Former veteran Baton Rouge state Rep. Donald Ray Kennard died early Friday morning.
Kennard, 73, had been in an intensive care unit since he had a brain aneurysm rupture last weekend.
Kennard served eight terms in the Louisiana House. He could not seek re-election in 2007 because of term limits. He was first elected in 1975.
Kennard was a member of the LSU Athletic Department from 1963 to 2001 and served as an academic adviser for student athletes for more than two decades. He was also a longtime member of the LSU Football radio broadcast team.
“He was like a brother as much as a friend,” said state Rep. Clif Richardson, R-Central, who succeeded Kennard’s late father as justice of the peace, then was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives when Kennard stepped down.
Kennard, like his parents, was “salt of the earth people who had a giving heart,” Richardson said.
Richardson recalled joining Kennard and several other people at Kennard’s mother’s house on an almost daily basis, where all the issues of the day were discussed.
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, who served two terms with Kennard, recalled how the veteran lawmaker “took me under his arm and helped me learn how to be a good state representative.”
“Donald Ray really cared about his community and his constituents and he worked harder than anyone I can think of to make his district a better place,” said Tucker.
The Baton Rouge native began his long tenure as a “sports spotter” while working on a master’s degree in education in the mid-1960s. He kept the job through the 2008 season. A “spotter” helps identify players involved in the action for broadcasters.
“Donald Ray was a dear friend in addition to a very valuable part of the radio broadcast team,” radio announcer Jim Hawthorne said in an LSU news release. “He always took a lot of pride in his part of our broadcast and did an excellent job.”
Kennard also coached the freshman basketball team from 1958-60. According to LSU Sports information, a 22-year-old Kennard coached the varsity against Alabama when then head coach Jay McCreary was hospitalized with kidney stones.
“Donald Ray never met a stranger,” said Bud Johnson, a former LSU Sports Information staffer. “He was a natural for political campaigns.”
Johnson recalled praising Kennard for polling nearly 70 percent in his district. “He said ‘I’ve got to work on that other 30 percent.’ ”
Kennard was a lifelong resident of the Louisiana House district he represented and advocated for a Central school district. Kennard switched from Democrat to Republican in 1995. He is a former vice chairman of the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee.
Kennard was a former chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council and past president of the American Professional Guidance Association and member of the National Association of Academic Advisors.
Kennard was a graduate of Central High School where he earned 13 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He attended Southeastern Louisiana University on a basketball scholarship.
After getting his master’s at LSU, he taught for two years at the University of New Orleans then joined LSU’s athletic department in 1963.
Kennard is survived by his wife, Ramona “Mona” Norris, two children, Robin Lisa Kennard and Stacy Rae Kennard Doucet, and four grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.