Carroll P. Bourgeois, who for 32 years was the face of Addis and who, as its longtime mayor, oversaw the west bank town’s transformation from a sleepy village to a growing Baton Rouge suburb, died Wednesday after a yearslong battle with cancer. He was 76.
Bourgeois was elected mayor in 1980, not long after moving from Lake Charles to Addis, which at the time had a population of just under 500. He spent much of his early- and late-career coming into his Town Hall office after his work shift at the Copolymer industrial plant.
Despite his busy schedule, his children say, he never missed attending their school events and sports games.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” said daughter Pamela Rhodes. “He was a tremendous man.”
She recalls times he would see himself in others, once picking up the bill for a family with several small children because he had been there himself, Rhodes said.
"He took care of people you don’t even know about," she said. "He just remembered where he came from."
By Bourgeois’ side throughout his tenure was Town Clerk Vera Lucas, who recalled the former mayor’s work ethic as evidence of his dedication to the community.
“He loved Addis,” she said, adding that Bourgeois often worked beyond the part-time obligations as mayor. “He helped build it up and get it started.”
Bourgeois’ path to becoming mayor was a difficult one. He lost his first two election bids, including a contested race that saw him win by a narrow two votes; however, the results of that election were thrown out, leading to another race, which he lost.
In 1980 though, he handily won the mayor’s race by attracting almost 80% of the vote.
During his tenure, he would come up with unique solutions to various issues.
Early in his mayorship, Bourgeois found ways to give residents inexpensive access to garbage disposal by offering large bags they could bring for disposal. Some residents have even continued to buy the bags even though West Baton Rouge has had parish-wide waste removal for some time.
A significant contribution he oversaw was the construction of a town sewer system, which many say paved the way for the town's growth.
By the time Bourgeois stepped down as mayor in 2012, the city had boomed to more than 4,000 residents and has continued to grow since.
West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley "Pee Wee" Berthelot called Bourgeois a dedicated civil servant who “brought the town a long way.” He was also a mentor and a friend, Berthelot said while remembering the seven years he served on Addis Town Council while Bourgeois was mayor.
Bourgeois was also a strong supporter of community activities and for years coached baseball, basketball and softball leagues.
“He was brilliant at bringing people together, and it was all in the best interest of Addis,” Berthelot said. “He was always thinking ‘what’s next,’ and he kept working.’’
The parish last year named a road after Bourgeois connecting West Baton Rouge to Iberville Parish near La. 1148 and Sid Richardson Road.
In 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer but managed to serve out his term. Last October, he cut back the aggressive treatment of the disease so he could spend more time with family and friends.
Bourgeois is survived by his wife of 57 years, Carolyn Bourgeois, three daughters, two sons and 12 grandchildren.
A Sunday visitation is set from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Wilbert Funeral Home in Plaquemine. On Monday, family will hold another visitation from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the funeral home followed by a procession that will travel down Carroll Bourgeois Road on its way to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Brusly where an 11 a.m. Mass will be celebrated.
Family members and parish leaders have asked those wanting to attend to bring flags to wave along Carroll Bourgeois Road as the procession passes.