Nat LaCour, union leader and former teacher, dies at age 82

Candle in Dark Room. (Gray News)
Candle in Dark Room. (Gray News)((Source: Gray News))
Updated: Oct. 11, 2020 at 5:59 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Nat LaCour, former president of United Teachers of New Orleans, passed away on Saturday, Oct. 10 at the age of 82.

LaCour served as the president of the United Teachers of New Orleans before he later moved on to work as the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and the union’s secretary-treasurer.

While leading the United Teachers of New Orleans, the union grew to become one of the largest in the South.

According to LaCour, the UTNO was one of the first institutions in New Orleans to be formed through a merger of a majority-black group with a majority-white group in 1972.

#ThrowbackThursday The UTNO merger team, 1972. UTNO was formed through a merger between the majority-Black AFT local...

Posted by United Teachers of New Orleans on Thursday, September 17, 2020

According to the American Federation of Labor website, LaCour began his career as a high school biology teacher in New Orleans on Jan. 3, 1961 before signing up with the AFT.

“LaCour knew the AFT had supported integrated schools when many others in Louisiana were silent and he was determined to join,” the website stated.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, released the following statement:

"Today we lost a great friend and mentor, an iconic trade unionist and distinguished educator. Nat LaCour exemplified the best of our union. He was a true visionary with regard to the essential role of unions in helping increase the power, agency, wages and professionalism of educators. He challenged the racism that he had to confront as a Black man, educator and union leader in the South, and he was admired by friend and foe because of his grace, kindness and brilliance. All of us at the AFT are deeply saddened to learn of his passing. I was honored to serve with him on the AFT executive council and was grateful for his advice. I will remember with great fondness his indelible mark both on our union, and on this movement overall.

"Nat knew the path forward for public education was through elevating educators' voices and investing in children’s futures. Where others may have backed down, he plowed forward, serving on countless boards, running as a Democratic delegate and, eventually, helping found the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He was tireless, and was celebrated by nearly all who knew him, especially for his work in the civil rights movement.

"It’s not an exaggeration to say the AFT wouldn’t be where we are today without Nat’s influence—it traces back decades, all the way to 1974 when he led the United Teachers of New Orleans to become the first teachers union in the Deep South to obtain a collective bargaining agreement with a local school district.

“We send our deepest condolences to Nat’s family and loved ones, including Connie LaCour, his devoted wife, and we celebrate his legacy today and always.”

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