Aldrich “Tudy” Dupree, the first black president of the Iberville Parish Police Jury in the modern era, died Sunday morning at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.
Dupree, 76, fell last Tuesday and broke his hip; he had been paralyzed for 12 years on the other side of his body after a series of strokes, family members said.
A former sheriff’s deputy, a employee of Ethyl Corp. for 10 years and owner of a cement contracting company, Dupree was first elected to the Iberville Parish Police Jury in fall 1987 and represented the Maringouin area for a total of 13 years.
He ascended to the presidency a little over a year after he was first elected.
Dupree was one of four African-Americans on the 12-member jury at the time, but his race apparently was not much of a factor in his winning the job on April 18, 1989.
“I intend to do what’s right,” Dupree told jurors that night. “I don’t intend to be a political figurehead because that’s what’s wrong with Iberville Parish.”
Dupree mixed easily with blacks and whites.
“Color wasn’t a thing,” said his daughter Sharlene Thomas. Helping people was his thing, she said.
She remembers going to a celebration soon after her father was named president. But a nearby community was flooding. “He didn’t want to be at the ceremony,” Thomas recalled. “He wanted to be out there stuffing sand bags.”
He served one term, lost to John Overton in 1992 and returned to the jury three years later when he beat Overton in a rematch. His peers on the Police Jury made him president once again.
It didn’t last. In 1997, Iberville Parish voters adopted a home rule charter and consequently a new form of government. Instead of being represented by police jurors — a part legislative, part administrative job — Iberville residents would be represented by 13 parish council members, a strictly legislative job. The administrative duties shifted to the new position of parish president.
Mitchell Ourso, son of the former sheriff of the parish, was elected parish president that year and has held the job ever since. Before deciding to run, he said, he approached Dupree, who was a possible contender and a former deputy for Ourso’s dad. Ourso said he would have not have run if Dupree had been planning to run.
Fellow councilman Leonard Jackson, who still serves on the council, said Dupree took the job seriously.
“He was a real, real quiet guy. He was always real business like,” Jackson recalled. “He was a guy who would work with anyone. He would help anyone he could.”
Thomas said her father didn’t like the shift from the police jury but continued to serve until he suffered a series of strokes around Thanksgiving 2002. Her father’s mind was still sharp, but Thomas said questions about her father’s health helped sink his re-election bid in fall 2003 when he lost to Matthew Jewell, who still holds the seat.
Although he loved politics, he tried to talk another daughter, Cherise D. Gougisha, out of running for the Maringouin town council, but he was proud when his daughter won. She said she enjoyed her years in elected office but said her father didn’t sugarcoat what she would face.
“It was tough just like he said,” Gougisha said. “Difficult people, difficult emotions. Not everyone was going to be satisfied.”
Services are tentatively set for Saturday at Greater Bethany Church, 238 Valverda Road, in Maringouin. Dupree is survived by his wife, Sadie Sims Dupree, three children, four sisters and one brother.