"Blackjack" Living Memorial
I came to U.S.L. in the spring of 1965 from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. That Summer I had to stay at summer school to get enough credits to be eligible in the Fall. So for the first time in my life, I was away from home for an extended period and there we were living on the 7th floor. There were only about 10 of us and Bill and I found ourselves next door neighbors. We began by making bets on the Green Bay Packers vs. those hated Dallas Cowboys. We would make $5.00 bets that neither of us could afford and I'm pretty sure neither of us ever paid off, except in beer at "The Library". That summer was the first time Bill invited me to his family's home in New Iberia for BB-Q, swimming and my first Mint Julip. In the fall of 1967 Bill and I roomed together for about one year in a two bedroom apartment at the end of what was then Jefferson Street. We had a window that opened up onto a roof and we would sit and watch the traffic on Jefferson Street. Over the years Bill would always let me sneak in to the training facilities to work out. When my career took me away from Louisiana, one of the last people I talked to was BJ. He said to come back some day and look him up. I never got that chance, but through some friends I heard that he was sick so I called Coach Sibille's home just to say hello and to let him know that I always remembered our friendship. I asked him how he was doing and his response was typical BJ. He said he was fine except for this cancer. He passed away the next week and I am so glad that I got that chance to at least say goodbye to a friend I will always remember.
Patrick Schrader (Profile Posted)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I was a year younger than my first cousin, Bill, and remember fondly many visits to his family's home in Olivier just outside of New Iberia. He had many parties at that house and, as his cousin, I was always invited. It was a great opportunity for me to scope out the Catholic High boys and hopefully end up with a date or two with one of them after these parties.
My sister, Emma, who lives in Atlanta and I (who lived in Houston at the time) came in for Bill's funeral. While it was a sad day for our family, I will always remember the pride I felt for Bill when the entire football team arrived in travel clothing and sat together in church. But the most lasting memory for me was the playing of the USL Fight Song as Bill's casket was carried out of the church. My sister and I both stood and proudly sang every word.
Click here to email Marjorie Landry
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I am very pleased to know that something is being done to honor BlackJack. If I had a best friend in this world it was Bill Landry.
We met when I came to Lafayette as part of the Texas League Lafayette Drillers.We became very close through the years.
We shared many good times and his friendship with me was at times very trying for him and I managed to ruffle the feathers of some.
One of our annual traditions for Bill, myself, my two sons, Eric and Tommy was an annual trek to Beaumont to pull for the Ragin' Cajuns in baseball against the hated Lamar Cardinals. We always managed to raise the ire of Cardinal fans with our support of the Cajuns.
Blackjack was my oldest son, Eric's choice to be his Godfather when he decided to become Catholic.
I chose to become Catholic after Bill's death and one of the deciding factors was the fact that he was the best Catholic I ever knew. BJ attended mass everyday of his life. He always invited me to go with him and I never did....that is one of my regrets.
I honor BJ everyday since I have become Catholic because I know in my heart that I brought a smile to his face even if he was not among the living the day I became Catholic.
The day that Gerald Broussard called me while I was living in Montana and told me that BJ was terminally ill was one of the blackest days in my life.
The thought of losing such a true friend was shattering. I wondered how in the world The USL Athletic Department was going to survive without BJ. I have not been real vocal about this but I truly believe that the football stadium should carry Blackjack's name.
What Bill Landry meant to the athletes at The University of Louisiana can never be properly stated and naming the Football Stadium after Bill Landry would be a great gesture for the University.
After all this time I still find it hard to realize that I cannot walk in the the Athletic Complex and be greeted by BJ. He was and always will be one of the very special people that I have known.
4916 Clairemont Dr
San Diego, CA 92117
Click here to email Reggie Berizko-White
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"The Passing of a Gentle Man" by Don Allen, Times of Acadiana, August 27, 1998.
There were four of them and probably none over the age of 16. There wasn't much to do in New Iberia back in the '60s, especially for underage kids with no money. But rebellion will find a way. So one day behind a couple of houses and away from the prying eyes of adults, Billy and his friends opted for the thrill of smoking for the first time.
They had no money for cigarettes, but who needed money? In a field behind those houses were weeds topped by an okra-like pod that, when dried, could be smoked. Billy swore that he never lit up, but his pals spread the word anyway.
And from that day forth, few people ever called him Billy again. They instead referred to him after that funky, cigarette-substitute found in open fields and known to locals as blackjack.
William Hathorn “Blackjack" Landry just sort of came along with the package when Raymond Blanco left Catholic High in New Iberia to become an assistant football coach with USL. Blackjack became equipment manager for the football team in the spring of '63 and moved in with another assistant, Irwin Sibille, a couple of years later. Never mind that Irwin and Jeanette already had three children, now they had another.
The next three decades saw Blanco rise to vice president of student affairs at USL while Sibille was named commissioner of athletics for the state. Five different men held the head coaching job at USL, while a handful of athletic directors and a bevy of football assistants came and went. Only Blackjack remained constant, doling out equipment on a yearly basis to the thousands of athletes that passed through USL's portals. Over time, his passions became legend - the Yankees, Cowboys, Celtics and, above all, Ragin' Cajuns.
Gerald Broussard, USL's receiver coach, remembers first meeting the equipment manager when Broussard was a 12-year-old ballboy. Blackjack (now BJ or Beej to his friend) loved kids. There was an innocence about Blackjack that kids could relate to. But while BJ was sharp as a tack and possessed a marvelous memory, Sibille compares his emotional level to that of a 10 or 12 year old. And it was a motor-retardation from an early age that was responsible for BJ's slowness of speech, sort of like John Wayne at half-speed.
But people or players meeting Blackjack for the first time who confused the slow drawl for a lack of intelligence were soon set straight.
“He never held anything back" says Broussard. “He was so genuine in all his thoughts and actions and so non-judgmental towards everybody else, but, hey, make him mad and you'd get his opinion in a heartbeat. He'd make sure you knew what he thought."
BJ had, as Broussard put it, an offensive-lineman's mentality. At that position, you learn to exist in the background, without accolades. An equipment manager, mired deep within the bowels of an athletic complex, might easily identify with their lot in life. So it's no surprise that the grunts occasionally ended up at BJ's house in New Iberia for a day of barbecue, tennis and swimming.
“He made the freshmen feel like human beings," says Sibille. “They'd come in here all alone and scared to death and here's Bill with their equipment waiting for them because he already knew everybody's number. He let them know there was somebody on their side."
“He treated you for who you were, not what you were," remembers Broussard.
On July 4, Blackjack, who was 55, complained to Sibille of stomach pains. Sibille knew that Landry had a high threshold for pain - BJ had once fallen out of the back of the equipment truck while delivering laundry and was more worried about making sure the uniforms were washed than having his concussion treated. So for BJ to complain meant something was wrong.
The cancer was inoperable. There would be no extended stay in the hospital; instead BJ went home with Irwin and Jeanette. Nearly 70 well-wishers and friends stopped by every day to visit BJ, so many that no one even bothered answering the doorbell anymore. There was just a sign that read “If you're here for Bill, just come on in."
By Sunday, Aug. 16, BJ was in a virtual coma. Greetings were uttered only by visitors, and conversation was nonexistent. Yet when Broussard slipped a tape of USL's practice that day into the VCR and the whistles on the field started blowing, Blackjack sat up.
“I've gotta go to work, coach, I've gotta go to work."
That night, on the 50th anniversary of Babe Ruth's death, another sports icon passed away. William Hathorn “Blackjack" Landry didn't hit home runs or score touchdowns or slam dunks. Instead, he distributed both helmets and love in equal parts, delivered with a natural innocence and honesty seldom found these days.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When one speaks of legends, most people think of people who have made a profound impact on the lives of others and whose memory is kept alive by the
stories told about them. There is no more fitting Ragin Cajun legend than Bill "Blackjack" Landry. Several generations of athletes came to know BJ for his unconditional love for all things involving our university. His loyalty, work ethic and staunch support made him a beloved fixture at UL sporting events. He was "godfather" to numerous children of Ragin Cajun athletes, which shows the love and respect he earned from those he came in contact with.
Bill loved a few flamboyant people, he was a great fan of Joe "Willie" Namath and the Jets. He loved the NY Yankees, especially when Ron "Louisiana Lightning" Guidry became a pitcher for them. He disliked anyone and anything that competed with HIS university or sought to speak badly about it. Although time and era's separate athletes, BJ was the one constant for Ragin Cajun athletics. No matter the sport, won/loss record, coaching changes, when former coaches and players came together inevitably stories about BJ united them as if they had played or coached together.
When we lost BJ physically, even his passing was accomplished with the sort of toughness and dignity he had shown for his entire tenure as a fixture at
UL Lafayette. BJ never complained about any hardship he had faced in life, but rather strived to be the best in what he did. As such BJ continued to be in death, what he was in life, an inspiration to all the lives he
touched. We all miss him, but will never forget him.
Jim Doyle, Member, Football Team, 1967-70, Profile in Athletic Network
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Courtney Landry Saucier
Writing About Bill" by Courtney Landry Saucier
My brother, Bill “Blackjack" Landry passed away on August 16,1998. He was 55. Bill was one of the most remarkable people ever to have graced humanity and he lived his life in the manner of saints I've read about. I will always be sad that Bill is no longer with us and miss him terribly, but I know that God's hand reached down and blessed Bill with a heroic mission while he was here on earth.
On July 31,1943, my mother delivered Bill breech and he lost oxygen for 20 minutes. This was before the age of heart monitors and emergency “C" sections. Because of the loss of oxygen there resulted some impairment with his motor skills. His speech was a little slurred which might make you think that he wasn't very intelligent. Talking with him for a few minutes would prove that theory to be incorrect. Bill had a wonderful sense of humor and he was very witty!
Bill was my son, Ryan's, godfather. Not married and without children of his own, he was the epitome of a perfect godfather. In all, he had 14 godchildren that he treated like royalty. Not only did he shower them with thoughtful and generous gifts for every occasion, most importantly he gave them a priceless gift - the gift of his presence and his time. He really took his responsibility seriously and he was there for them spiritually. Bill attended mass every day, no doubt praying for his godchildren, parents, siblings and his multitude of friends.
Bill was diagnosed with colon-liver cancer on July 4,1998. He was not a complainer and even when the pain was intolerable he said that he was all right. Since there was nothing that the doctors could do for him he went home to Jeanette and Irwin Sibille. That was fine with Bill. The only thing that he wanted was to get better so that he could go back to work as USL's equipment manager. He was a man who couldn't wait to go to work in the morning. Not because he was anxious to make huge sums of money or to become famous or powerful. He just loved USL and the work that was such an important part of his life for the past 36 years!
Jeanette and Irwin asked Bill to move in with them while Bill was living at the stadium. Bill was like a member of their family for 30 years and the Sibille's quickly became family to all of the Landry's. Jeanette and Irwin are the most wonderful people that you'd ever want to meet. They opened their home to many people over the years and have had several of them die in the peace and love of the Sibille home.
Things happened fast for Bill and in a matter of 2 weeks his health and appearance deteriorated tremendously. He was all of a sudden very weak and thin. But he never gave up and felt sorry for himself. He chose life in every moment and gave it all he had. Throughout his life Bill gave so much of himself and when he found himself in this dire situation people wanted to be with him and give something back to their beloved BJ. They came in droves to the Sibille home to visit him.
My whole family was still in shock from the initial news when Bill passed away. It was only five and a half short weeks, yet that time was such a gift to us and to Bill. We had the chance to be with him and try and show him how much he meant to us. He had the opportunity to see an enormous outpouring of love from his family, friends and the community.
Before his passing, articles were printed in local newspapers expressing the impact that Bill made while he was here. The day before Bill passed on, he was honored with a mass and reception at USL. It was like a living funeral. Bill was there, his physical body totally at the end of its limits; his spirit strong. At the reception he was informally inducted into the “S" Club- Hall of Fame. He was unanimously selected as the first non-athlete to join the ranks of this prestigious club. The city proclaimed that day, Saturday August 15, “Bill Blackjack Landry Day".
I normally wouldn't say that a funeral was beautiful, but Bill's funeral was because it was a celebration of his life. There were 8 priests on the altar. The entire USL football team came dressed out and were honorary pallbearers.
Fr. Steve LeBlanc, who knew Bill well when he was the chaplain at USL, was the celebrant. The eulogy that Fr. Steve gave captures the essence of Bill's spirit. I'd like to share some of it with you. Father Steve said that he “truly believes that God puts people in our world that express what life is all about. Bill made the scriptures come alive. St. Paul stated that God chooses the weak to confound the strong. Bill was inserted into a world of the physically powerful- a man who had some physical impairment. And in the world in which he was inserted came egos of all shapes and sizes - most of them extra large. And he with his presence would just look and say, ‘Get over yourself. How can you live in such a false self, a self that is so superficial, a self that is below our dignity, a self that is always needing to know how well am I doing, how well am I performing, how much am I getting.' Bill's presence changed the question to ‘HOW AM I LOVING?' And he would wash and wash and wash again, folding, bagging and dispensing each player's equipment with the same care for all. By his actions he said THIS IS HOW TO LIVE LIFE AND TRULY BE A SUCCESSFUL PERSON!"
Fr. Steve referred to the scripture from the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. The earth was BJ's. He was a free man. He had nothing, yet he had everything." He didn't have what the world thought was important. He didn't own a home or a car. He didn't have a wife or kids of his own. Bill was totally free because he had no attachments. Most of us are enslaved by the objects of our “success", our material possessions. We think we can't be happy without them. Bill lived his life as a totally free and happy man.
Fr. Steve concluded with this poem:
“Is there a leaf upon the tree
The Father doesn't see?
Leaves fall, so do we all
Return to earth, to soil
Sparrows and kings,
And all manner of things
Fall, fall into the hands
Of the living God.
Blackjack, the journey is over.
That long, hard journey.
Blackjack, you are relieved. We are relieved
Blackjack, it is finished.
Blackjack, by the grace of God,
It is just beginning!"
At the first USL home football game on September 12,1998, my brother Bill was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame. There was a ceremony at half time where the award was presented to my parents.
The anguish over losing a child is almost unbearable so this was a bittersweet event for them. We are all so proud of Bill. In his gentle, humble way he has changed the lives of thousands of people. Bill was described as the heart and soul of the USL athletic department.
As I think about Bill and his life I know that in his 55 years that he did what God put him here to do. In his Christ-like way he touched lives every day that he was alive. He taught us how to live by his example. How many of us are going in the wrong direction in our lives, placing too much importance on things that don't really matter? Bill has taught us that life is precious and that the regrets we will have at the end of our lives will be few if we put people ahead of things as Bill did.
Bill's character is rare in our world today. His goodness and love for everyone was truly unconditional. Bill lived every day in total acceptance of God's will until he took his last breath of life on earth. He has modeled what it really means to be a winner. It's not the definition that the world would give, but if we lived as Bill did, everyone would win and the world would be a better place.
Click here to email Courtney or phone her at (985) 764 - 7095
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Frances Landry
What I remember about Bill or "Blackjack" as we all knew him was his generosity. He never asked for anything and always gave all that he had. I am his sister and every time I had a birthday, Blackjack would always send me a card with a $20 bill in it. He not only did this for me, but for every one who was dear to him. We were very close when we were children. I followed him everywhere he went. We did everything together...movies, parties, and all kinds of just plain and simple things.
I heard an interesting story about him.Something he said a few weeks before he died. He said that he wanted to be buried at the 50 yard line of UL's football field . He said that when UL would play LSU, sometime at the end of the game UL would get ahead and kick off to LSU and the runner would trip at the 50 yard line with no time left. What they would say was: "Wow! Blackjack did it again!"
Mary Frances Landry
930 East Tom Stokes Ct.
Baton Rouge, La. 70810
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lance Harwell's profile is posted in the Athletic Network.
Submitted to the Athletic Network on August 28, 2006 I just stumbled across this old letter I wrote to BJ in 1988. It is interesting only because it records a few memories that a lot of athletes shared. I love him and still miss him.
August 15, 1998 Bill "BlackJack" Landry
USL Athletic Department
201 Reinhardt Drive
Lafayette, LA 70506-4297
I recently received a letter from the University informing of your retirement and the celebration in your honor. Few in the history of USL's athletic department have deserved such an honor and I am happy to learn that you have received it. Unfortunately, business has taken me away from the state and I will be unable to attend. I hope that you will accept this letter as a poor substitute for my appearance.
Considering all of the boys you watched grow into men before your eyes at USL, my name will undoubtedly spark no memory. I suppose that makes me uniquely qualified to tell you how profoundly you have affected the thousands who have known you through the years. What I mean to say is that although you single-mindedly tended to your own affairs as equipment manager, you marked many men with your quiet example. Many men now walking this planet are what they are, in part, because of you.
Let me be specific: Through your example, I have learned the value of duty and loyalty. Day after day, week after week, you gave of yourself in relatively obscure but indispensable service to the program. Many men are dedicated where glory or money is involved, but your sense of duty came from somewhere else - somewhere closer to the heart. It was a source of wonder and amazement to me as a young man. It is a source of inspiration to me now. In fact, the volunteer work I do in the community now began in the inspiration I found in your unwavering sense of duty. I also learned something about class and dignity from you. In my four years under Coach Sam Robertson, our program saw many dark days. Throughout that time, you were never anything other an a complete gentleman and a fine ambassador for the University. No matter how difficult things became, you never lowered your head. I recall no time during those years when you were anything other than a class act. Not many, including myself, can say that about themselves - but you can!
You have made a strong impression on my life and I am proud to be able to say that I know you. As I said before, I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't remember me, but some of my tenderest memories of USL football involve you. In particular, I remember lounging in the equipment room and swapping stories about old USL warriors or the Boston Celtics. I remember your unique lope onto the field to retrieve the kicking tee. I have a vivid memory of you standing on the sidelines, in the rain, towel wrapped around the football to keep it dry. I also remember the way you showed the bitterness of each loss and the joy of each win. In fact, I think you jumped the highest when we played well, and you took it hardest when we did not. I know that I loved the four teams I was a member of while at USL. What an experience it must have been for you to belong to 36 different teams. Your life must be truly rich for that. In that way, I envy you.
You know BJ, I also remember how difficult it was to negotiate a new jockstrap from you. My career has given me opportunities to work against many hardened, highly-trained and experienced attorneys. Still, I believe my toughest opponent may have been you! I played in many worn-out jockstraps because I was unsuccessful in convincing you that I needed another one. I was not alone in that, either. Many of us rose to the challenge of trying to get a new jock, only to go down in flames before the jockstrap judge, jury & executioner. Most of us laughed about that then and still laugh about it today.
One more thing. We all noticed the love you had for USL and the USL football program. I don't know if anyone has ever mentioned this before, but I noticed the love you had for each of us as well. I'm certain that many feel the same as I, but I can only speak for myself: I love you right back.
You're a good man, BJ. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to say these things to you in person, but I felt that I should say them anyway. I hope things are well with you.
Lance * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
January 7, 2008
We all have a Blackjack story.
My story occurred on a cold, wet and dreary practice in 1996 during offensive team sessions against the scout team. We were preparing for some opponent and Bill “Blackjack” Landry stood vigil over the practice ball. He was taking it from the receiver or running back after every play, wiping it down, rolling it in his dry towel and then tucking it into his rain coat. Then he would hand the ball over to our center, Ben Archer, as carefully as he could so we would have a ball that Jake Delhomme could throw and hand off. He did this for nearly an hour.
I was wishing I was anywhere else that was warm and dry. Yet there was BJ, a 34 year veteran equipment manager and legend in the field house doing all he could in the worst conditions so we would have a good ball to throw. At that moment, I knew that Bill was Ragin Cajun football. He could have easily said “not today guys” in his wonderful drawl and no one would have faulted him. He didn’t do that. He never did that. He was always out there with us, a silent and humble piece of a larger puzzle and all he wanted for us was the best. And he gave his best for us.
If you donned the Vermilion and White anytime between 1963 and 1998, your life was somehow touched by the man we all called Blackjack. This year, the Gridiron Alumni Club is proud to honor his memory by naming our spring fundraiser the Bill “Blackjack” Landry Memorial Golf Scramble.
Submitted by Marty Cannon, Football 1994-97, Profile Posted in the Athletic Network.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Blackjack Brochure Quotes: December, 2011When I think of my days at USL, BJ Landry constantly pops in my mind. He was the most loyal and dedicated person I ever met. He always was upbeat and positive which made my days go smoothly.
'Nothing is Impossible'
"BJ was not only a friend, but the epitome of a Ragin' Cajun, his loyalty and commitment made him an inspiration to all that wore the Cajun uniform."
"When I think of Bill "Blackjack" Landry, I think he set the example of passion and dedication of what it means to be a Ragin' Cajun!"
The character of a university is often determined by its buildings and programs.
But the soul of a university is its people. Those who demonstrate uncompromising loyalty and love through good times and bad create the essential spirit of the place. In this regard, Bill “Blackjack” Landry is an icon for the ages.
Dr. E. Joseph Savoie
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Blackjack was a godfather to the players and their children in the truest sense of the phrase-he was our/their spiritual mentor. I feel his presensce at Cajun Field. Bill's life serves as a model for all of us.
I knew Bill “Blackjack” Landry as a manager to a new USL football player, as a member of athletics to a fan, and as a co-employee of the Athletics Department. Bill taught one the love of the University, faithfulness to one’s enterprise, and dedication to a common purpose. We are fortunate to have experienced Bill’s loyalty, involvement and commitment to Ragin’ Cajun Athletics.
Nelson SchexnayderUL Athletic Director 1994 – 2005
Blackjack,"You know what I mean" A common response when he told our players they might want to return an article of athletic clothing that was not in their laundry bag. This quote came with BJ's contagious laugh and the Coach's backing with stadium steps for not returning said articles.
I worked with Bill “Blackjack” Landry for 39 years. Bill put In thousands of hours before and after practices and games. He never complained a minute and willingly worked until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning on endless occasions to have everything ready for the next day. He never whimpered about the long hours or the intensity of the work whether times were good or bad. He was an extraordinary man, dedicated to the University of Louisiana, his coaches and his players. I miss him.
Raymond S. Blanco
The world was a better place with Black Jack in it.
"What I remember about Blackjack is fierce loyalty, an incredible work ethic and inspiring determination."
* * * * * * * * * *
March 1, 2012
I never donned a uniform for the University of Louisiana. I have been in the stands for a lot of events since my parents brought us to Lafayette in 1974.
My fondest memories in those years was an opportunity to become friends with my T-ball assistant coach, Bill "Blackjack" Landry. He was my dad's best friend over the years and when I decided to become Catholic 16 years ago I asked Blackjack to stand as my Godfather.
Sadly it was not long afterwards that Blackjack fell ill and passed away. It is hard to go to an event knowing I want to see Blackjack.
The mural at the Cajun Field on the home side that depicts Blackjack is a regular visiting place for me. I thought from a young age that you went down Eraste Landry to get to Blackham from Johnston and Congress because that was the routine because we always picked up Blackjack on the way to the game.
A trip to Beaumont was always more fun with Blackjack and I even enjoyed my trips to McNeese because of Blackjack.
Blackjack gave me two great gifts in my lifetime: he helped form me spiritually and he gave me a love for the Ragin' Cajuns that is living on in my son.
I know that Blackjack is with me at the ballgames.
Eric White, Acadiana Radio Personality and ballboy for University of Louisiana Basketball, 1979-1980
* * * * * * * * * *
March 9, 2012
"Blackjack" Landry was the 12th man on our team. He cheerfully endured long, long hours to make sure that our athletes had everything they needed to win. He was the ultimate competitor, the ultimate professional, and above all, the ultimate human being. God blessed us by allowing us the opportunity of being under the influence of one of God's chosen people. God Bless "Blackjack" and God Bless the Ragin' Cajuns.
Augie Tammariello, Head Football Coach 1974-1979
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Send this Page to a Friend!