Ransdell was defeated for renomination in 1930.[1]

Personal life and family[edit]

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.[9] LaBorde was a fourth degree Knights of Columbus and held the St. Gregory distinction.[1]

Bishop Greco hosted an annual party for 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]

Joe Smith, LaBorde's friend and former publisher, and family family members stayed after his diagnosis of terminal stomach cancer; he died two weeks later. He had been able to fulfill his desire to be active until the end of his life.[1] Adras and Blanche LaBorde are interred at Alexandria Memorial Gardens.[1]

Family[edit]

LaBorde and his wife, the former Blanche Bordelon (1913–2004), had a daughter Joyce (born 1934), and two sons, Adras Paul II (1943–1972) and Michael Anthony (born 1947).[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.[10]

Adras LaBorde II earned a Master of Science degree in forestry from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; he married and had a son. He died of cancer at the age of twenty-nine. His son Adras Paul 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[edit]

Grave of Adras LaBorde in Alexandria Memorial Gardens

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Bordelonville native among six to be inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame January 28", Avoyelles Today, January 4, 2012
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ (Tyler Commercial College
  5. ^ "Cecil Williams obituary," Alexandria Daily Town Talk, May 4, 2008
  6. ^ [3], Media National official website
  7. ^ Jack Bass (1995). The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and Political Consequence Since 1945. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. p. 170. 
  8. ^ "Senator Joseph Ransdell". bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  9. ^ Review: "Charles Pasquale Greco, With God's Help", City University of New York
  10. ^ "Albert Joseph Cessac". obitsforlife.com. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  11. ^ Warren Hayes (29 January 2012). "La. Political Hall inducts former Pineville mayor, 5 others". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved January 30, 2012.