David Thibodaux

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David Glenn Thibodaux
DavidThibodaux.jpg
Member of the Lafayette Parish School Board
In office
1995–2007
Preceded by Jerome "Jerry" Bourque
Succeeded by Mark Cockerham
Personal details
Born (1953-12-01)December 1, 1953
New Iberia, Iberia Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died March 24, 2007(2007-03-24) (aged 53)
Lafayette Parish
Louisiana
Resting place Cremins at St. John's Cathedral Cemetery in Lafayette
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Divorced

(2) Melody Faul Thibodaux (married c. 1988-2007, his death)

Children Benjamin Albert Thibodaux

Shannon Ashley Thibodaux
Jeremy David Thibodaux
Claire Michaelle Thibodaux
Rachel Christine Thibodaux

Parents Albert Joseph and Charlie Janet Thibodaux
Alma mater Cathedral Carmel High School

University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Kansas State University

Occupation English Professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette;

Author; Political activist

Religion Roman Catholic

David Glenn Thibodaux (December 1, 1953 – March 24, 2007) was a respected English professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for 27 years, a member and officer of the Lafayette Parish School Board for twelve years, and a notable political figure and Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 7th congressional district.

He was also an author of several books, including Political Correctness: The Cloning of the American Mind, and numerous articles and editorials.

School board service[edit]

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, just weeks before his death.

He worked 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 U.S. District Court Judge Richard T. Haik, a brother of another Louisiana Republican leader, 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 Superintendent 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 support and 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 System 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.

Louisiana Republican pioneer[edit]

Thibodaux was a pioneer of the GOP in southwestern Louisiana. During the 1980s, he was elected to the Republican State Central Committee. He was a delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention, which met in New Orleans.

In 1990, Thibodaux ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 7th congressional district. The seat had never been held by a Republican and was a known Democratic stronghold, famously held by Edwin Edwards from 1965 to 1972, before he was elected to his first of four terms as governor of Louisiana. 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 terms in which he became one of the nation's most influential legislators. Breaux's hand-picked successor, Democrat James "Jimmy" Hayes of Lafayette took control of the seat in 1986. Thibodaux lost his 1990 bid to the incumbent Hayes, but received nearly 70,000 votes, a respectable 38 percent of the vote.

In 1995, Thibodaux launched another campaign for the seat. With a United States Senate seat open, Hayes switched to Republican affiliation in December of that year and vacated his House seat to run for the U.S. Senate in 1996. With the 7th Congressional seat open, Thibodaux saw the opportunity for a Republican to carry the 7th district for the first time.

Under the unique Louisiana primary system, Thibodaux lost a spot in the general election against Democrat 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. 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. Thibodaux's supporters felt that the presence of the three other Republicans, Jim Slatten, Peter Vidrine, and Charles "Charlie" Buckels, with a total of 25,840 votes (15 percent), undercut Thibodaux's opportunity to enter a face-to-face showdown with John in the general election and cost the Republicans a serious chance at the seat.

With only twelve votes separating Thibodaux from a spot in the runoff, the Republican Party 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 massive 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 US 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. With the Republican Party putting massive financial support behind Jenkins' challenge to the Senate race, Thibodaux chose not to fund his own challenge of the results of the House race. Chris John went on to defeat Lundy in the general election and held the seat until he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, having been 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 hierarchy, including U.S. President George W. Bush, gave Boustany the Republican endorsement. Thibodaux publicly campaigned for Boustany in the general election, who went on to defeat 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. In 2008, then State Senator Donald R. Cravins, Jr., lost his bid against Boustany.

After Thibodaux's death, Boustany stated that Thibodaux's death was "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."

Roger F. Villere, Jr., chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, 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"[edit]

Bill Decker of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser described Thibodaux thus:

"[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 English at ULL, took on mamby-pamby language and knee-jerk liberals in a pair of books, the latest of which is called Beyond Political Correctness: Are There Limits to This Lunacy? 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 half a dozen 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[edit]

Thibodaux was born in New Iberia, the seat of Iberia Parish, to Albert Joseph Thibodaux and Charlie Janet Thibodaux (November 15, 1932 - January 27, 2006). He graduated from the Roman Catholic Cathedral Carmel 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. He joined the UL Lafayette faculty in 1980 and attained the rank of associate professor.

In addition to his father, Thibodaux was survived by his second wife of nineteen years, 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. In addition to his mother, he was preceded in death by two brothers.

Death and remembrances[edit]

Thibodaux died in 2007 in a Lafayette area hospital after sustaining injuries in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 90. The accident occurred at an intersection where multiple 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.[citation needed]

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 single-handedly 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 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.

David Thibodaux High School[edit]

In 2011, the Lafayette Parish School System 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 will 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.

Currently, there are 670 students at the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.

References[edit]

Preceded by
Jerome "Jerry" Bourque
Lafayette Parish School Board (District 7)

David Glenn Thibodaux
1995–2007

Succeeded by
Mark Cockerham