This is one of those posts which is particularly unsatisfactory before it begins. Likewise and more rare it is one I will edit after I post it to get something up in a fairly timely manner. Not in a unique way but in the way that a significant number of these blog posts have been. It is a subject where the nature of the subject should offer more than I am able to have it bring forth here. This is crowded post not much supported with images. It happens that this set of deficiencies can visit upon me a sense of loss. The election between Mary Landrieu the Democratic incumbent and Bill Cassidy the Republican challenger is upcoming on December 6, 2014 and there are other reasons why I feel a strong sense of motivation to complete this post. This is a time when the season weighs in at so many levels. Thanksgiving will be the very next Thursday after this blog gets posted. Chores related to freezes and other matters abound. The important religious rituals, readings and charities of a Catholic’s Advent season, football playoffs and Christmas all draw near. This is a time of year that is never easy for me and gets harder most years. But it is also a very important political season with the Louisiana election of a Senator and the lame duck session of Congress. So despite distractions with daily life I find the time to vote, comment on politics and to care about all of this. I want to discuss life and politics in a broad way specific to this place currently in the spotlight.
Tuesday I attended the funeral of Robert Brady Broussard which was a memorial mass to celebrate the life of former Abbeville Mayor Brady Broussard held at St. Mary Magdalen Church on Tuesday, November 18 at 10 a.m. This comes into my life’s timeline shortly after updating my grandfather and namesake’s biography in the glossary on this blog. This sketch relies in part on the work of Janice Shull, “Frank Summers” In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, Edited by David Johnson, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2010. Article Published October 13, 2014. THIS ARTICLE OF MINE IN THE GLOSSARY AND HERE IN TWO SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FORMS WAS PUBLISHED IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA ATHLETIC PROGRAM WEBSITE ORIGINALLY. I WAS RESPONDING TO A REQUEST FROM Ed Dugas associated in some way with Veterans Day the Tuesday before the Broussard Funeral. I also received in the mail my bumper sticker which says “Sportsmen for Cassidy”. That latter item is proof positive that I have given a few dollars to the Cassidy campaign. The few men referenced in the title of this post are my grandfather, Brady Broussard, Representative Charles Boustany and myself. We do not all receive equal billing here. The living are given less space in the blog post than the dead. Three have held elected offices won in the regular elections held in the State of Louisiana. I have not held such an office.
For the moment Louisiana politics are somewhat at the center of at least some attention. That is one reason why it is timely to post this. With much of America’s energy flowing through South Louisiana or produced, refined and processed in her confines leaders like John Breaux, Congressman Boustany and Mary Landrieu have all sought or claimed to seek to promote responsible American energy production in balance with other needs to support this region’s economy or the State economy and help the larger American economy prosper. While Cassidy and Landrieu fight out there positions on these issues Boustany won by a landslide in his recent election. Boustany is a quiet and rational observer of the industry but remains a leading proponent of natural gas production and liquefied natural gas exportation. He seems less prone to environmental sloppiness than some but looks at enhancing the current economic picture and believes these petrochemical contributions to the state and region opportunities are enhanced by advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Boustany is easier to trust than the superficially similar Cassidy for whatever reason as regards a due respect for safety and spill related concerns but clearly continues to support expanding American oil and gas production, both onshore and offshore. The Oil and gas industry shapes much of world politics and there is no reason Louisiana should not be influential.
I had known Brady Broussard for a long time and much of his family. He was preceded in death by his wife Bonnie Gwendolyn Richard who had suffered with what was reputed to be Alzheimer’s disease for quite a while after they left public life and I never knew his well-respected parents Marcus A. Broussard and Muriel Brady Broussard. But he is survived by his children Brady Broussard Jr and his wife Reba whom I have known since before she was widowed from her first husband. His only daughter Darby Champagne and her husband Elton and their children have been supporters of Faith Camp and Family Missions Company and Darby and I were once in a local Catholic singles group before either of us had ever married. His son Delany Broussard and his wife Carla were those I have known least and barely at all. I have known the immediate family since I was in kindergarten or thereabouts and his younger sons were part of my childhood. Lance Broussard was to me Scott’s older brother always although I do not really know his wife Alecia unless I know her without knowing her to be his wife. His youngest son Scott Broussard was in school with me for years before college and his wife Julie is the stepsister of one of an ex-girlfriend. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren whom I do not pretend to keep track of at all. He additionally is survived by his sister, Flo B. Guidry who was a significant figure in many religious groups my parents and I have been involved with over the years and his brother, Judge Marcus A. Broussard Jr. who belonged to the same chapter of Mensa that I did when I was an active member. Family matters a great deal less than it once did in Acadiana’s politics but it still matters a great deal. The name Broussard has been political gold in this region and the connection to living Broussards has long been more than useful in politics.
When I think of politics in my own family this is also true. My grandfather and namesake was born September 5, 1914, in Abbeville, Louisiana to Clay R. Summers and Esther Leblanc Summers of Abbeville, Louisiana. He was a direct descendant of the Leblanc family who sold Pere Megret the land upon which Abbeville was founded and was tied to the French and Acadian relations of the family including being the real cousin of Dudley Leblanc fellow SLI alumnus and author of The Acadian Miracle and a leader in the Acadian community. Community and family were important to him all his life. While he had many connections to life that were not about family he was always aware of it. We shall return to his achievements as a student and athlete but he married at the time when he was ready to start a family. Leaving SLI he continued his education and received an LL.B. from Tulane Law School in 1938. He then married his sometime sweetheart and only wife. The woman he we’d was part of his childhood circle of friends and was a public school teacher, fellow Abbeville native Beverly Marie Miller. My future grandmother was the daughter of Dr. Preston Joseph Miller and Laura Broussard and was a direct descendant on her mother’s side of Acadiana’s cultural Founder Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. Summers wed Beverly Miller in 1940 and they had six children the oldest being this writer’s father Frank Wynerth Summers II. He was the only child born early in the war while Summers served near home the second would be born when he was in the Pacific. The great conflict came when the young couple who had just started a home life and established a law practice in Abbeville were interrupted by World War II.
Congressman Charles Boustany’s last name reflects his connection to the more recent immigrants who are still the well- established Lebanese community in Lafayette Louisiana which gives the town street names like Kaliste Saloom, businesses of long duration like Abdalla’s and other clothing stores in that group which have in some cases closed or lost ground but were prominent merchants in the region. In keeping with those values of extended family Mary Landrieu has associated with her political family in the region and in a combination of the new and the old has not used her husband’s name in public life. She has been criticized for residing in Washington and not having a real residence here but does claim to legally reside with her parents in a home owned by a family trust which keeps her a legal Louisiana resident. I find myself residing with my parents full-time in a life in which little has come my way of success either political or otherwise. Congressman Bill Cassidy and his wife are from different states and Cassidy moved here for school and has stayed in the State since then. He is a native of the State of Illinois which sent Barack Hussein Obama to Congress. Governor Jindal is both a native of Louisiana and an immigrant. He came here in utero. He does show a Louisiana in which Cassidy can win without a huge web of family support. I think he will win this election. But around here we often look to people’s family in a way more prolonged and intense than in many other parts of the country.
What is the purpose of seeking political office? Is there any reason why public policy ought to be or not to be a reason which is joined to one’s entire life. In all political lives in most countries and in this one the life of the politician is merged very fully with the office and its duties. Here in America more than in Europe people vote for the person who holds the office more than for the ideas, policies and parties in more than a few cases. Yet the parties, policies and ideas continue to matter. When an ideology is on the rise attractive candidates are easier to find. So I want to discuss a few political lives here.
Mayor Brady Broussard lived and died connected to family and he passed away peacefully surrounded by his children in his apartment at Eastridge Assisted Living Center on Thursday November 13, 2014 at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer. Eastridge Assisted Living Center is the same complex as the facility known as Eastridge Nursing Home where my father holds a weekly communion service where my brother Simon often attends and my sister Sarah both attends and sometimes leads. But Brady Broussard was certainly not a regular and only a few from the assisted living facility go next door to the Nursing home for such things. I have been a good number of times and only seen a few people do this and only one man do it regularly. My grandfather died in the home he shared with his wife and my grandmother and once a funeral home prepared the remains they were viewed and the wake and visitation was held in his home. My grandfather has been gone for over twenty years but he knew Mayor Broussard and his brother Judge Broussard well. He died January 26, 1993 when this writer was completing a Master of Arts in History at LSU and I was with him a few days before he died and served as a pallbearer at his funeral.
I do a select but significant number of obituaries in this blog and sometimes like this time include a death notice and memorial in another post. Through these contacts with the community I see something of the way that life is developing for people and families around me. There were no remains and no rite of burial in the specific sense of the pall and covering and blessing of the casket in Mayor Broussard’s death because he donated his body to science at the LSU Health Science Center Department of Anatomical Study. Family and friends did however nearly fill the large church. And those remembering saw in the absence of a body advancing science a further sign in keeping with his life. I have seldom crossed paths with Congressman Boustany at a funeral and almost never with a U.S. Senator. But I have seen Senator Vitter and Congressman Boustany at Town hall meetings in Abbeville. Those meetings had others in attendance whom I have seen at many funerals. I never have met Senator Landrieu nor Bill Cassidy face to face. But Cassidy has never represented me before whereas Landrieu has for eighteen years. My mother once dated former Senator John Breaux and for some reason I repeatedly met former Senator J. Bennett Johnston who was replaced or succeeded by Mary Landrieu at several parties and restaurants over the years although I never had any other connection with him. Governor Jindal I met at an Abbeville town hall as well but otherwise our paths have never crossed directly. Broussard’s funeral and my grandfather’s funeral were family events, community events and also political events. My grandfather also had the twenty-one gun salute at his funeral and so it was also a military event. Many burials around here are such as his was in that way. Politics and the political life often pull those in office out of the web of community life but where the attachments are deep they endure anyway.
My grandfather was the only one of the four men I profile here whom I know served in the armed forces. So far as I know neither Cassidy nor Landrieu has served in the armed services. I think the military gives a certain fullness to a public life largely civilian. But I for one do not have such experience. My grandfather di have such a chapter in his life. In December 1941 he entered the Navy. He served first as a Naval Intelligence officer, then commanded an anti-U-boat converted yacht in the Gulf of Mexico before shipping out to the Pacific. In the Pacific Theater he commanded an amphibious vessel of the type called LST or “Landing Ship – Tank” in the action leading up to and following the taking of Okinawa and the surrender of Japan and other actions in the grand campaign in the Pacific. This writer does not have his records from the Pacific Fleet. He felt that he played a role typical of most men in his type of post and saw real combat but not at the center of great battles often arriving before or after the heavy fighting. He took pictures of the damage caused by the atomic bombs on his own time but had to surrender them to the Navy so they do not exist in my files. Discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander November 1945. The time he spent in combat duty on behalf of his nation clearly shaped and informed much of his life and public service. But he was not an executive nor a legislator. He was a devoted member of the Judicial branch of Louisiana’s government. It is in that context that his life is to be seen and understood.
Justice, Frank W. Summers Supreme Court of Louisiana, December 12, 1960, to December 31, 1978 and Eighteenth Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court January 1, 1979, to February 29, 1980 This was a life in which he saw himself always as a farmer, a Catholic, a patriot and a cattleman and he was involved in many things which I will not mention here. Summers was educated in Abbeville public schools and was a student athlete Wildcat in football and track at Abbeville High School but mostly excelled at football. He continued his athletic commitments at the next level which was at the institution hosting this page, now the University of Louisiana. In addition to playing sports he earned B.A. at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1936. He remained attached to the University and was honored with the Outstanding Alumni award and supported several descendants there. He and I had matching chargers as I received the similar trophy as Outstanding Graduate in May of 1989. He was very pleased by that tradition.
In addition to his few intense years of military service and the six children he and my grandmother reared and supported into their own lives and the grandchildren he cared for and about in various ways he had a long and serious career as a layer and judge. In 1945 he got back from war and with energy Summers resumed his law practice until appointment as judge of the Fifteenth Judicial District for Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes. He served in that office from 1952 to 1954. In all those years he worked on and managed his and his wife’s farm and cattle lands as he did later in life as well. He returned to private legal practice until election to Supreme Court in October 1960 serving as Associate Justice during almost explosive expansion of caseloads at all levels of the judiciary working very long hours until he became chief justice January 1, 1979.He used his single State of the Judiciary speech before the Legislature to urge restructuring judicial system to transfer jurisdiction for criminal appeals from Supreme Court to Courts of Appeal. His health was suffering from years of limited sleep and exercise and he retired after fourteen months as chief on February 29, 1980, to devote more energy to family, to recover his health and to devote energy to the family’s large farm and cattle ranch in Vermilion Parish. He struggled with Cancer for many years but remained somewhat active in professional, civic, and veterans’ organizations.
Brady Broussard’s life was perhaps more complete and involved more broad participation in civic life but was also an example of dedication. He served as Mayor of Abbeville from 1986 to 2002 when he retired for health reasons. Boards Broussard was elected or appointed to over the years addressed many of the concerns of the local people which he shared. These roles on boards include: chairmanship of the Environmental Board LRRDA appointed by the Governor. He was locally the chairman of the Abbeville Fire and Civil Service Board and also chairman of the Vermilion Parish Library Board. He carried this sense of local concerns to the State as a board member of the Louisiana Municipal Association. The Governor also appointed him to the Louisiana Firefighters Investment Board and the State Commerce and Industry Board. At the final level in our system, Mayor Broussard was and appointed to a Federal Environmental Board. He was a devoted parishioner and Eucharistic minister at St. Theresa Catholic Church and was a faithful participant in the annual Grand Coteau retreat that he attended for several decades with many of his local friends and others in the community such as I myself.
The only one of the four lives I have picked which did not include graduating from what is now the University of Louisiana Brady, Broussard matriculated elsewhere in the State of Louisiana. He did graduate from the same high school as my grandfather. The name of which appears on my high school diploma as well. Broussard was educated at Abbeville High School and Northwestern State University, where he excelled in football and track, and also served as AHS student body president and elected into the Abbeville High School Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1982.
Congressman Boustany was raised in Lafayette and did not travel far to begin his studies. The current congressman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in 1978. He went a little East for the next stage and graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans in 1982. He returned to Lafayette in 1990 and began a successful medical practice. Congressman Charles W. Boustany Jr., M.D.did not start off to seek public office but was first a cardiovascular surgeon with more than 30 years of clinical experience, then was first elected to Congress in 2004. He sees his legislative tenure as profoundly informed by the fact that for fourteen years, he ran medical practice which was independent enough to constitute a small business of the scale of many in this region. In this practice he was also living out personal ideals and moral convictions and was committed to helping others by providing the highest quality healthcare to his patients and the community
In terms of public office my grandfather leaves behind many judicial opinions made to his exacting standards. But only that and a few procedural achievements and a legislative act really testify to a largely hidden life. Congressman Boustany and Mayor Broussard have a more public legacy.
Robert Brady Broussard was a key figure in starting the Boys and Girls Club in Abbeville. As Mayor Broussard undertook many projects including small and large acts of outreach to the broader world. He twinned with French speaking Lasne, Belgium and his administration moved into the new City Hall downtown in what was once the Audrey Hotel, and accomplished major beautification to downtown Abbeville’s Magdalen Square. He started the Abbeville downtown Christmas lighting program.
Congressman Boustany represents Louisiana’s Third Congressional District which includes Abbeville, Vermilion Parish and more. Boustany has championed health care reform, international trade, and sound energy policy with a keen awareness of providing solutions for all Americans. This is not a new interest and although Cassidy is also a physician it seems harder for him to get beyond the debates related to the Affordable Healthcare Act or Obamacare. It is hard to say how he would fare in a statewide race but he seemsto address the issues in a way that people here relate to well. As a heart surgeon, Congressman Boustany understands the importance of healthcare and is at the forefront of health care policy in Congress. He believes the patient-doctor relationship is the most critical component of healthcare and has worked to implement patient-centered health care solutions. Increased access to tax-free health savings accounts (HSAs) represent one opportunity for patients to strengthen their control over their health care decisions, and Boustany introduced legislation allowing seniors and veterans to participate in the kinds of programs he is committed to seeing.
Serving as a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Congressman Boustany plays a pivotal role in protecting taxpayers’ dollars by rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal government programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and in entities such as the Internal Revenue Service. Boustany has been regularly recognized by his House Republican colleagues for his strong conservative leadership on these issues.
Additionally, Boustany sits on the Ways and Means subcommittees for Trade and Human Resources. Boustany’s focus on international economic affairs allows him to be a strong voice on matters of foreign and domestic trade to expand markets and business opportunities for U.S. produced goods and services. Coupling his interest in revising the federal tax code to make it easier for American businesses to compete, Boustany seeks to promote an atmosphere of job creation while maintaining American competitiveness.
In his later years, Brady Broussard was honored to be named a Living Legend by the Acadian Cultural and Heritage Foundation. He also supported many charities and persons in need. His interest in family, friends and sports teams continued according to everyone who spoke to me about him. Charles Boustany has a long way to go to reach that point in his journey.