DENHAM SPRINGS — James “Jim” DeLaune, who served as an alderman and later as the city’s mayor for 12 years and was a teacher and principal in the Livingston Parish School System, died at age 83, Thursday.
Services for DeLaune are scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs with interment to follow in Evergreen Memorial Park. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m.
DeLaune graduated from Denham Springs High School in 1950 and after graduation he enlisted in the Marine Corps and saw active duty in the Korean War. Returning from his military service, he entered Southeastern Louisiana University where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He later earned a master's degree plus 30 in instruction and administration from LSU.
DeLaune taught history and coached basketball at Live Oak High School and then taught at Denham Springs Elementary School and succeeded his father-in-law, Rex Wilkinson, as principal. He served in that capacity until his retirement.
DeLaune was elected mayor of Denham Springs in 1990 and served 12 years. He earlier had served on the city’s board of aldermen. During his term as mayor the Train Station Depot was built. Another accomplishment of his administration was the rerouting of traffic flow on Ranger Avenue that helped to alleviate traffic congestion. He also oversaw the revitalization of the Historic Downtown District and the enhancement of the Antique Village.
DeLaune was mayor during the construction of the Miller Diversion Canal drainage project and he also played a role in the campaign to secure development of the Comite Diversion Canal.
Under DeLaune’s leadership, other city improvements from drainage work to a new water tower on Pete’s Highway were completed. DeLaune was also instrumental in improvements to the city’s police department and he was once quoted as saying that the Denham Springs Police Department was, “the best equipped police department found anywhere.” He also worked toward improving the city’s fire department and during his administration the department’s rating went from a five to a three helping to reduce insurance rates.
Under DeLaune’s administration many of the city’s streets were repaved. He also promoted beautification ordinances, enhanced recreation facilities, and helped found the Denham Springs Main Street Program.
Current Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said he that he came to know DeLaune through a church affiliation and through his work as mayor. “He was a fine man who brought a great deal of experience to the mayor’s office. He made it a habit to always keep a close watch on what was going on in the city so that he knew where problems might exist and how he would address them. His wife, Jimmie Lee, once advised me to do what her husband had done…ride around the city every morning and keep an eye on what was happening in the city. That was good advice. He was obviously a good mayor and some good things were done during his time in office,” Landry said.
Bobbie Sceroler, a resident of Denham Springs and a member of the city’s Pilot Club said of DeLaune’s years as a school principal, “All three of my sons attended Denham Springs Elementary when Mr. ‘D,’ as we called him, was principal. He was so good with all the kids and it was obvious when talking with him that he loved his job. He was always on the school grounds at recess talking with the students. My sons Donnie, Michael and Lance loved and respected him. As a parent, I appreciated his leadership, guidance and the fact that he was a such a positive role model for all the students. He will be missed.”
He is survived by his wife, Jimmy Lee Wilkinson DeLaune, four children, James DeLaune Jr., Lee Ellen DeLaune Howard, Dr. Rex DeLaune and Mary Elizabeth “Libby” DeLaune Shackelford, one brother, Howard DeLaune, ten grandchildren, and twenty-one great-grandchildren.
Those planning to attend his services are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs.
Editor's Note: This story was updated on July 25 to add information.