Morial: Moon Landrieu ‘suffered no fools,’ was moral voice for New Orleans

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:23 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Maurice “Moon” Landrieu was remembered Monday (Sept. 5) as a trailblazer, whose courage and determination opened new pathways into City Hall for Black leaders during his two terms as New Orleans’ mayor in the 1970s.

Landrieu, who died Monday at age 92, served as the city’s 56th mayor from 1970-78. He is credited with leading the desegregation of the city government’s top leadership positions.

“Moon was a mentor to many, and a giant and a pivotal figure in the 20th century in New Orleans and, I think, in the history of the city,” said former Mayor Marc Morial, whose father Ernest “Dutch” Morial succeeded Landrieu as the city’s first Black mayor.

“Blacks had worked in City Hall in broom-and-mopstick jobs, menial jobs,” Morial said. “Moon hired Black department heads, Black executive assistants, appointed Black people to boards and commissions.”

“I think he changed the role of the mayor from being a ceremonial sort of city father to really the idea of an urban chief executive, who was focused on public policy, focused on infrastructure, focused on building the future of the city.”

Landrieu was the patriarch of a New Orleans political dynasty, which includes daughter and former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and son Mitch Landrieu, a former Louisiana lieutenant governor and fellow two-term New Orleans mayor.

“My parents were both very big supporters of his. He was talked about,” Marc Morial said. “Mitch and I went to high school together, so the families knew each other. Mary went to high school with my older sister. The connection with the family, on multi-generational levels, goes back many years.”

Morial said Moon Landrieu took the reins of the city during a time of strife, racial segregation and police brutality.

“He did face hardcore traditionalists in the city, who wanted to battle and wanted to keep yesterday alive,” Morial said. “There’s no question that he faced a considerable amount of opposition and ridicule. But I also believe that he tapped into the emerging new civic and political leaders in the late 1960s and early 1970s who wanted a more racially just city.”

Landrieu joined the US Army in 1954, becoming a second lieutenant and serving in the Judge Advocate General’s corps until 1957. He then taught accounting at Loyola and opened a private law practice.

In 1960, Landrieu won a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives as a New Orleans Democrat. There, he opposed several segregationist bills passed by the state legislature that aimed to block the desegregation of public schools and facilities.

“Moon Landrieu suffered no fools, was a talented politician, but a no-nonsense guy,” Morial said. “Moon came to power five years after the Civil Rights act, four years after the Voting Rights Act, and had this important task to help the city navigate into a period of integration.

“May he rest in peace, and may he rest in power.”

Morial said Moon Landrieu’s legacy was his determination to do what is right.

“Leadership, based on values and beliefs, about what is right, fair and just,” he said. “The unwillingness to place expediency over values.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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