The event was the annual meeting of the Press Association. As I said, I’m not a member but I paid for the privilege of attending to see the man who gave me my start in journalism honored as a 50-year member of the journalism profession.
Tom Kelly, 88, is retiring and recently sold his monthly publication dedicated to the forestry and agriculture area, The Piney Woods Journal, to the Lovan Thomas Group, owners of the Natchitoches Times and several other publications in northwest Louisiana.
As most readers of LouisianaVoice know by now, Tom Kelly hired me as an advertising account sales rep for the Ruston Daily Leader at a whopping $65 per week back in 1966. That was a $5 weekly cut from my previous salary as a telephone installer/repairman, a trade I definitely was not cut out for. Neither was advertising sales, as it turned out, and Kelly soon realized his mistake. But as an act of charity, he made me sports editor, a position requiring far fewer skills.
As you can tell, my ties to Tom Kelly are strong and my admiration for him even stronger. So, there was no way I was going to miss this event even though I’d had cervical disc surgery only two weeks earlier.
That Gov. Edwards was to be the keynote speaker was just icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.
Until I entered the room where the meeting was to take place, that is.
The banquet room, if you care to call it that, was part of a much larger room with one of those accordion-type room dividers down the middle to section it off into two meeting rooms. The LPA got the smaller room which, believe it or not, had a wall down the middle dividing it into two smaller rooms. Half the members sat in one section and the other half, including Kelly, another former Daily Leaderemployee, Jerry Pye and his wife, and myself in the section furthest from the dais and with our view blocked by the wall.
In the larger room next door, there was some kind of major function for the Republican Party.
They had a microphone and a public address system, making it pretty easy for us to hear them.
John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, had squat.
We were told that we were originally given a public address system but that the City Club took it away for the Republicans.
To me, that was a major slight to the governor, an appalling display of disrespect.
But to his credit, he made the best of it. He gave an overview of his administration’s accomplishments and goals for the future in a game attempt to be heard over the Republican din immediately behind him.
He even stayed for a lengthy question and answer session—something Bobby Jindal would never have done and in fact, never did. And while I can’t speak for the others, he made a point that really resonated with me: he said he has a healthy working relationship with the Trump administration. At first, I was incredulous but then he explained. “I think it’s important that the governor of a state be able to work with the administration in Washington, no matter which party is represented. It’s too important for the people of Louisiana to let partisan politics interfere with the lines of communication. That is something my predecessor (Jindal) refused to do.”
He’s right. Jindal steadfastly refused to work with the Obama administration or to show any inclination to do so. Remember the little SNIT he pitched at a National Governors Association meeting following a meeting between governors and President Obama back in 2014? Those two approaches illustrate the difference between class and no-class, between maturity and petulance.
It may not be my place to say this, but I think the LPA should demand a refund for the way in which the governor was treated.
Both events broke up about the same time and I entered the elevator with a gentleman who was in the Republican meeting next door. He asked if I was in his meeting. “No,” I said. “I’m a recovering Republican.”
“Recovering?” he asked.
“Yes, I registered as a Republican back around ’76 or ’77, when Gov. Edwin Edwards signed the open primary bill. I resigned halfway through Bobby Jindal’s first term.”
“Well, we’ll get you back,” he said, making what I perceived to be a sincere attempt at friendly banter, perhaps even an attempt at an innocent joke.
But still, I couldn’t resist.
“Not as long as you have clowns like Donald Trump, you won’t.”
End of conversation.
I’m not governor, so I don’t have to be nice to Trump.