OIn his first week as a young Louisiana legislator, two powerful old politicians are cornered Moon Landrieu in an elevator, poked their fingers in his chest and threatened to destroy him if he voted against their racial segregation bills. He did and they didn’t. At a time when George Wallace and others were hijacking southern populism and turning it into racism, Landrieu forged coalitions that united blacks and whites.
Chewing on an unlit cigar while twisting the arm of a local judge in a neighborhood bar, Landrieu, who died of heart failure on Sept. 5 at 92, may have looked like the old-fashioned urban ethnic politician that he was. But during his career as a legislator, councilman and mayor of New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s, he led a historic transformation in race relations in the city and became one of the luminaries of what became known as a glorious but brief period, like the New South. With a sense of how to balance progress and preservation, he helped build the Superdome downtown and protect the French Quarter and other historic neighborhoods, displaying an urban sensibility he brought to Washington when he became secretary of housing and urban development. of President Jimmy Carter. His ideals were later supported by his daughter Mary, a two-term US senator, and his son Mitch, a two-term mayor of New Orleans and currently President Biden infrastructure coordinator– and perhaps will be again by some of his 37 grandchildren.
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