Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr. has died - L'Acadien and Vermilion Sports Editor. Military Veteran
The Advertiser, Dec. 3, 2017
Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr., a visionary who helped Lafayette realize its potential, has died at age 99, according to this Facebook post from his son:
"It is with a heavy heart to post that my father passed away peacefully this evening. He lived a wonderful 99? years, and leaves an indelible mark not only on his family but this community. I am proud he called me his son and I, my father, to carry his name. Love."
The message was posted to Facebook early Sunday morning.
We will continue to update as more details become available.
As news of Judge Saloom's passing reached the public, reactions from friends and colleagues ranged from sadness to reverence for the man many called a living legend.
Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret considered Saloom a friend.
"Besides being a brilliant legal mind, he was a gentleman to a T," Perret said Sunday.
Saloom, he said, was a sharp dresser, very polite, a great historian for Lafayette and a devout Catholic."He helped me many, many times that people will never know about," Perret said. "When I had a sticky situation or a legal question, I could call him and get completely unfettered, unbiased advice."
After World War II, up until around 1950, as the bodies of soldiers were identified, they were returned to Lafayette by train, where the funeral home collected them for the families, Perret said.
"Judge Saloom and a group of citizens took it upon themselves," he said, "to meet the bodies at the train station with dignity and respect."
Former Louisiana Congressman Jimmy Hayes, a city prosecutor in the 1970s and early 1980s while Saloom was a city court judge, was "extremely fond" of him.
For many people, appearing in city court for a traffic ticket or other minor offense was their only contact with the criminal justice system, Hayes said. Saloom felt an obligation to be professional and fair in his rulings and the way he conducted himself, he said
"He had an extraordinary career" and is one of the most scholarly people to serve as city judge, Hayes said.
Saloom published many writings about the way a city court should be administered and received national honors for his work, he said.
The late judge also corresponded for years with Sandra Day O'Connor, former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stuart Clark called Saloom a friend for many years. He was so amazed by the stories Saloom would tell, he decided to make a documentary with the judge recalling portions of his life and sharing his knowledge of Lafayette history. The two hour video was donated to the UL Lafayette library in a special dedication ceremony on May 15, Saloom's 99th birthday.
Clark said he made the film titled, Judge Kaliste Saloom, Jr. A Lafayette Legend, to preserve history.
"I am very blessed and privileged that I got to do that," Clark said. "I had heard he had been ill, so, when I got the news, I was deeply saddened and very sorry for the family. I thought right away that Lafayette lost a great man, a living legend. 99 ½ years, filled with a life of service and sacrifice. He was a wonderful family man -- all the things we should all strive for. So many things he did, I hope will inspire people to follow in his footsteps."
Stella Theriot served in the Rotary Club with Saloom for more than 15 years. She recalled that he was a loyal presence at the club.
"He was just a living book of history, " Theriot said. "He would share with us his knowledge and he was so kind and genuine. There will be a gaping hole for us (now). He was there until the last couple of weeks. He has just been a mainstay of our club and he will be greatly missed."
Former Lafayette mayor Dud Lastrapes also called Saloom a friend and was a fellow Rotary Club member.
"He was an icon," Lastrapes recalled. "He had the respect of everyone who knew him and probably many who didn’t who were impressed by his major part in Lafayette’s history."
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette issued this statement from President E. Joseph Savoie:
“We have lost a community icon. Judge Saloom was a walking encyclopedia of University and community history. He not only knew the facts of history, but the nuances behind the facts."
The statement continues, “He was an integral participant in the development and evolution of the University, and while his presence at University events will be missed, his legacy will be remembered and cherished.”
Below is a story and video published by The Daily Advertiser in 2013 celebrating Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s life:
Those who know him best call him a living historian, an empathetic yet stern man who is one of the brightest Lafayette has ever seen.
He's a man who remembers well The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, a veteran who helped to capture a two-star Nazi general in World War II, who protected British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during wartime.
He's a visionary who saw potential not only for Lafayette's people but for its then-corrupt city court.
And while every Lafayette resident well knows the name Kaliste Saloom — if for no other reason than for the roadway — some don't know much about the retired judge who recently celebrated his 95th birthday.
Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr. now lives a quiet life with his wife, Yvonne, in their quaint Lafayette home in Bendel Gardens, but he's still one of the city's greatest advocates.
Oh, and he's actually not the person the Lafayette road was named for.
Born the fifth of seven children to Lebanese immigrants Kaliste and Asma Boustany Saloom, Kaliste Saloom Jr. learned quickly the hardships life could bring.
His father died in 1925 when he was only 6 years old. Four years later, The Great Depression devastated the world's economy, greatly affecting the impressionable youth.
"The Great Depression left a very big mark on me," he says today. "Try not to be poor. Always have a job. Don't expect tomorrow to be greater than today, but hope that it is."
His mother, a businesswoman who owned an apparel store called Saloom's, pushed her three boys to study professions that could support a family, such as medicine and law.
Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s older and younger brothers chose the medical profession, but he chose the legal profession.
After earning a bachelor's degree in arts in 1939 from the Southwestern Louisiana Institute of Liberal and Technical Learning, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Kaliste Saloom Jr. pursued his law degree from Tulane University in New Orleans.
By the beginning of 1942, as Kaliste Saloom Jr. was preparing to graduate from Tulane, the World War II draft became his reality.
He entered the Army in June of 1942, just after earning his degree.
Only weeks into basic training, Kaliste Saloom Jr. was selected to be a member of the Counterintelligence Corps, in part due to his education and knowledge of languages, including English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s first encounter with a great world figure came in 1944 during wartime when he became one of six American intelligence agents assigned to protect Churchill as he recuperated from pneumonia in North Africa.
"The excitement of being close to a great person is something any young person would cherish," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said.
Although he and his fellow counterintelligence agents protected the lives of many Allied soldiers in their day-to-day work, their real recognition came when they rounded up high-ranking Nazis, Waffen SS men, American traitors and war criminals.
What Kaliste Saloom Jr. is most proud of is the capture of the highest Nazi general in the Hitler Youth, Karl Cerff.
Although it became a long search with many dry runs, Kaliste Saloom Jr. and fellow counterintelligence agents ultimately captured the Nazi general and turned him over to the crimes commissioner.
In November 1945, Kaliste Saloom Jr. returned home a war hero and opened his own Lafayette law office in a small, rented office.
Kaliste Saloom Jr. worked only for a few years as a private lawyer before being asked to take on the role of city attorney in 1949 and later city judge in 1952.
With less than two years to serve as judge before facing election, Kaliste Saloom Jr. invoked a no-favoritism system.
"When more tickets were being fixed than tried, there was something that needed changing in the system," Saloom said. "And that's what we did."
More than one in Lafayette told the young judge that he didn't stand a chance at re-election.
One of Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s early renovations to the city court process included implementation of four-way tickets. Before four-way tickets, there was no real system of accountability to tickets issued by officers.
The four-way system dictated that the first ticket would be given to the motorist, the second would be retained by the issuing officer, the third ticket would be used in the court system as an affidavit for proceedings and the fourth ticket would be held in the court's permanent records.
"That prevented politicians from imposing on the officers favoritism or disposing the tickets by tearing them up," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said. "The record would report what the disposition was."
From his start, the people of Lafayette learned that Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr. was a force to be reckoned with.
Even those who had ties to the judge were treated with the same — if not an even higher — standard.
Dee Stanley, the chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government, has turned to Kaliste Saloom Jr. many times through the years, often to discuss Lafayette's growth and trends.
Stanley also once stood before the judge in city court to contest a speeding ticket.
"Let's just say that I believed I was right so much so that I felt it was important for me to go to court," Stanley said. "Our friendship and relationship withstanding, I was treated exactly like you'd expect. I was treated fairly and with respect, and I did not prevail."
Likewise, City Court Marshal Earl J. "Nickey" Picard has worked alongside Kaliste Saloom Jr. since the early 1950s, first as a state trooper, then as his court administrator.
"He had a record for being stern," Picard said."He'd give you hell, but he was very compassionate. He was always wanting the police to do better, the city to do better."
From 1952 to 1983, Kaliste Saloom Jr. served as the sole Lafayette City Court judge, and his reputation soon spread far outside of Lafayette.
Most cities in Louisiana implemented his four-way ticket system, the same one that state police use today.
Kaliste Saloom Jr. became the first city judge appointed to the judicial council of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He received recognition from the U.S. Supreme Court and served as the board of directors for the National Center for State Courts.
While serving on President Carter's National Highway Safety Advisory, Kaliste Saloom Jr. was named the National 55 MPH chairman and was sent from state to state to address legislatures and governors.
"I think one of the reasons they accepted my eulogy is that Louisiana was such a great petroleum producer, and here is somebody coming from a state that thrives on oil and gas, and he's preaching conservation," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said.
In another program under then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Kaliste Saloom Jr. worked up a system of release under certain conditions in which an honorable citizen would not be held in jail simply because he could not afford to post bail.
Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s work at home, however, is what has created his legacy.
"A judge on the front ranks has a duty besides sitting on the bench," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said. "His duty is to encourage unity and obedience to the law, and in community courts, traffic safety and juvenile programs."
Charles Lenox, the director of student publications for UL, crossed paths with Kaliste Saloom Jr. constantly during Lenox's 42 years working for The Daily Advertiser, where Kaliste Saloom Jr. wrote sports stories in his college days.
"I was just always amazed at the man because of what he stood for and how he continued to stand for the things that any judge, any lawyer, anyone would want to stand for," Lenox said.
In 1993, Kaliste Saloom Jr. finally retired, but he certainly has not retired from his role as an advocate for the city.
When asked whether he has ever had a moving violation, Saloom responds with a chuckle before saying, "Not that I know of."
As a native of Lafayette, Kaliste Saloom Jr. watched Lafayette grow from a small college town to a hub for business and tourism.
His childhood home and his mother's store were situated in the center of town on Oak Avenue, which is now Jefferson Street.
"I could walk to church, walk to school, walk to the theaters," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said. "As a youngster, Lafayette was a beautiful town with a lot of oak trees and sidewalks that were built before I was born."
The brick-paved Oak Avenue served as the hub of Lafayette, he recalls, and Lafayette ended at the Vermilion River where the agricultural developments began.
Kaliste and Asma Boustany Saloom immigrated to Lafayette largely because of the language and religious similarities at the time.
The Christian population in Lebanon was largely Catholic when Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s parents made Lafayette their new home, and the country's second language was French.
One of the most vivid memories from Kaliste Saloom Jr.'s childhood is from The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, during which water rose to the city limits at all angles and thousands of refugees filtered into the city to find safety.
"There were tents, white tents, strewn all over the town and on almost all vacant properties," he said. "It was a very sad occasion, a very troublesome one, because of the fear of typhoid fever and small pox."
Much of Lafayette's growth halted during The Great Depression and World War II, he recalls, but the hardworking people of Lafayette kept the faith and continued to work hard.
"Very little was done for several years," he said. "The electric system, the water system, the streets, the playgrounds all were neglected."
In his role as city attorney during the post-war era in Lafayette, however, Kaliste Saloom Jr. helped to design the Lafayette Utilities System that brought the city's electric, water and sewage operations to a more modern scale.
More than 50 years later, Kaliste Saloom Jr. is still advocating Lafayette's need to think ahead for a more successful future.
"Of course we have geographic boundaries," he said. "But it is very important that we do not lose sight of the fact that we need to develop the infrastructure of our community and to keep developing it – the widening of our roads, the extension of our facilities."
At 95 years old, Kaliste Saloom Jr. has devoted most of his life to his hometown.
He and his wife still work for the betterment of Lafayette, and their family continues to carry on their legacy.
Their four children — Kaliste Saloom III, Leanne Saloom Howell, Douglas Saloom and Gregory Saloom — all practice law in Louisiana.
Kaliste Saloom Jr. is often asked if the road that has become a major artery through Lafayette is named after him.
After serving the City of Lafayette and its people for most of his life, he very well could be the honoree.
"He set the roadway to bring this court into the 21st century," Picard said. "He was always trying to do things better for Lafayette."
Yet the roadway was named for another.
Prior to World War II, Asma Boustany Saloom acquired land in the Kaliste Saloom and U.S. 90 area. This became the key land needed to open a much-needed roadway between the Vermilion River and Verot School Road.
The city attorney approached the Saloom family and asked that the land be donated for the project.
"There was no money paid," Kaliste Saloom Jr. said. "But they agreed to name the road after my father, my deceased father, who is Kaliste Saloom. And that pleased my mother, and she gave what lands they needed."
"Very often, I get the question, 'Is that named for you?' And I say, 'The road and me were named after the same person.' "