Former Coach, Athlete, Voice of La.: Meet Louisiana's latest political legends - Blanco,Hardy,Gomez
Greg Hilburn, Monroe News Star, Jan. 10, 2019
Louisiana's latest crop of political legends will include the state's only "first gentlemen" and a "recovering legislator" with the 2019 class holding an Acadiana monopoly.
The 2019 Political Hall of Fame class includes: Raymond "Coach" Blanco, husband of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco; former legislator and radio and TV personality Ron Gomez; former Gov. Edwin Edwards' brother Marion Edwards; former Lt. Gov. Paul Hardy; and business titan Richard Zuschlag.
They will be inducted Feb. 23 during an event at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette and later this year will be celebrated again during a reception at the Louisiana Political Museum in Winnfield.
Raymond "Coach" Blanco: During a nearly five-decade tenure at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as a coach, dean of men, dean of students and vice president of student affairs, Blanco became an institution within the campus.
The Blanco era spanned the administrations of four university presidents before he became the First Gentleman of Louisiana.
Last month former Gov. Kathleen Blanco called "Coach" her "biggest cheerleader." He also advised many other political candidates.
Marion Edwards: The late Edwards oversaw fundraising and operations for the campaigns of his older brother Edwin, Louisiana's only four-term governor.
He was the mastermind of the largest single fundraiser in state political history with a six-day Paris trip raising $6.5 million to retire the 1983 gubernatorial campaign debt of his brother.
The Marion D. Edwards Fellowship in Hepatic Oncology was created at the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in his honor and he was closely associated with The Acadian Conservatory of Music.
Ron Gomez: Early in his broadcasting career Gomez covered the last term of Gov. Earl K. Long and during phone interviews Long would pause and say, "You getting that Ronnie?"
He later moved to Lafayette and eventually won a seat in the Legislature, in part to help secure funding to build the Cajundome. Gomez also helped secure funding needed to open the new University Medical Center in Lafayette, which was then part of the state's charity hospital system.
Gomez' memoir: "My Name is Ron and I'm a Recovering Legislator."
He was also the "voice of the Rajun' Cajuns" for 20 years.
Paul Hardy: Hardy was a young political phenom when he was elected as an Acadiana state senator in 1971.
Hardy, who is fluent in French, was later elected secretary of state and invited to represent the United States in an international government seminar in Quebec, Canada in 1976.
He ran for governor in 1979 and just missed the runoff but was elected lieutenant governor in 1987.
Hardy is currently president and managing partner of St. Agnes Healthcare in Breaux Bridge.
Richard Zuschlag will be inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame next month. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)
Richard Zuschlag: Zuschlag is chairman and chief executive officer of Acadian Companies, which he founded in 1971.
He has served as chairman of the Lafayette Parish Communication District, a member of the New Orleans Business Council, Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Hospital Association, Acadiana Safety Association, Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, 232-HELP, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association, Council for a Better Louisiana and the University of Louisiana Lafayette Foundation board of trustees.
He was also the recipient of the 2016 Jewell P. Lowe Humanitarian Award presented by 232-HELP in Lafayette, Louisiana and the Community Foundation of Acadiana's 2016 Leaders in Philanthropy Corporate Award.
Tickets for the event are $125 and can be bought by calling 318-628-5928.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1