The Honorable Dudley J. Leblanc — Acadian Icon
This is a special chapter among many chapters that are special to me because it focuses on the life, work and views of one man as a context for what was going on in the region when the documentarians (or documentarists as is often preferred) arrived in Acadiana. Dudley Leblanc is man mentioned many times in the text before now and a great deal is left out even after this chapter is read. In fact he too has his place in the conclusion. In a different world this book would have been written long ago and there would be another book out under my name about Dudley Leblanc alone. But such is not the case. In fact this serialization is running up against difficulties born of my relative weariness doing other things entirely separate from this book.
The politics of Dudley Leblanc are mostly the focus of this chapter and the personal life with the business aspects only creeping in a bit. The merest glimpses into a full and rich life of great complexity. But politics is very much in the fabric of Acadian and Cajun culture and the tradition of these places that make up Acadiana. Politics has always mattered to me as anyone can tell who reads this blog. I am not in any way the kind of political figure that Dudley Leblanc was in this region but he does sort of fill the atmosphere of all politics with a kind of (to me at least) glory tinted residue.
Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law…
My grandfather was influenced by and we are related to Dudley Leblanc. I once watched an old home movie of them on a boat together. Warren Perrin pictured with me below has made available to me recently some fascinating materials provided by the heirs of Corinne Broussard, one of the Evangeline Girls who made the first pilgrimage with Dudley Leblanc to Acadie. His legacy lives on ….
Dudley Leblanc was an author, historian, showman, President of the Association of Louisiana Acadians, the leader of the lawful opposition to what many consider to be the closest thing to a dictatorship ever under the United States Flag, he was a devout Catholic , a family man and a skilled legislator. He wrote a charted song and besides all of that was a very serious businessman. But he was part of Acadiana and it was part of him in a uniquely strong way that showed through all he did. He loved Louisiana and the United States and worked with Acadians and their causes in several countries but he was our politician — the great contribution of this place and time to politics . His influence is still around even when it is not noted. But his French language radio shows, his huge business which disappeared like a fairy dream and his superb devotion to his ethnic community framed his politics and gave them life.
HADACOL was once the second largest advertiser in the United States.
There is a tendency among some to see him as style over substance but nothing could be farther from the truth. In my view only a tiny handful of U.S. politicians have equaled his substance but his substance was not the substance many analysts are looking to find. He left a book behind which is fifty years old this year which along with founding state parks in this state, helping to create an old age pension, negotiating countless positive deals in the opposition and opposing others — along with all of that his book is his legacy. His family is of course as well.
The Acadian Miracle by Dudley Leblanc is fifty years old this year.
The Acadian Museum in Erath is a place where a great deal of his legacy is preserved and new materials are still coming to light in their efforts to archive and preserve things. You can link to them here. The rather poor picture of Warren Perrin and I together that I have above is taken in the Acadian Museum and below is another I took related to the Museum. They remain and are active in outreaches across the community that Leblanc loved.
Acadian Museum table at an Abbeville farmer’s market.
Here is where the text in pdf form will be when a technical glitch is cured :
He is the chapter in such text form as is available:
Dudley Leblanc and the Sense of Acadiana
This set of chapter in this book is in large part a collection of and commentary upon clipping. My use of scholarly quotes earlier on was more extensive than average and so the change should not be too drastic. I prefer to use enough of my source material to let it speak for itself where it can. This text seeks to bring together many distincto points of view to create a whole which the reader can inhabit much as the mind inhabits a bit of fine verse or fiction. Entering into all these points of view the reader can form his or her own point of view.
Early in this chapter, second only to a clipping from 1928 and excerpt from a play there is a brief article from the Abbeville Meridional in the 1930s. It reports on an act of violence perpetrated against a Boudreaux from Abbeville in large part because of his association with Dudley Leblanc. Without understanding the violence that runs through Cajun experience there is no way to understand Cajun experience. Cajuns are a people whatever else that are and they are a small people. It would be interesting to do a book about Cajun courage entirely — but that is not this book. This writer that I am is also a man. As a man I consider myself a fairly brave man ( and by my own lights that has never been a very wise thing to say in public or in writing for almost anyone) but it is not in doubt that a small group of people who value ethnic identity are by definition at risk perpetually. It does not take all that much reasoning to figure that out. Languedoc with is structure of confederated ethnic communities within a powerful nation state which accepted these diverse communities is a kind of paradise dream for our way of viewing the world. The Confederacy as our ancestors hoped it might be is another. The golden age of the 1840s saw this sort of life more or less achieved under the banner of the stars and stripes. But the bad times have been many and of varying seriousness. Much of politics in this and many other modern societies with which the Cajun has to interact appears to be the wholesale degradation of any real chance of cultural integrity or any real chance of preserving a responsible policy as regards culture. When the Cajun is urged by others to discard the burdens of his or her culture because others are doing so this often appears to the true Cajun like the suggestion like the serious suggestion that he cut off his fingers because a friend had to change gloves. We will return to that metaphor or strong simile at the end of this chapter.
Before reaching the article about Boudreaux and Leblanc the reader will read a brief excerpt from a play about a Boudreaux and a Leblanc. In the midst of all of this the reader hopefully remembers that a Boudreaux and a Leblanc had the largest Cajun roles as the father and son LaTour in Louisiana Story. Any reader who is not a Cajun should remember that Dudley Leblanc probably saw America differently that the readers parents or grandparents in ways that were specific to the Cajun experience. But the Cajun experience also varied and Leblanc is a very individual and specific person. This chapter is about Dudley Leblanc and the way that he represented a focus and expression of Cajun identity.
This text is not intended to comply with the conventions of a text written about the history of New York City because there is a certain body of knowledge about New York City which is part of the patrimony of educated American ‘s cultural patrimony and which is not applicable to discussion of postwar Acadiana. In addition to the need to make clearer some basic facts about each relevant aspect of Cajun life and Acadiana there is also the cost to this writer which perhaps is made less by being middle aged, divorced and more or less permanently curmudgeonly not to mention childless. As was evident in Gene Yoes review of Louisiana Story in 1949, people worry about the perception of larger society which is created by almost any assessment or expression of the culture, identity or way of life of the people here. Defensiveness is commonplace enough, so is courage and so is the pressure to produce work without the supports for research and a quality process of authentication which might be available for other subjects. In addition the conditions described above make the producers of plays, films, histories, journalism, songs and other works responsive ot questions and concerns of the ethnic community more sensitive to criticism than they might otherwise be — none of this makes a text of this type easier to write. On the other hand, these are differences of degree. Any book about perceptions and understanding between American communities is fraught with some of the same challenges though perhaps not to the same degree — nonetheless, to a substantial degree. Dudley Leblanc and his family appear in the social and personal notices sections of the Meridional so many times it is difficult to express without superlatives. That context is worth remembering when we discuss the man as this text does.
Below is a piece about his birthday party which appeared in the August 25 issue of 1928.
LEBLANC WAS HONORED AT BIRTHDAY DINNER
Dudley J. LeBlanc, who is also head of the T. B. A. Benevolent Association was guest of honor at a surprise birthday dinner given Saturday night at the Terrace Hotel. Over 100 employees, business associates, and other friends of the Commissioner attended. An orchestra played during the evening.
Greetings were extended to Commissioner LeBlanc by several speakers, the first being T. L. Evans, president of the Commercial National Bank, Robert Voorhies, manager, and Miss Sadie Folse, secretary of the T. B. A. and V. Gray qf the Dixie National Insurance Association, and Sidney Alpha for the Lafayette Tribune in which Mr LeBlanc is also interested.
Near the close of the banquet the honoree was presented with a platinum gold watch as a gift from his employees The presentation was made by Bennett J. Voorhies, local attorney.
Another feature of the occasion was the presentation of a large birthday cake on which were 34 candles. The cake was a gift from Mrs. H. Scranton, proprietor of the Terrace Hotel
— Advertiser, Lafayette.
Comparing the pictures here and scene of the trappers eating in Louisiana Story to what Dudley Leblanc’s wife Evelyn Hebert Leblanc experienced as dinner with her girlfriends is also useful. It illustrates a set of contexts for the Cajun experience at the time and a set of experiences neither the documentarian backgrounds and presuppositions nor the interests of Standard Oil of New Jersey were eager to see presented to the nation as the Cajun experience at the time of the nascent oil boom. In that context it is useful to notice that in the list of interests above which feted Dudley Leblanc there are financial, hospitality, professional and print media among others — but no specific petroleum interests. So now on to the life of Mrs. Dudley Leblanc:
MRS. ROBERT YOUNG JUNIOR ENTERTAINS 500 NIGHT CLUB
Another delightful, meeting of the 500 night club was held Wednesday night with Mrs. Robert Young, Jr., at hostess. This beautiful home on Main St. was beautifully arranged with vases and bowls of nasturtiums. Ladies’ first prize was won by Mrs. R. A., Dalton. Second by Mrs. H; A. Eldredge. Guest by Mrs. E. L. Terrier* Gentleman’s first prize was won by Mr. Clay Summers. Second by Dr. P. J. Young, Jr., Guest by, Mr. Andrew Broussard, Consolation by Miss Della Broussard and Booby by Mr. I. H. Oertling.
Mrs. Young served a 3 delicious plate luncheon consisting of dressing’ sliced turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, with sweet peas, stuffed tomatoes, salad on lettuce, olives, hot rolls and tea. Members present were: Mr, and Mrs Clay Summers, Miss Delia Broussard, Mr. Pete, LeBlanc, Mr. and Mrs. Perry LeBlanc, Miss Bess Faulk, Mrs. Dudley LeBlanc, Mrs. Roy Richardson, Dr. and Mrs. H. A. Eldredge, Dr. R. J. Young Jr., Guests present were. Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Terrier, Miss Hilda Hebert, Mr and Mrs. I. H. Oertling, Mrs. Marcus Broussard, Mrs. Newton LeBlanc,. Miss Mabel Young, and Mr. Andrew Broussard.
This house was on the same street where the film Louisiana Story was edited and where the crew lived and the people in story were by and large as Cajun as Lionel Leblanc or the fictional LaTours. Mr. and Mrs. Clay Summers were my great grandparents. While he was born an anglo-protestant she was a very Cajun French speaking Catholic named Esther Leblanc and was Dudley’s cousin. The choices made of what to portray are real choices continually made in the creation of an American identity and sense of self.
Dudley Leblanc’s connection to the community is glimpsed a bit in the coverage of his wedding in the Meridional. A lot more could be gleaned from it than will be attempted in this chapter. The following appeared as a social announcement in the Meridional in 1921 and was a significant sign of social and community recognition for a fairly important match which would be meaningful for Abbeville, Vermilion Parish and the Cajun community. The wedding is certainly not a sumptuous affair to rival the elite of Europe or New York City and the notice does not claim that it is — but it is not the stuff of a trapper’s cabin either.
One of the pretty church weddings of the season was that of Miss Evelyn Hebert, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Hebert of this place , to Mr. Dudley LeBlanc, of Erath, on March 29th, at 8 o’clock a. m. at St. Mary Magdelein’s Catholic Church.. The marriage ceremony was performed at mass. The bride was handsomely gowned in white embroidered chiffon with illusion veil, while the maid of honor and bridesmaids wore pink organdy gowns and pink picture hats. Miss Evelyn stands high in this community and has many friends. The happy young couple left on the morning train on their honeymoon trip. On their return they will occupy their own little bungalow on the West side of the Bayou which is just completed. The Meridional wishes them a long life of prosperity.
A later announcement in the Meridional’s social notices completes the coverage of this early state of their union. It is worth remembering what is not included in the portrayals of the Cajun communities in the SONJ projects but to remember that these goings on were quite important to the community as a whole..
April 19, 1921, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Leblanc returned from their honeymoon * trip to New Orleans, Sunday.
It is useful to remember which Cajuns were not much included in the SONJ projects to represent these people in either the photographic collection or the film Louisiana Story. Dudley Leblanc lived a very different life overall than the one lived by the natural actor Lionel Leblanc. LaTour and the actor who portrayed him were clearly selections with political, economic and moral dimensions made by the Flahertys and by Standard Oil of New Jersey which led to a particular view of the people and region portrayed in Louisiana Story. The influence of Harnett Kane’s book The Bayous of Louisiana is deeply to be felt in so many SONJ choices. The use of Avery Island is certainly suggested by Kan’s appealing treatment of that locale. Kane also reports on living with a trapper family and in doing so really maps out a rough draft for Louisiana Story even in the happenstantial way that this unrelated segment of his book is near the segment on Avery Island. The discourse of real outsiders continues to inform itself primarily and to primarily seek to avoid being informed by the Cajun community as a whole. The effort to communicate Cajun experience to the mainstream society is not so simple a task for those within the community either.
However, much this text may seem to be a web of the author’s close personal associations it is actually more the case that the reader gets only a minimal sense of all the connections between this writer and his subject. A choice has been made to make such connections but not without also many specific choices to limit such references.
The following is an excerpt from the play A Sort of Miracle in Loreauville, published by Edgemoor Press, of Houston Texas. The playwright was a returning undergraduate who had gone from Abbeville to Louisiana State University as an undergraduate where she had become pregnant for a son, hid the pregnancy and dropped out. She had given that son up for adoption, moved to Abbeville and married and old friend, nearly an early puppy love and a son of a prominent local family. They had a child in 1964 and did not have any others for a long time. When that young son began attending school she returned to the University of Southwestern Louisiana and wrote a play for an English class which was published. She did not graduate at that time but graduated after her son who was in first grade in 1973 graduated many years later. She is still very much alive at this writing and she is my mother.
The play is set in 1900s Loreauville where her own grandmother grew up, 1900s Loreauville provided the setting, motifs and characters about which her grandmother — Regina Oubre Hollier composed a series of paintings some of which were awarded various honors, sold and given other recognition at the time of her writing A Sort of Miracle. This conversation takes place as a priest is preparing the sacrament of the sick, also the last rites (in an irreducible tension) for a very sick little girl, Madame Leblanc is the girl’s mother.
MADAME LEBLANC: Pere Boudreaux, he’s a good man of God, him. So holy. You should have heard how strong he prayed for MArie. It was so beautiful… (serenely) they say that when the blessing is given, sometimes they have a miracle.
- DUBOIS: Prayer is very good for the soul, and I’m sure the good Lord has some plans for us all, but miracles seem to be getting scarcer all the time. Science is teaching us more about things that used to be explained in other ways.
MADAME LEBLANC: I don’t know nothing about science. I only know the Lord. He hears everybody’s prayer and he always answers. Sometimes he answer “no” because he knows everything what’s best. Maybe if He takes Marie up to Heaven, it means that she couldn’t never have been happy here.
- DUBOIS: Maybe so.
The play is about the 1900 and is also very much about becoming an adult in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There is not on the surface much to connect it with the period of 1943 to 1953 nor with the life of Dudley Leblanc outside of names and ethnicities but in fact there are some connections that are worth making.
State Highway Man Pardoned In Attack On Jos. Boudreaux
BATON ROUGE, La.—Louis A. Jones, assistant superintendent of the’ Louisiana Highway patrol, convicted of assaulting Joseph Boudreaux of Abbeville, La., on the capitol steps ‘during the 1932 ‘legislature, was pardoned by Gov. 0. K. Allen last Friday.
The pardon was approved on recommendation, of the state pardon board. Jones had previously been reprieved by the governor before serving any of a six months jail sentence imposed*by Judge Caruth Jones in East Baton Rouge district court.
Boudreaux –,. friend and supporter of Dudley J. Leblanc opponent of the political’ organization of Huey P. Long in the 1932 governorship campaign in which he ran against Allen — suffered a fractured skull when he was slugged in front of the Statehouse. Boudreaux said he was struck from behind while being put out of the capitol by two men. He blamed political animosity.
The article above appeared in the Abbeville Meridional on November 17 of 1934. Everyone knows what a highwayman is — an outlaw and a land pirate. The headline is fairly confrontational while the legitimacy of the corrupt government itself is not directly challenged. The truth is that Louisiana politics in general is now and always has been a pretty rough business. But most people agree that Huey Long was the toughest character to deal with in Louisiana politics since the period of Statehood. His use of violence, corruption and intimidation were underreported. Huey Long was one of his most visible and vocal opponents. The British Empire, the Union armies and a variety of other large opponents are part of the heritage of opponents which Cajuns remember their ancestors opposing. Cajuns did not dream up and do not dream up reasons to be defensive. But neither is there any overly simplistic basis for all feelings of ethnic concern. Earlier in this text I put forward a brief allusion to evidence (which I believe to be substantial) that the ku Klux Klan was at the very least influenced by Cajun institutions and associations at it inception and in its early days. However, that does not mean that the Klan was not seen as a threat by the Cajuns of the Dudley Leblanc era along with many other threats. The following is an excerpt shortened mostly because of places where the text was problematic for physical reasons rather than for content. During the time when Dudley leblanc was directly facing other issues the Meridional which covered him faithfully was also reporting on the matters related to the Klan in the region. Very little of the topic appeared in the Meridional compared to other matters which were related to ongoing conflict but the discussion that does appear is worth noting..
A STALE TOPIC
For a long time the Ku Klux Klan question has practically been ignored by the leading local papers of the state, but the recent statements of R I. Thompson, at a Klan initiation near Baton Rouge, has partially revived the discussion. ….Thompson reasserted the ancient fallacies of the hooded order “The Klan does not believe in religious prejudices …. but the Klan is a fraternal structure it has no negro members ‘ The Klan is a Christian order therefore no Jews are admitted ” “The Klan is an American order. Therefore no Catholics could be admitted, because the Catholics owe allegiance to a foreign power, and therefore are not American in the Klan’s understanding of the word ” Wise qualification–“Klan’s understanding ” Of course if that is the honest “understanding” of the Klansmen it is their American privilege to so understand. We are ready to excuse the ignorant member of the order, who follows the lead of unscrupulous stump speakers, but how a man of Thompson’s supposed intelligence can voice such idiotic statements is one of the mysteries we are unable to solve. By the above statement as well as several others Mr Thompson qualifies for a special niche in the Menckenian category of “dull and dangerous asses.” We are very sorry to have to touch on this disagreeable subject again but we pride ourselves on letting it down easy…
It is not easy to write this text from the position which I take as a fifty one year old man who has done a good bit of living but it has proven impossible to complete it earlier. I think it would not only be dishonest but pointless for me to attempt to write this text as though it seemed likely that was going to witness a golden age of Cajun wellbeing, or that I thought things in America were really going very well or that I believed that all in all the world was making excellent progress in all the most important ways. So it is that I do not see the end of struggle for ethnic identity and the preservation and perfection of a sense of community as being a process that will be likely to end either. The question of American identity posed by the Klan is not one which this text has sought to avoid although it has not centered on what constitutes the nature of Roman Catholicism. I started with the clipping about the birthday party in part because it allows a chance to see that whatever struggle may typify much of Cajun experience in the United States it is not an entirely strident and directly confrontational struggle. Cajuns do not live lives in which ethnic interests and mainstream interests are always pitted against one another, It is not a community that alway seeks to see things in stark confrontational terms even when it would be possible to see things that way. Below is an example of one struggle handled by Dudley Leblanc and reported by the Meridional. There was an article introducing and explaining the context of his open letter but only the letter is reproduced below because it gives a voice to Dudley Leblanc in a manner which is one of the objectives of this Chapter.
LOUISIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Sept. 12th, 1929.
Abbeville Meridional, Abbeville, La;
Gentlemen,’ You will probably be interested in knowing that I have had the train schedule restored. The schedule was changed without consent or approval of the Commission and it has been; a pleasure for me to be of some assistance to the good people of Abbeville. There will be a formal hearing in the near future, probably at Abbeville, where both sides of the question can be heard before a member of the Commission and the case will then be decided as to whether the schedule will be changed or left as it is now.
With kind regards and best wishes, I remain,
Very truly yours,
Dudley J. Leblanc
In all of his political career Leblanc was fully engaged in real struggles for a better quality of life for his community and these struggles were not couched in terms of ethnic confrontation most of the time.
But the Cajuns are and always have been devoted to the American experience and identity even during the long spell between about 1875 and 1940 when most Cajuns only called themselves Americans in a legal or very formal and explicit context. Nonetheless, in all those years there was an effort to merge effectively with each era of American institutions. But the Cajun vision of America did not always resemble the mainstream vision very closely: Nonetheless, in understanding a man like Dudley Leblanc it is useful to understand this desire to succeed as a true American and to see Cajuns succeed as true Americans. This second glimpse from the Meridional shows that aspect of Leblanc and of Cajun life as well. It does so in a subtle and not very flag-waving kind of way.
DUDLEY LEBLANC NAMED. ON LAFAYETTE BOARD
Lafayette, La.—Announcement of the election of 12 directors of the reorganized Lafayette Chamber of Commerce was made at a meeting last Thursday night at the courthouse. The board, which will meet soon to name officers, is composed of E. E. Soulier, Mike Donlon, J. J. Davidson, Jr., Dudley J. LeBlanc, T. M. Callahan, A. F. Boustany, Dr. L. O. Clark, E- E. McMillan, Donald Labbe, A. M. Bujard, Felix H. Mouton, and J. L. Fletcher.
The Chamber of Commerce in Lafayette at that time and in any part of the united States at any time is an institution devoted to the relatively optimistic pursuit of commerce, development and well being in the context of the commercially viable and economically vibrant United States of America. Dudley Leblanc who was not less an ethnic activist than many other form better known communities, was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and accepted most of its values and vision for America.
Acadiana had never been isolated in the sense that a handful of places are. Rather it had always been a place of commerce, change and migration since the time the first Cajuns began to emerge as such. In this text one of the challenges has been to try to show an ethnic community which is in continuous change within a larger American social and cultural context. Dudley J. Leblanc was a voice for the region and also for the Cajun people. It is important to understand the totality of his involvement in the issues of his time and the life of the state and the region. The questions of whether he lived in better times or worse for the Cajuns and for this region cannot be answered fully here. But to the degree that this text sees him as an influence over the SONJ Projects and over the region that they came to document he must be properly understood or nothing much is gained by way of understanding in referring to his influence. In earlier chapters the work of Leblanc as regard Cajun identity has been the only focus of discussion in this regard and some brief applications of that aspect of his life and work to the film Louisiana Story. But a great deal more remains to be discussed if he is to be at all understood.
One fact worth remembering is that Dudley Leblanc had a large set of connections across the nation and the globe. Merely to catalogue these would take a great while. But his core constituents were kept abreast of many of his contacts through the local press. For every two Cajun associations with a specific quality he had two that were about some other aspect of what he saw as the real American fabric of life.
TBA Celebrates Thirteenth Anniversary
Celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of the TBA American Benefit Association, a number of persons were guests of Dudley J. Leblanc at a delightful party at the Edgewater Club near Lafayette. Formerly known as the TBA Benevolent Association, and operating mostly in Louisiana, the TBA American Benefit Association has enlarged its scope until now it operates in practically every state in the United States. The main offices are located in Lafayette. President Leblanc of this association is a native of Vermilion Parish and a resident of Abbeville.
As Dudley Leblanc’s life progressed his political career became one of his most distinguishing endeavors. It would grow apace with his business ventures. Space will not allow me to reproduce the more colorful and perhaps pandering advertisements announcing some other candidates efforts to be elected to various posts but the announcements by Leblanc like much of his life were characterized by a simple and straightforward manner.
I hereby announce myself as a ‘candidate.’for the House of Representatives from the Parish of Vermilion subject to the Democratic primary of 1924. Your vote and support is respectfully solicited. Dudley J. Leblanc
I hereby, announce myself as a candidate for the House of Representatives from the Parish of Vermilion subject to the Democratic primary of 1924. Your vote and support is respectfully solicited. Dudley J. LeBlanc
Dudley Leblanc did not take long to become involved in controversy as a representative in the state legislature. His Leblanc Warehousing Bill was an effort to attack a host of ills and was much supported and much opposed and fully controverted and the storm of controversy seems to have not made any dent in the resolutions of this very new political figure.
Cliipings were passed around the local papers more in those days and a great deal of recopying of letters, editorials and press releases occurred in relation to all this. Rice millers organized to oppose his bill and the efforts with it to increase the rights and security of farmers. “We are in receipt of a communication from Mr. H I. Gueydan, of Crowley, also forwarded to Mr LeBlanc, vigorously protesting against the Warehouse Bill introduced by Mr. Le Blanc in the present session of the State Legislature. The clipping from The Acadian …. we it are reproducing m this issue,” A sort of semi editorial in the Meridional would begin that way. At another point the Meridional would report: “This is the letter of Mr. Gueydan to the Meridional, and Mr. LeBlanc in regard to the bill. Personally we know very Iittle about the matter….” The local press seemed overall to have started off fairly certain that Dudley Leblanc would fail to sustain his solidarity with the Rice farmers in the face of the organized opposition he met. The fact that other states were using similar provisions did not persuade opponents that his concepts would prevail. Probably some of them were motivated and formed in their thoughts by hatred and contempt for Cajuns who predominated among rice farmers but the language was tempered and a name that was at least somewhat local and French was usually attached to opposition propaganda. An example of a letter printed in those days is excerpted here: “Mr. LeBlanc points out that certain similar laws have been in existence in various other states for a number of years where what is pursued in this bill has proved advantageous to the farmers. Questions have arisen as to the the similarity of those laws with the bill presented by Mr. LeBlanc and also to the amount of good they have accomplished. .We are convinced, however that the State should operate with as few commissions os possible… .we are fast drifting into a condition amounting to government by commission. There is the possibility of a commission of this sort becoming so well ‘set’ as to work a vast amount of harm, and. bid defiance to those who would seek to dislodge it. And if the farmer ultimately pays the bill for this warehouse service will his condition be bettered to any perceptible degree? … As Mr. LeBlanc has so ably pointed out, our present system is beset with many evils, at a minimum: Farmers at times suffer rank injustice in the disposal or their rice, but is it true that the bill proposed would remedy all this—or would it make matters worse? All we can do is to hope and pray that the right will prevail. We are sure of one thing and that Is that Mr. LeBlanc has the interest of the farmer at heart, that it is his honest belief that this bill will work to their benefit. I am convinced that this Bill would work farther expenses on the rice farmer, and would be a Godsend to rice graders. Mr. Dudley LeBlanc would hurt the very ones he wishes to benefit. … There is a fair amount of the most offensive forms of condescension in the tone of this letter. But Leblanc would not in this or any other significant instance be pushed aside by people who perhaps held him in low regard at least partly because of his ethnicity
The Meridional reported some of the efforts to oppose Leblanc. Politics were fierce even when they were not corrupt and violent:
VIGOROUS PROTEST IS RAISED BY LOCAL RICE MEN OVER LEBLANC BILL
Local Warehousemen United in Meeting. to Kill the Bill; Other Crowley men joined Mr. H. L. Gueydan today in the vigorous fight against the warehousing bill introduced by .Representative Dudley J. LeBlanc of Vermilion Parish, creating a new commission and requiring every public rice warehouse to furnish a public rice grader at a salary of not under $150.00 and which would force each warehouse to pay a license fee of $10 annually for every two feet of floor space, payable in advance and also other objectionable requirements of the LeBlanc Warehouse Bill.
Dudley LeBlanc responded articulately in my opinion and his struggle is real but not excessively confrontational in tone or manner: Elsewhere his words appear as follows
“It s not my intent to hope for radical change nor is it my intention to have the Legislature enact laws that will prove detrimental to some of our business interests. I would certainly prefer not to make any enemies, but I fail to understand how men who are supposed to be interested in the rice industry can conscientiously say- that such a measure would hurt the rice farmers “In some of the country papers in the rice district, there is now some opposition but this opposition comes from the mouthpieces of corporate interests. Some have seen fit to criticize the minor details of this measure and have •endeavored to make it appear that it would work against the interest of the rice farmer Every Insignificant detail can be worked out satisfactorilv to me. provided, of course, that the principle of the Bill is left intact and that the measure carries with it a degree of relief to our poor oppressed rice producers “It is estimated, as a matter, of explanation, that the total amount of money to be expended bv a rice producer would be five cents a sack of 200 pounds in order to obtain this rice. There is no additional expense entailed — neither on the Parish nor on the State and neither the warehouseman nor the rice mill would he called upon to put out any money since this five cents per sack would cover the entire expense. Every intelligent person realizes that due to the fact that many of our farmers are uneducated, They are not in a position to market their product’ intelligently. This Bill provides the proper assistance and enables the farmer to market his product in a similar position with the grain grower in other grain growing states.”.
Over various issues of several local papers Leblanc made his case and explained what the Bill did and did not required. Here are some of his words: “It requires every warehouse to be licensed and bonded and to furnish a public fee grade for a length of time after it is stored in said warehouse. It requires the warehouseman to issue a reliable receipt showing the exact grade or quality of his rice with the percentage of each grade or quality to the farmer storing his rice on each trip to the rice grader — appointed by the created Commission will by this new measure enable the farmer to know exactly the grade and quality of his products and with this knowledge, he will be in a better position to sell his rice. This will eliminate the possibilities of the big man using undue influence and will help the regular fellow. In the event that the farmer wants to obtain a little loan on the crop to deal with corresponding expenses and does not want to sell it at that particular time, a receipt can serve as security for the stated amount of sale to get a loan through any bank…..”
The fact is that whether in helping to create the State Park system, build his business or interact with Robert Flaherty as with his opposition to Huey Long Dudley Leblanc was a deeply devoted ethnic Cajun. He however used the term Acadian almost exclusively. We will return to other aspects of his life before reaching the end of this text and have already discussed him before but it is important to know what he meant to the Abbeville in which the SONJ folks centered their work in Acadiana. He described his early service as a State Representative: “During my campaign for member of the House of Representatives I made certain political pledges to my people which I have endeavored to faithfully keep; My people are to a certain extent very much oppressed. The Parish of Vermilion is an agricultural parish and the farmers have expected this administration to give them some relief. I have endeavored to the best of my ability to enact laws and which would carry to the aggrieved farmers some degree …”
Dudley and Evelyn were building all aspects of the Cajun ideal of leadership and that meant growing a family in March 14, 1925 a birth announcement for their son appeared in the Meridional. Nine years later the little boy is in the papers again for a festive occurrence called the
“Queen of Hearts” at Mount Carmel Elementary School where Dudley J. Leblanc Junior received a second prize reported in the Meridional. February 17, 1934… He also played golf with neighbors of all ethnicities among whites and in at least one tournament the honorable Dudley J. Leblanc, who on the course was just “Dudley”, took second honors.
These are mere glimpses into the life of Dudley Leblanc. The influence he had in the region had not declined substantially by the mid 1940s. He had never successfully organized the trappers around himself across South Louisiana and by the time Harnett Kane’s book came out they had lost several struggles especially in the southeastern section of the State. Flaherty and Standard Oil could possibly see them benefiting from the coming of the oil industry. But Dudley Leblanc’s rice farmers would benefit far more often than the trappers as more of them had more land in most cases.
While the last chapter was the lion’s share of the reportage on the film Louisiana Story this chapter is a tiny sampling the reportage on the story told by Dudley Leblanc for and about the people of his part of Louisiana especially. It was Harnett Kane and not Dudley Leblanc whom the documentarians were predisposed to pay attention to in covering the Cajuns. Dudley Leblanc had established himself as a voice for the Cajuns in all the ways described in earlier chapter and in countless ways vaguely suggested in this chapter. But it was not his voice that those who had the privilege of informing mainstream America were likely to seek out. Kane was a better man and a better writer than many, but the reliance on his text to the exclusion of Dudley Leblanc’s point of view is inexcusable. Only Flaherty really absorbs some of it and barely gets some credit here for that. The business of American understanding has its own shame and corrupt inner processes even as it has been known for exposing corruption and insider dealing elsewhere in American society. Leblanc could have contributed a lot more to the discussion in the FSA documentary period and in the SONJ period. To evaluate documentaries and reporting I think an historian must consider what they leave out and under represent as well as what they do shot, write, publish and exhibit…