When Buddy Roemer ran for governor in 1987, he declared in a powerful TV ad that he loved the state so much that he was willing “to make some people angry.”
Roemer rocketed from last to win that race but, having made a lot of people mad, lost his re-election in 1991 and lost another governor’s race four years later.
Along the way, however, he won enough friends and admirers that a line of them waiting to pay their respects stretched continuously for 90 minutes Tuesday out of the worship center at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge to the church’s main lobby.
“It’s like a family reunion,” said Mary Durusau, executive director of the Old State Capitol, as she surveyed all of the others standing in line.
One day before the primary election in the 1995 governor’s race, I handed Buddy Roemer a cell phone on a whim and asked if he would speak to m…
Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III died on May 17 of complications from diabetes. He was 77 and was best known for having served as governor from 1988-92 and as a congressman from 1981-88.
His wood casket stood at the front of the church. A State Trooper with a bowed head stood alongside.
The burial service will take place in Shreveport on Thursday.
Gray-haired veterans of Roemer’s administration came to Tuesday’s visitation and funeral in Baton Rouge, as did current and former elected officials and others who had gotten to know Roemer during his long political and business career. Gov. John Bel Edwards was there, and so was former Gov. Bobby Jindal, former House Speaker and Senate President John Alario and former U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
There were lots of smiles, and laughter, as old friends recalled their favorite stories about Roemer.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who got his start in politics as a legal counsel to the governor, remembered how Roemer needed the vote of a single senator to achieve a major goal, passage of legislation to unify the various university oversight boards into a single entity.
Charles Elson "Buddy" Roemer III died on Monday in Baton Rouge. A businessman from northwest Louisiana, Roemer served four terms in Congress b…
Kennedy said he met with the senator, who offered to trade his vote in return for an infrastructure project in his district that state transportation officials did not want.
Roemer told Kennedy that he couldn’t support it.
“I said just lie to the senator,” Kennedy told Roemer. “They do it to us all the time. The ends justify the means.”
Roemer still said no and never won approval for the single higher education board.
Leon Tarver II remembered how Roemer and his family in Bossier Parish shocked the political establishment by supporting him, a Black man, against Joe Waggonner, a White incumbent running for re-election to Congress in 1968.
Tarver lost the race but became part of Roemer’s extended political family and served as his secretary of Revenue.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon recalled how Roemer managed his 1998 U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. John Breaux.
“Every morning we’d talk, and at some point, he’d always say, ‘You da man, Donelon!”
Buddy Roemer, who rode a message of reform in the 1987 governor’s race to vault over three challengers and “slay the dragon” — scandal-torn th…
Dennis Stine, who served as commissioner of administration under Roemer, his top appointed position, said he expected as a matter of course that a governor at some point would ask him to do something questionable.
“But never once did I receive a request to do anything morally or ethically wrong,” Stine said. “I was honored to serve him. He was a man of great virtue, honesty and integrity.”
Sharon Weston Broome, the mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, said she often ran into Roemer at Barnes & Noble, where he liked to hang out.
“We’d always have a conversation,” she said.
Caroline Roemer, Roemer’s oldest child, referred to his love of books in her eulogy during the nearly two-hour funeral service.
“He would always say a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” she said. “My dad has lived a million lives from the reading he’s done and the traveling he’s done.”
Caroline Roemer paid tribute to her father’s third wife, Scarlett, and his two previous wives, Patti and Cookie, her mother.
“My dad made mistakes,” Caroline said. “But he picked out three incredible women to be his wives, at different times.” The crowd laughed.
Gov. Edwin Edwards was so detested when he ran for re-election in 1987, because of scandal and a tanking economy, that the favored candidate t…
Caroline noted that Cookie and Patti helped Roemer in his campaigns after the divorces and celebrated his birthdays in later years.
“They loved him very much. He was too hard sometimes to be married to, but it speaks volumes about who he was,” Caroline said.
"I'm proud to be his son," said his oldest son, Chas, during his eulogy.
Jay Dardenne, who is Edwards’ commissioner of administration, remembered the excitement of the 1987 race when he attended a Roemer fundraiser at the Country Club of Louisiana late in the campaign.
“There was a fever pitch for Buddy,” Dardenne said, adding, “It was incredibly impressive. He was willing to speak truth to power.”
Randy Roach, a former mayor of Lake Charles who was a state representative during Roemer’s years as governor, said he still remembers Roemer’s fervor.
“He was very passionate about what he believed,” Roach said. “Buddy Roemer was all about making Louisiana a better place for her people.”
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, whose father chaired the Republican Party when Roemer became a Republican in 1991, said he found Roemer inspiring even he didn’t always get along with his dad.
Jindal was inspired as a Baton Rouge High School student to serve the state some in some way by Roemer’s memorable 1987 campaign.
“He showed we could have honest government,” Jindal said. “He also dared Louisiana to dream big, and he would always challenge you to do more.”