J. Rayburn Bertrand

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J. Rayburn "Ray" Bertrand
Mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
In office
1960–1972
Preceded by Jerome E. Domengeaux
Succeeded by Kenneth Francis "Kenny" Bowen
President of the Louisiana Municipal Association
In office
1965–1966
Preceded by Frank T. Norman
Succeeded by John W. Perritt
Personal details
Born (1918-10-01)October 1, 1918
Kinder in Allen Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died March 6, 2005(2005-03-06) (aged 86)
Lafayette, Louisiana
Spouse(s)

(1) Martha Julie Burgin Bertrand (deceased)

(2) Faith Mensman Bertrand (married for some twenty years until his death)
Children Daughter Cheryl Louise Bertrand (first marriage) and stepdaughter Dana Faith Whelchel Holladay, both of Lafayette
Alma mater

Louisiana State University

University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Profession Businessman

(1) Bertrand's admirers want to rename the Lafayette Regional Airport in his honor.

(2) Bertrand won two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals during his World War II service.

(3) During Bertrand's twelve years as mayor of Lafayette, the city nearly doubled in population.

J. Rayburn "Ray" Bertrand (October 1, 1918 – March 6, 2005) was a businessman, civic leader, and decorated World War II veteran who served as the Democratic mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana, from 1960 to 1972. During Bertrand's three terms, the city nearly doubled in population, having grown from 40,000 to 75,000, and the corporate limits were extended more than sixty times. Lafayette expanded from 8.5 mi² (22 km²) to 24 mi² (62 km²) during his tenure.

Early years[edit]

Bertrand was born in Kinder in Allen Parish to the former Ethel Marie Acosta and Joseph Claude Bertrand. The family moved to Lafayette in 1932, when Joseph Bertrand sold his electrical operation to a major utility company. Bertrand graduated from Lafayette High School in 1936 and attended Louisiana State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then Southwestern Louisiana Institute), from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and business.

World War II[edit]

Shortly after graduation, he applied for aviation cadet training with the United States Army Air Forces and was accepted in December 1941, after having worked for a time as an accountant with a New Orleans firm.

Bertrand became a fighter pilot early in World War II. He flew from England with the 84th Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group. He was part of its first mission, which was also the first combat mission of the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. During two years with the group, Bertrand flew eighty-eight combat missions over enemy territory. He earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals. His group was honored with the Presidential Unit Citation. Bertrand flew every position from wing man to group leader of ninety ships. His missions included bomber escort, strafing, fighter sweeps, and drive bombing. He was promoted to the rank of major while he was on combat duty. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

Political career[edit]

Prior to his election as mayor, Bertrand worked in the real estate and insurance fields.

Ronald J. "Ron" Gomez, Sr., who was a young reporter at the time that Bertrand became mayor, recalled that Bertrand was "the perfect match for the time and place. He brought dignity and integrity to the political arena and won the trust of his constituents by delivering on his promises. I was impressed with the fact that he took the time to explain to this young reporter, new on the scene, the intricacies and players of the political network in Lafayette and his personal vision and agenda for its future."

Lafayette gained recognition during the Bertrand years for its race relations; there were no serious racial disturbances in the city throughout Bertrand's 12-year tenure. Bertrand also worked to reduce pollution problems by the extension of some 250 miles of sanitary sewer lines. His administration improved drainage and paved or repaved every street in the city. The Bertrand administration was credited with the expansion of electrical generation capacity from 50,000 kW to more than 207,000 kW. The capacity of the Lafayette water treatment plant tripled during Bertrand's administration.

Bertrand worked to implement civil service for municipal employees. Lafayette public and cultural facilities were also improved, as new buildings were erected, including a new police department headquarters, a new library, a new city court building, and a planetarium and youth museum.

Bertrand was mayor under the former city commission type of government. His accomplishments gained state recognition, including two "Project Earth" awards for activities and programs related to improving the environment. He was president of the Louisiana Municipal Association and was cited as Louisiana's "Mayor of the Year" in 1962.

Bertrand retired undefeated as mayor. In the election of 1972, Democrat Kenneth Francis "Kenny" Bowen (whom Bertrand had defeated in 1968 when Bowen was a Republican) was elected mayor.

On leaving office as mayor, Bertrand joined the Guaranty Bank and Trust Company (now a part of Bank One Corporation), and served as senior vice president and member of the board of directors. After his retirement from the bank, he continued to manage real estate properties and use his expertise in government to advise and assist boards and commissions working on municipal planning.

Civic leadership[edit]

Bertrand's name was synonymous with civic leadership in Lafayette: he was a member of the Lafayette Airport Commission, the City of Lafayette Planning and Zoning Commission, the Beavers Club, and the American Legion. He was president of the Lafayette Board of Realtors and the state Board of Realtors, a board member of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, co-chairman of The Bishop's Services Appeal, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Foundation, executive board member of the Evangeline Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, campaign chairman and president of United Way of Acadiana, and member of the board of directors of the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition.

He was active in Mardi Gras activities, having served as King of the Krewe of Attakapas and as King Gabriel XLII. His community service won him the city's most coveted honor, the Lafayette Civic Cup Award. He also received the "Distinguished Citizens Award" from the Boy Scouts. He was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and an honorary member of the UL Blue Key Club.

Death and legacy[edit]

Bertrand was first married to the former Martha Julie Burgin, and they had one daughter, Cheryl. After Julie's death, Bertrand married Faith Mensman. At the time of his death, Bertrand had been married to Faith for some twenty years. Bertrand was survived by his wife, daughter, a sister, a stepdaughter, two grandsons, and three great-grandchildren.

Bertrand survived his three brothers, one of whom was Richard J. Bertrand, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Lafayette Parish from 1948–1952 and 1956-1964.

References[edit]

Preceded by
Jerome Domengeaux
Mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana
1960–1972
Succeeded by
Kenny Bowen
Preceded by
Frank T. Norman of Minden
President of the Louisiana Municipal Association

J. Rayburn Bertrand
1965–1966

Succeeded by
John W. Perritt of Ruston