Thursday, July 20, 2017


Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


I don’t know about you, but I have always loved to read and study Louisiana History.  I’ve had the pleasure of teaching the history of the Bayou State at both Tulane University and LSU. And when it comes to examining the giant political figures that had a direct bearing on the stature and even the survival of Louisiana as an American state, two individuals stand head and shoulders above all others.

 They each are former presidents. And without their vision and dramatic leadership, Louisiana might well not be an American state today. No one else could fill this role more than Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Jefferson was the nation’s third president, and could well be the brightest intellect that ever graced our countries’ political scene. He was the author of America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, and he became the voice for the hopes and aspirations of a new America. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and he designed and built Monticello, one of the most stunning anti-bellum homes in the country.  And he was the driving force in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon in 1803.  Simply put, without Jefferson’s vision and tenacity in seeking the vast territory west of the Mississippi River, Louisiana would not be a state today.

Andrew Jackson was our countries’ seventh president, and was the only president to have been a prisoner of war, having been captured by the British at 17 while serving in the Revolutionary War. He later was Nicknamed “Old Hickory” for his legendary toughness on the battlefield.  During his presidential campaign in 1828, his opponents called him a jackass. Jackson was amused and used the image to win the presidency. He founded the Democratic Party and used the jackass as its symbol.

But what Andrew Jackson did for Louisiana was incredible. In the war of 1812, New Orleans was under siege by the British. Major General Andrew Jackson rushed to New Orleans and gathered a rag tag army made up of a motley group of local citizens, frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and even pirates.  And he was eager to fight the British, telling his wife: “I owe to Britain a debt of retaliatory vengeance, and should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt.”

Louisiana should regularly thank its lucky stars for Jackson’s tenacity to get his revenge.  He soundly beat the British at the Battle for New Orleans, became an American hero, and saved Louisiana from becoming a permanent British protectorate.

If ever there were any two individuals who should be regularly honored and commemorated in Louisiana history, there should be doubt the two should be Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. And for many years, the Louisiana Democratic Party did honor both American heroes by hosting an annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner as a yearly fundraiser. Democrats held similar events across the country.

But no more in Louisiana.  Party officials have decide it is no longer “politically correct” to honor these two American icons. You see, they were slave owners. It made no difference that the first seven American presidents also owned slaves, as did most of the nation’s founding fathers. The democratic leadership apparently wants to judge these past heroes based on present-day values, and continue a warped effort to re write Louisiana and American history.

The new dinner name is the “True Blue Gala.”  I suppose we will see a resolution at the dinner calling for the re-naming of Jefferson and Jackson parishes, Thomas Jefferson High School in Gretna, the town of Jackson, La., Jefferson Island in Iberia Parish; the list goes on and on.

The Louisiana Democratic Party is becoming more and more irrelevant in the Bayou State. And Jackson’s symbol for the Democrat Party would seem to have a different connotation today. The real jackasses are those ingrates who try to rewrite history and belittle past leaders who served and saved our nation, and particularly Louisiana. The party of Jefferson and Jackson deserve a lot better.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Linville, North Carolina


Let me tell you something I’ve learned over the years. You just can’t get away from Louisiana, no matter how hard you try. Just about anywhere I’ve traveled throughout the world, images of the Bayou State always seem to crop up. That was certainly the case last week when I headed to the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains for a little fly-fishing.

I picked up a Charlotte newspaper when my plane landed, and the sports page ballyhooed the arrival of the new Tar Heel quarterback Brandon Harris. Tiger fans will recall that he was the LSU starting quarterback just two years ago.  My rental car rep was from Laplace and had migrated north after Katrina.

I headed northwest toward our family’s second home in Linville.  You can’t go into a restaurant in this part of the country without seeing a menu selection that includes Louisiana delicacies.  Blackened mountain trout, jambalaya, a variety of gumbos, red beans and rice, and po-boys.  I even found a muffaletta on a menu up in Boone, N.C.  The seafood’s not fresh like we are used to, but these mountain folks seem to know where really good cookin’ comes from.

Fly-fishing has become popular along Louisiana’s inland waterways and the coast, but there is something special about wading into a cold mountain stream in search of a rainbow or brown trout.  The state regularly stocks these mountain streams so there is always plenty of fish to catch.  I usually stop at Faye’s General Store in Linville to catch up on the local gossip and pick up a locally tied Stonefly or G-Nell fly.  Then it’s off to a local stream with my Orvis two-piece, two weight, 6-foot long graphite rod that I borrowed years ago from an old New Orleans friend, David Voelker.

I can remember some years back when I went to the mountains over Mardi Gras.  I was at Faye’s drinking coffee around 7:30 in the morning; it was an hour earlier Louisiana. The phone rang. One of the locals picked it up and told me that Gov. Mike Foster was calling me. Now, remember, it’s 6:30 AM in Louisiana, and it’s Mardi Gras. I thought it was my wife, Gladys, playing a joke on me.
“Jim, Mike Foster. Got a minute?”
“Morning, Governor. You sure know how to run a fellow down, don’t you?”
“I called Gladys, she told me you’d gotten out early. I don’t want to disturb your fishing, but I just want to talk a little insurance with you.”

My coffee drinking companions at Faye’s had a hard time believing that the Louisiana Governor would call me up in the North Carolina mountains at the crack of dawn on a state holiday to discuss insurance business.

While still in the State Senate, Gov. Foster had created the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Corporation to help small businesses that were having trouble finding insurance coverage for their employees. Even as Governor, he was concerned about a healthy insurance climate. I found him to be extremely helpful on a variety of issues I dealt with in public office during his eight years at the helm of the state.

The highland fishing was productive, but it was all catch and release.  Nothing close to bringing home an ice chest full of red fish and speckled trout like we do back in the Bayou State.

The one advantage to being in the mountains in July?  How about 67-degree weather, sleeping with your windows open, and no humidity?  Yes, there are trade offs, but weighing the pluses and minuses, I’ll still take the Bayou State year around.  Remember, we are only weeks away from football season.  I’ll pass on the Tar Heels and gear up for “Geaux Tigers!”

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Monday, July 10, 2017


Thursday, June 30th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


A popular Louisiana Governor died 15 years ago this month. John McKeithen was the first Governor I ever met.  When he was elected as chief executive in 1963, Louisiana was still a 19th century state struggling to operate in the 20thcentury.  McKeithen was the catalyst that caused a major realignment of priorities.

In the face of the high racial tension in the South in the 60s, McKeithen, who had received a strong segregationist vote, preached moderation.  He was a visionary. He built the Superdome, which he said was “the greatest building in the world.” He viewed the Mississippi River as a continuing renewable resource, and, in my opinion, his greatest achievement was in enticing the chemical industry to locate along America’s major tributary from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

I met John McKeithen in a Chicago elevator.  It was 1968, and on the spur of the moment, I drove to Chicago to view the Democratic Convention.  The party headquarters was at the Sheraton Hotel facing Lake Michigan, and I was on my way to the top floor to get a better view of the protests taking place over the Vietnam War.
When the elevator door opened, there were two people inside — Senator Russell Long, and Louisiana Governor John McKeithen. Rumors had been circulating around the convention that McKeithen was under consideration as a possible choice for Vice President on a Hubert Humphrey ticket.
Sticking my hand out, I introduced myself. “Governor, I’m Jim Brown from Ferriday.” McKeithen smiled.  He was visibly surprised.

“Why, Jim, what are you doing up here?” he asked
“Governor,” I said, “I came all the way up here to support you for vice president.”

McKeithen laughed, slapped me on the back, and told me he could not be more pleased.

I later learned that the Senator and the Governor had been on their way up to Vice President Humphrey’s suite to urge him to put McKeithen on the ticket. When he was not tapped for the job, the Governor left in a huff and headed back to Louisiana.

My path would cross with “Big John” from time to time, and he seemed to relish in telling those around us about my trip to Chicago to support his candidacy.  Since I lived near his home in Caldwell Parish, he suggested I run for the state legislature.  With his encouragement, I announced for state senator in the summer of 1971.
On the campaign trail, I crisscrossed the rural Northeast Louisiana senatorial district and ended up on a Friday night in October in McKeithen’s hometown of Columbia to shake hands with the crowd attending the Caldwell High Spartans’ home football game.  The Governor was home from the state capitol for the weekend to watch his daughter who was a Spartan cheerleader.

I was outside the stadium shaking every hand that walked by, and when the Governor came in the gate, he stopped to visit and check on my campaign.  Just then, it started to rain.  As the local fans came by us, they all smiled and acknowledged their hometown Governor.  He stood by my side as the rain continued, and introduced me to everyone entering as their next state senator.  When the game began, he wished me well and left soaking wet.

McKeithen’s frugality was legendary. He refused to install a state watts line in his Columbia home.  With three daughters, the phone line was always busy.  When there were important issues to discuss with staff in Baton Rouge, a call was made to the state police headquarters some 30 miles away in Monroe.  A trooper was dispatched to diplomatically suggest that the girls get off the phone so the Governor could conduct state business.

John McKeithen was the state’s first two-term governor. He was Louisiana’s “transition governor,” bringing the Bayou State into modern times. And he was the guy who convinced me to get involved in Louisiana politics. Governor, you died way too young at 81.  Thanks for your service to the people of Louisiana.  And many thanks for all you did for me.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Thursday, June 29th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The consensus of most folks down in the Bayou State is that Louisiana has a governor who is a pretty decent fellow.  He comes across as friendly, accessible, and hands on in running the daily operations of the state.  He has an impeccable military background having voluntarily served his country in the Army, something few politicians bother to do in this day an age.  He has a supportive, attractive wife who is a schoolteacher and receives high marks as the state’s first lady.  Voters call him John Bel and his approval rating hovers above 50%.  Yet he will be in the fight of his life in two years with a real battle on his hands if he has any hope of being re-elected.

John Bel’s election as Louisiana’s 56th governor was no fluke, but it required that the stars align just right for a Democrat to be elected governor in what has become a rock solid Republican state.  In the early days of the 2015 gubernatorial election, Senator David Vitter seemed to be a solid favorite to make the runoff, and would handily beat Edwards.  The state Democratic Party was so sure of a Vitter victory that they asked John Bel to withdraw from the race and support a more moderate Republican.

To his credit, Edwards would have none of it, and hung in there to pull, what may have felt to be, an impossible upset.  But that was then. Today, the South’s only Democratic governor is facing a cantankerous Republican controlled legislature and an approaching budget deficit that may be well over one and a half billion dollars.

Here is John Bel’s problem.  He is spending way too much time reacting to the daily crisis at hand, rather than being a proactive governor.  There seems to be little long-range thinking emanating from the Fourth floor of the state capitol.  Oh, but that’s not fair he will say.  There are so many daily problems that need attention. Brush fires often pop up all around the job of running the state.

Yes, brush fires do habitually flair up, Governor.  But you can’t let them consume you.  Instead of always just circling the wagons, sometimes you just have to let brushfires burn out.  They frequently take care of themselves. You have a whole cadre of underlings that can handle many of the day-to-day problems.  Successful governors have to think big and think ahead.  They don’t get too bogged down in the here and the now.  Voters want a bigger sense that both the state and their own lives are going to improve.

Former President George H.W. Bush was caught in the same rut during his run for office in 1987.  A Time Magazine profile observed of Bush that: “Colleagues say that while Bush understands thoroughly the complexities of issues, he does not easily fit them into larger themes. This has led to the charge that he lacks vision. It rankles him. Recently he asked a friend to help him identify some cutting issues for next year’s campaign. Instead, the friend suggested that Bush go alone to Camp David for a few days to figure out where he wanted to take the country. ‘Oh,’ said Bush in clear exasperation, ‘the vision thing.’ The friend’s advice did not impress him.”

John Bel is not going to change the minds or win over die-hard Republicans.  But many Louisianans are looking for some hope that the social structure of Louisiana will improve.  Better schools, safer streets, more decent wage jobs, and civility in politics.  He needs to set aside some time to think through his objectives and dreams for Louisiana’s future. Then get around the state and share his goals. 

The Governor needs a message that can shape public opinion by offering a clarity of ideas and principles. Yes, a “vision thing.”  With the right vision for Louisiana’s future, John Bel can have eight years in office to move Louisiana aggressively towards a better quality of life.  If he spends all his time putting out brushfires, the Bayou State will have a lame duck governor when the next election rolls around.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at