Obituary: Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr. - L'Acadien/Vermilion Sports Editor & Military Vet - 12/2/2017
Obituary for Judge Kaliste Joseph Saloom, Jr.
Judge Kaliste Joseph Saloom, Jr., whose life spanned an extraordinary century of change but whose devotion to Lafayette, its people and potential never wavered, died Dec. 2, 2017. He was 99. Saloom served four decades as judge of Lafayette City Court.
During his judicial tenure, Saloom instituted reforms to the court’s operations that served as a model followed by other systems in the state and nation. He was also an advocate for public and traffic safety, and for the well-being of children.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Lafayette. The Most Reverend J. Douglas Deshotel, Bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette, will be the Celebrant of the Mass and The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, M.A., D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles, will serve as concelebrant. Reverend Michael Russo and Reverend Nathan Comeaux of Our Lady of Fatima, and The Very Reverend Chester C. Arceneaux, VF of Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, will also serve as concelebrants. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Martin and Castille Funeral Home-Downtown, 330 St. Landry St. A rosary will be recited at 6 p.m. Friday. Visitation will resume at 8 a.m. until the time of services Saturday at Our Lady of Fatima. Burial with full military honors will be at St. John Cemetery. A reception will follow at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Center.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Judge Kaliste J. Saloom, Jr. Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Political Science, administered by the UL Lafayette Foundation; Cathedral-Carmel School; and Our Lady of Fatima School.
Pallbearers will be Judge Saloom’s son-in-law, Evan P. Howell III, and grandsons Bradley M. Saloom, Kaliste J. Saloom IV, Adam D. Saloom, Christopher S. Saloom, Ethan J. Saloom and John W. Howell. Honorary pallbearers will be Emile Nassar, Dr. Maurice Nassar, former Lafayette City Marshal Earl J. “Nickey” Picard, Larry Donahue, Micah Vidrine and Judge Saloom’s nieces and nephews.
Kaliste Joseph Saloom, Jr. was born May 15, 1918, in Lafayette. His parents were Kaliste J. Saloom, Sr. and Asma Ann Boustany Saloom. Both were natives of Lebanon. The couple had four sons and four daughters. Kaliste, Jr. was their sixth child. Kaliste, Sr. and Asma opened Saloom’s, a mercantile store in Lafayette, shortly after their marriage in 1907. Located at 1335 Jefferson St., it remained family-operated for more than a century. As a child, Kaliste, Jr. worked in the store’s accounts department, and often traversed unpaved city streets on bicycle or in a horse-drawn wagon to deliver goods to customers. He was also employed by the Lafayette White Sox, a Class D baseball team that was part of the Evangeline League. He kept score and reported the game results to area news outlets. He earned $1 per game.
Kaliste Saloom, Sr. died in 1925 at age 39. His son and namesake was 6. Shortly after, in 1927, the Great Mississippi River Flood heralded a period of economic instability for South Louisiana. The Great Depression enveloped the world’s financial markets two years later and continued for the next decade. Saloom later remembered that the hardships he witnessed in his youth instilled the compassion, determination and optimism that defined his later life and career. He watched as his mother, who continued to operate the store after her husband’s death, sold clothes to families knowing they would never be able to pay her. It inspired him and his two surviving brothers to pursue careers that could help others. He became a lawyer, while Richard and Clarence became doctors. A fourth brother, Joseph, died before Kaliste, Jr.’s birth.
Saloom graduated from Cathedral High School in 1935 as class valedictorian. At Cathedral, he served as a class officer and took part in speech and debate. He played football, basketball and baseball, and participated in track and field. After graduation, he enrolled at Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. At SLI, he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Leadership Fraternity; Blue Key National Honor Society; Pi Kappa Delta National Debating Society; Kappa Sigma Fraternity (formerly Sigma Pi Alpha); Pi Gamma Mu National Social Science Society; and Alpha Phi Omega Scouting Fraternity. He was president of the Newman Club, a Catholic student organization. He was on the staffs of The Vermilion student newspaper and L’Acadien yearbook. Saloom also wrote sports articles for The (Lafayette) Daily Advertiser and other regional papers. He graduated with high distinction with a bachelor of arts degree in 1939, but his love and support for his alma mater continued for the next eight decades. He served as president of the University’s Alumni Association from 1958-1959. The association honored him at its Spring Gala in 2001, the same year the University established the Judge Kaliste J. Saloom, Jr. Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Political Science.
Saloom’s academic record at SLI earned him a scholarship to attend Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. At Tulane, he was a member of the Order of the Coif and the Tulane Law Review Board of Editors. He served as editor of the Law Review Index and as president of La Société de Droit Civil. He graduated with honors in 1942 and was admitted to the Louisiana Bar that same year. World War II delayed Saloom’s legal career. He joined the military in 1942, and served in North Africa, France and Germany as a special agent in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. He was decorated with two battle stars for service in the North African campaign and European Theater of Operation. When asked about his military service, Saloom invariably recounted two stories. The first was when he worked with Scotland Yard to protect Winston Churchill while the British prime minister recuperated from pneumonia in Marrakesh, Morocco. The second involved the 1945 capture of German Gen. Karl Cerff. Saloom received a special commendation from the commander of the U.S. Sixth Army Group for helping to capture Cerff, head of the Nazi Youth. In July 2017, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans presented Saloom its Silver Service Medallion, given to World War II veterans for distinguished service.
Saloom returned to Lafayette in 1946 after his discharge from the Army and opened his legal practice. Two years later, he became Lafayette City Attorney and was instrumental in the development of the Lafayette Utilities System, and in the creation of Lafayette Parish’s Permanent Voter Registration Program. In 1953, he became Lafayette City Court Judge, his first, and only, elected position. He would remain on the city court bench for the next 40 years. Saloom’s ability to navigate the period’s political antagonism won him support from both the Long and anti-Long factions that then divided the Louisiana Democratic Party. With endorsements from each, Saloom could address - without fear of charges of political favoritism - the problems he saw plaguing city courts in Lafayette and across the state. He immediately proposed accountability measures in how traffic violations were handled. The previous system enabled state and local politicians to “fix” tickets for friends and supporters; more tickets were being fixed than tried, Saloom later remembered. His reforms placed control of traffic tickets under the city court’s jurisdiction. The four-way traffic ticket system he proposed created a multi-layered record that reduced potential for corruption. Some politicians in Lafayette told the young judge, then in his first term, that he would never be re-elected because of his efforts. But he was - in 1956 and in each subsequent election until his retirement in 1993.
Saloom’s judicial tenure remains the second-longest in the state’s history, and includes his service as a temporary judge on the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in 1992. As city court judge, Saloom abandoned the practice of docketing cases based on a defendant’s race. The new system instead called cases by name and docket number with no racial designation. Saloom instituted other measures that protected the rights of the accused. He brought in lawyers, not police officers, to prosecute city court cases. He was also one of the first area judges to insist indigent defendants deserved legal counsel. Saloom remained the city court’s sole judge until 1984, when it expanded to second sections.
On October 19, 1958, Saloom married Yvonne Adelle Nassar. The couple met when Saloom saw her receive a scholarship to attend Newcomb College, part of Tulane University. They were introduced shortly after, and a five-year courtship followed. After Yvonne graduated from Newcomb, the couple married in St. Mary Catholic Church in Jackson, Mississippi, her hometown. They returned to Lafayette and purchased the home where they lived during their 59 years of marriage. It is also where they raised their four children. Eventually, the family grew to include 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
From 1960-1964, Saloom served on the Louisiana Supreme Court Judicial Council, the first city court judge to do so. He was twice chairman of the state Supreme Court’s Special Committee for Revision of Louisiana Highway Traffic Laws. In addition, he assisted in drafting the Uniform Traffic Code of the National Council on Uniform Traffic Laws; the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure; the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure; the Louisiana Children’s Code; the Small Claims Court Act; and the federal Drunk Driving Prevention Act.
On the state and national levels, his professional memberships and service included: delegate, White House Conference on Children and Youth, appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1960); president, Louisiana City Judges Association (1962); president, Louisiana Council of Juvenile Court Judges (1963); member, National Council of Juvenile Court Judges; member and chair, Louisiana Youth Commission (appointed by Gov. Earl K. Long in 1958 and served until 1978); member, U.S. Justice Department’s National Conference on Uniform Bail and Criminal Justice (1966); member, American Judges Association’s Board of Governors (1972-1977); member, Louisiana Judicial College’s Board of Governors (appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Joe W. Sanders in 1976 and served until 1980); member, U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Advisory Committee (appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 and served until 1980); national chair, U.S. Department of Transportation’s Task Force 55 MPH (1980); National Center for State Court’s Board of Directors (1978-1984); and the American Academy of Judicial Education’s Advisory Committee (1980). In 1991, the Louisiana Supreme Court appointed Saloom to study the state’s juvenile justice system.
Locally, Saloom was president of the Lafayette Parish and the 15th Judicial District Bar Associations. He also cofounded or sponsored numerous safety and youth related organizations, including: the Lafayette Area Safety Council, now the Acadiana Safety Association; Lafayette City Court Sobriety Program; the Drivers Improvement School for Traffic Violators; the Lafayette Juvenile Detention Home; the Lafayette Alcohol Traffic Action Program, affiliated with the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation (1975); and the Alcohol Driver Education Program (1978). He also served on the Crimestoppers Board of Directors and was both its chair and vice chair for several years.
His efforts on behalf of children, to enhance public safety and to improve the administration of justice earned Saloom numerous accolades from local, state and national organizations. From 1959 to 1990, he won national traffic inventory awards from the American Bar Association. He was named the ABA’s 1968 Outstanding Traffic Court Judge in the Nation, and received the second Flaschner Foundation Award of the American Bar Association, National Council of Special Court Judges in 1981. His other honors included: the Sears Foundation’s Carol Lane Safety Award, which he shared with the Lafayette Women’s Federated Club (1958); the Allstate Safety Crusade’s Certificate of Commendation (1962); the American Auto Association’s Traffic Safety Award (1969); the Award for Distinguished Public Service, the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration (1981); the American Judges Association’s Judge William H. Burnett Award (1982); the Mississippi State University Pre-Law Society’s sixth National Distinguished Jurist Award (1987); a special commendation from the Louisiana State Bar Association (1988); National Center for State Courts’ Distinguished Service Award for a Trial Judge on the State Level (1988); and the Louisiana Bar Foundation’s Distinguished Jurist Award (1992).
In 1988, Louisiana Gov. Charles E. “Buddy” Roemer III declared May 15, 1988 - Saloom’s 70th birthday - as “Judge Kaliste J. Saloom Jr. Day” statewide. Three years later, Roemer presented Saloom with an award to mark “38 years of outstanding service as city judge.”
Saloom continued to amass honors even after he left the bench. He received a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton to mark his retirement in 1993. The Lafayette City Court’s original courtroom, where he presided for 26 of his 40 years on the bench, was renamed in his honor in 1998. The following year, he became the only city court judge in the nation to receive the Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Award, which was presented by Burger’s successor, William H. Rehnquist.
Saloom was inducted into numerous halls of fame as well, including: the Louisiana State Justice Hall of Fame (2006); the Acadian Museum Hall of Fame’s Order of Living Legends (2009); Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame (2014); the Lafayette Bar Association inaugural Hall of Fame Class (2014); and the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame (2016). Other honors he received in retirement were: the League of Women Voters’ Outstanding Public Service Award (2013); the Sons of the American Revolution’s Patriotism Medal (2014); and a commendation from the Louisiana Legislature during its 2015 regular session. Earlier this year, Kaliste and Yvonne Saloom were named Franco-Fête 2017 Honorees for their support of CODOFIL and their efforts to preserve Louisiana’s Cajun-Creole French culture. This honor came at the end of a long career of civic engagement in Lafayette. Saloom held memberships in or was affiliated with Rotary International; the Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association and its Krewe of Gabriel; the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition; Lafayette Town House and its Krewe of Troubadours; and the Krewe of Attakapas (1968). He served as co-chair of the Lafayette Parish Bicentennial Commission in 1976, and was a charter member of Oakbourne Country Club.
For his devotion to Lafayette, Saloom received a host of awards, including: the Lafayette Civic Cup (1965); the Salvation Army’s Man of the Year Award (1966); Cedar’s Club Man of the Year Award (1968); and the American Legion’s Arthur Webb Jr. Memorial Award (1991). He reigned as the Krewe of Attakapas’ first King Lacassine in 1969, and as the Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association’s King Gabriel L in 1989.
Saloom is survived by his wife of 59 years, the former Yvonne Adelle Nassar; four children: Kaliste J. Saloom III; Lafayette City Court Judge Douglas J. Saloom, and his wife, the former Mary Margaret Bienvenu; Leanne Saloom Howell, and her husband, Evan Howell III; and Gregory J. Saloom (retired major, U.S. Army), and his wife, the former Shari Yount; eleven grandchildren: Bradley M. Saloom and his wife, the former Christina McMahan; Kaliste J. Saloom IV, and his wife, the former Bridget Ortte; Thomas R. Saloom, and his wife, the former Angelle Trahan, D.D.S.; Christopher S. Saloom; Leslie M. Saloom; Adam D. Saloom, and his wife, the former Megan Jenkins; Ethan J. Saloom; Alexandra M. Howell; John W. Howell; Katherine A. Saloom and Jordan A. Saloom; five great-grandchildren: Eli J. Saloom, Kaliste J. Saloom V, Emma K. Saloom, Taylor E. Saloom and Minette M. Saloom. He is also survived by one sister-in-law, Mrs. Richard G. Saloom, the former Ruth Black; two brothers-in-law, Emile A. Nassar and Dr. Maurice G. Nassar, and his wife, the former Marilyn Anderson; and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Kaliste J. Saloom, Sr. and Asma Boustany Saloom; three brothers, Joseph Saloom; Dr. Clarence Saloom (m. Pauline Womac, deceased) and Dr. Richard Saloom; four sisters, Alice M. Saloom; Mary Agnes Saloom Azar (m. Dr. Paul Azar Sr., deceased); Beatrice M. Saloom and Isabelle Saloom Haik (m. Dr. George M. Haik Sr., deceased); daughter-in-law, Leah Richardson Saloom (m. Kaliste III); his father- and mother-in-law, Lee G. Nassar and Isabelle Nejam Nassar; and a brother-in-law, George Lee Nassar.
The Saloom family would like to thank Judge Saloom’s caregivers, Rita Burney, Carolyn Walley and Jaquitha Jenkins, Dr. Maurice Nassar, Dr. George Nassar, Dr. George M. Haik, his godchild, Dr. Paul “Buddy” Azar, Dr. Harold Chastant Sr., Dr. Jude Bares, and his primary care physician, Dr. Michael Alexander and the staff of Lafayette General Medical Center. He was blessed with many friends, colleagues and acquaintances all of whom are deserving of mention especially his neighbors, Eddie and Ann Palmer, and Dr. David Elston; golfing buddy, Larry Donahue; his long-time city court staff, including Leora Fuselier, Fay Markham, Gloria Wheeler, Dot Ritchey and Belle Breaux; former city marshals Don Breaux and Earl J. “Nickey” Picard, and their deputies; and the krewe and board members of the Southwest Mardi Gras Association and the Krewe of Gabriel. The family would also extend a special thanks to Terry Huval, and Stuart Clark and Channel One Video for memorializing his life and words; and Dr. Ray P. Authement and Dr. E. Joseph Savoie, presidents of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for sharing with the community his extraordinary life as part of the University’s archives.
In addition, the family offers its thanks to the Acadiana Veterans and Fort Polk honor guards; the Knights of the Eucharistic Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; the Lafayette City Marshal’s Office; the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department; the Lafayette Police Department; the UL Lafayette Police Department; and the Lafayette Fire Department for their participation in the funeral proceedings.
View the obituary and guestbook online at www.mourning.com
Martin & Castille-DOWNTOWN-330 St. Landry St., Lafayette, LA 70506, 337-234-2311
Athletic Network footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
Please click here for the Athletic Network Profile of Judge Kaliste Saloom, Jr.
Judge Saloom phoned me in 2003 to informed me that he had heard something about a new website for athletics and he wanted to know if I was going to include former athletes. I informed him that we were including them and he offered his services. He was delighted to learn that support groups would also be included in the website and that we would attempt to capture information as far back as possible. He has served as the photographer and sports reporter for the L'Acadien and Vermilion while in school and was a virtual clearing house of information on the university and athletics. It would also be said for Lafayette and Acadiana. He was unbelievalbly knowledgeable when it came to history.
Click here for a photo of Judge and Mrs.Saloom (Yvonne) attending the Shipley Reunion in 2001.
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