Adras LaBorde

Infobox Person
name = Adras Paul LaBorde, Sr.

imagesize =
caption =
birth_date = birth date |mf=yes|1912|12|12
birth_place = Bordelonville in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana USA
death_place = Alexandria in Rapides Parish, Louisiana
death_date = death date and age|mf=yes|1993|3|6|1912|12|12
nationality = American
occupation = Managing editor and executive editor of "Alexandria Daily Town Talk" newspaper
spouse = Blanche Bordelon LaBorde (1913–2004)
children = Joyce LaBorde Cessac (born 1934), Adras LaBorde, Jr. (1943–1972), and Michael Anthony LaBorde (born 1947)
religion =Roman Catholic
party= Democrat
website =
footnotes = (1) His "Talk of the Town" column covered Louisiana politicians in depth, but LaBorde was a crusader for the environment too.
(2) LaBorde wrote the biography of former U.S. Senator Joseph E. Ransdell, an Alexandria native.

Adras Paul LaBorde, I (December 12, 1912 – March 6, 1993), was a reporter, editor, and columnist for the "Alexandria Daily Town Talk", the largest newspaper in central Louisiana. His career stretched from the mid-1940s into the early 1990s. An authority on twentieth century Louisiana government and politics, he wrote some 10,000 columns under the title "The Talk of the Town," a play on the name of the newspaper. LaBorde wrote endlessly about the strengths and the foibles of Louisiana's vast array of determined politicians, each of whom tried to convince voters that "good times" would arrive if only they could hold the elective office in question or secure their election promises.

A columnist's dream: colorful politicians, Louisiana-style

LaBorde witnessed the state's transformation of rivalry between Longism and anti-Longism and the slow rise of serious Republican competition to the traditional Democratic majority. He saw the "good government" types battle the "old guard," and sometimes found little difference between the antagonists. He did not endorse candidates for office on the editorial page—a policy that the newspaper has since changed—but wrote extensively on everyone, including the following in alphabetical order:

Ernest S. Clements, Jimmie Davis, William J. "Bill" Dodd, Allen J. Ellender, Jimmy Fitzmorris, Camille Gravel, Jack P.F. Gremillion, Francis Grevemberg, William J. Guste, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., Sam Jones, John Hainkel, Paul Hardy, Shelby M. Jackson, Robert F. Kennon, Dudley J. LeBlanc, Blanche Long, Earl Kemp Long, George S. Long, Gillis William Long, the legacy of Huey P. Long, Jr., Russell B. Long, Speedy O. Long, Charlton Lyons, John McKeithen, Wade O. Martin, Jr., Louis J. Michot, deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr., James A. Noe, Mary Evelyn Parker, Otto Passman, Dave L. Pearce, William M. Rainach, Edward G. "Ned" Randolph, Jr., Charles E. Roemer, III, John G. Schwegmann, John W. "Jock" Scott, Nauman Scott, John K. Snyder, David C. Treen, many others, including his perhaps most demanding subject, Edwin Washington Edwards.

LaBorde and Edwin Edwards

Governor Edwards sometimes stopped at LaBorde's home when he passed through Alexandria. Once he was accompanied by an entourage of state troopers with sirens sounding. Neighbors thought that there had been a tragedy. Mrs. LaBorde was embarrassed and asked him not to visit again unless he came without the entourage. Edwards gave the principal speech at LaBorde's retirement dinner from the "Town Talk". After official retirement, LaBorde continued "The Talk of the Town" column twice a week. He did not live to see Edwards complete his fourth term as governor or go to prison on conviction of racketeering. LaBorde's daughter, Joyce Cessac, said that LaBorde would have never tolerated Edwards' crimes, but that her father had thought that Edwards was an exceptional leader so long as good economic times prevailed in Louisiana. Louisianans, especially in the southern part of the state called it, "Laissez les bon temps rouller!" ("Let the good times roll!")

LaBorde and Allen Ellender

Though he required his reporters to be objective regarding the subjects they covered, LaBorde had a particularly soft spot for another south Louisiana politician, his fellow "Cajun" Catholic Senator Ellender, from Houma in Terrebonne Parish, with whom he liked to swap "fish stories." It was even said that with their dark-rimmed glasses, LaBorde and Ellender bore a physical resemblance. though Ellender was more than twenty years LaBorde's senior. Ellender served in the U.S. Senate for thirty-six years. His sudden death in the 1972 reelection campaign hit LaBorde hard.

A "good government" columnist

While he liked to report on campaigns and elections, LaBorde also focused on the intricate workings of government and the bureaucracy. He believed that government could be a force for good in society if the right people, with the proper motivation, were elected. Yet, he also noted that government is still in essence compulsion.

He had a great interest in sportsmen's issues, city charters, and "good government" in general. Fluent in French, LaBorde promoted his cultural heritage through the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, better known by the acronym CODOFIL.

Sometimes, LaBorde ventured into national politics, where he would offer unsolicited advice for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and the first George H.W. Bush about which they undoubtedly never read. He grew irate over Watergate in 1973 and 1974 but mostly kept to state or local matters.

LaBorde's early years

LaBorde was born to Enos LaBorde, Sr. (1886–1962), and the former Lily Bordelon (1891–1955) in Bordelonville in Avoyelles Parish. He graduated at an early age from Bordelon High School. As a young man, he worked as a radio operator on a ship. Amid the isolation of the sea, he developed his interest in serious reading. Largely self-educated, LaBorde read encyclopedias and serious works of nonfiction to keep himself occupied and to improve his employment prospects. Later, while living in New Orleans, he did a newscast in French for radio station WWL. He also wrote a training manual on radio language for pilots, which was used by the military during World War II. The manual was called "Roger, Wilco."

LaBorde was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during the war, and he moved Blanche and the youngsters wherever he was stationed: San Antonio, Arkansas City, Kansas, and Abilene, Texas (Taylor County).

"Alexandria Daily Town Talk", his only paper

LaBorde came to the "Alexandria Daily Town Talk" in 1945. The late George W. Shannon, the future editor of the now defunct "Shreveport Journal", actually preceded as a staffer at "The Town Talk". LaBorde learned the business from the ground floor and in 1950 was named "managing editor," a position that he held for 27 years. In 1977, he was designated "executive editor," a title that he held through his last year of full-time employment. Unlike many print journalists who move from one newspaper to another seeking upward mobility, LaBorde stayed with "The Town Talk" in a career that spanned parts of six decades.

His staff joked that he had no formal education but "the school of hard knocks." However, he did attend Tyler (Texas) Commercial College, which claimed to be the largest business training school in the United States for a period of time. The college offered instruction in bookkeeping, shorthand, telegraphy, business administration, and finance.

LaBorde demanded integrity, accuracy, originality, and speed from his reporters and editors. When his near legendary but quiet temper flared, he could, without a trace of humor, stare down the culprit over the rim of his glasses.

Despite his "old school" demeanor, LaBorde adjusted his newsroom to modern demands. He knew that the paper had to attract subscribers to stay afloat. Computers were introduced at the "Town Talk" in the summer of 1973 to improve efficiency and to increase the volume and quality of news stories. One of the former reporters, Elizabeth Roberts Martin of Oklahoma City, a 1966 Louisiana State University graduate, became the first woman to hold editing positions in the "Town Talk" newsroom. LaBorde hired the "Town Talk"'s first black reporter, Cleo Joffrion, an Alexandria native. He named his assistant managing editor, Cecil Williams, a native of the Kentucky coal-mining area, as business editor, a position from which Williams won numerous awards.

He sent the young reporter Leonard Sanderson, Jr., to Baton Rouge to cover the legislature in 1974; six years later Sanderson was an aide to newly elected Republican Governor David Treen. Sanderson now runs his own consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Another beginning reporter, Jeff Cowart, an Alexandria native and LSU graduate, became the first press secretary for then Democratic Governor Buddy Roemer in 1988. Cowart went on to establish his own management consulting firm, Media National, in Leesburg, Virginia.

Three "Town Talk" staffers, Larry Collins, Betty Luman, and Chet Hilburn, advanced to the "Houston Chronicle". Jack Harp of Ruston came to the newspaper at the age of 22 in 1972 to work on the "wire desk." The technology changed so much over the following three decades that the term "wire desk" was replaced by "Metro desk." Harp remains at the "Town Talk", helping to put the paper together. Rebecca Jo Tubb Mulkey (1949–1999), originally from Magnolia, Arkansas, wrote feature stories before moving on to the "Torrance Daily Breeze" in Torrance, California. All owed a part of their success to LaBorde's demanding tutelage.

LaBorde's tenure at the newspaper coincided with the management of publisher Joe D. Smith, Jr. (1922–2008), a native of Pineville, and Smith's first wife, Jane Wilson Smith, whose father had owned "The Town Talk". The Smiths sold the paper to Central Newspapers, Inc., of [Indianapolis, Indiana|Indianapolis, which later sold it to the Virginia-based Gannett. Smith is a former member of the Louisiana Higher Education Coordinating Board, renamed the Louisiana Board of Regents and has long been active in civic affairs in his city and state.

His biography of Senator Ransdell

In 1951, LaBorde wrote "A National Southerner: Ransdell of Louisiana" (Benziger Brothers), a look at the career of former Louisiana Democratic Senator Joseph E. Ransdell (1858–1954). An Alexandria native, Ransdell was a lawyer and district attorney in Lake Providence, the seat of East Carroll Parish, prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1912, the year of LaBorde's birth. Ransdell was defeated for renomination in 1930; Allen Ellender came along six years later.

LaBorde's Catholicism

The LaBordes were members of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Alexandria. LaBorde and his close friend, Alexandria Bishop Charles P. Greco (1894–1987) were active in the Knights of Columbus. Bishop Greco hosted an annual party for "Town Talk" staffers. The first native of Mississippi to be a Catholic bishop, Greco wrote "With God's Help", memoirs published posthumously by the Knights of Columbus. LaBorde worked on the Catholic newspaper for the bishop, recalls his daughter Joyce. LaBorde was a fourth degree Knights of Columbus and held the St. Gregory distinction. When "Roe v. Wade" was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, LaBorde strongly objected and opposed abortion for the remainder of his life.

LaBorde's legacy

Joe Smith, LaBorde's friend and former publisher, as well as family members stayed by his side until his death from stomach cancer. He had been diagnosed with the ailment for only two weeks. The short period between diagnosis and death enabled him to fulfill his desire to be active until the end of his life.

LaBorde was a staunch conservationist. While he felt like he could not personally save the planet, he could do something about his home region. He was given the Edward Meeman Conservation Award by the Scripps-Howard Foundation for "distinguished journalism in the field of conservation." He was the charter president of the Central Louisiana Press Club and held membership in the United Press Newspaper Association of Louisiana. He urged Governor Edwards to promote the state purchase of the Saline-Spring Bayou Wildlife Management Area in Avoyelles Parish. He lobbied in his columns for removal of oilfield pollution from the Little River, and he urged Edwards to acquire the land encompassing Spring Bayou. He was a former president and state director of the Rapides Wildlife Association. For a while he wrote the column "Nibbles and Potshots" on fishing and hunting for the "Town Talk" sports section.

LaBorde and his beloved wife, the former Blanche Bordelon (1913–2004), also a Bordelonville native, had two sons, Adras Paul LaBorde, II (1943–1972), and Michael Anthony LaBorde (born 1947) of Baton Rouge, and a daughter, Mrs. Joyce LaBorde Cessac (born 1934) of Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi. Adras, II, who held a master of science degree in forestry from LSU in Baton Rouge, died of cancer at the age of twenty-nine. Adras II's son, Adras Paul LaBorde, III (born in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1966), is a Baton Rouge attorney in the Rowe law firm, who specializes in litigation, admiralty, and maritime law. LaBorde, III, (sometimes known as Paul Endom, after his stepfather) is a graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the LSU Law School.

Adras and Blanche LaBorde are buried in Alexandria Memorial Gardens.

(It is noted that LaBorde's date of birth was mathematically rare, 12-12-12.)

ee also

*Nelder Dawson

References (Jeff Cowart company) (attorney Paul LaBorde, III, grandson of Adras LaBorde) (LaBorde family genealogy) (Senator Joseph Ransdell) Charles Greco) (Tyler Commercial College) (Cecil Williams obituary)

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