Louisiana’s ex-Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris dies at 99

Jul 1, 2021, 10:40 AM | Updated: 7:02 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jimmy Fitzmorris, the affable two-time lieutenant governor who narrowly lost his long-sought-after bids for New Orleans mayor and Louisiana governor, has died. He was 99.

Fitzmorris died Wednesday night, his son-in-law Bruce Clement announced on his Facebook page Thursday.

“The contributions made by former Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris to Louisiana are too many to be mentioned & too great to be measured,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a fellow Democrat, said in a statement.

Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Fitzmorris was a mentor. “His ability to unite differing views for a common good is what made him so effective for our state,” Nungesser said in a Twitter post.

Fitzmorris’ popularity and drive were such that even his opponents sometimes wondered how he missed the political brass ring.

He lost one mayor’s race by 150 votes and was nudged out of the 1979 runoff for governor by just over 2,000 votes out of the nearly 1 million votes cast — results he unsuccessfully challenged.

Fitzmorris started a career in 1940 as a messenger boy for Kansas City Southern Railroad, and was a vice president by the time he retired in 1972.

He was elected to the New Orleans City Council in 1954 and served for 12 years. He ran twice for mayor and lost the first time by a narrow margin to Victor Schiro in 1965. A 1969 race against Moon Landrieu was not as close.

Fitzmorris bounced back and was elected lieutenant governor in 1971, a job he held for two terms.

While the flashy and popular Gov. Edwin Edwards got the spotlight, Fitzmorris was on the move, seeking new industry and cutting ribbons around the state.

When he first won the office, the lieutenant governor’s post was a powerful one. The holder of the office also presided over the state Senate. That changed in 1975 when the new constitution ordered that the Senate choose the president from among its members.

In 1979, Fitzmorris decided to make a run for governor in an open race with a field of nine after Edwards was barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

In the nonpartisan primary, Republican Congressman Dave Treen was the leader. Unofficial results put Fitzmorris second, forcing the two into a runoff.

Fitzmorris had edged out fellow Democrat Louis Lambert, then chairman of the public service commission, by about 2,400 votes in the unofficial election night count. Days later, the voting machines were opened and Lambert was ahead of Fitzmorris by about the same margin.

“It is extremely difficult for me to believe or accept the idea that I went from a lead of more than 2,300 votes Sunday morning when the vote was first tabulated to a deficit of more than 2,400 votes by Tuesday of the same week,” Fitzmorris said.

He filed suit, the first in modern Louisiana history to charge voting irregularities in a governor’s race. The courts found no irregularities and the runoff went on without Fitzmorris. Treen won and became the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

The glad-hander from New Orleans’ Irish Channel couldn’t stay away, accepting a position as an industrial recruiter in the new Treen administration.

“My profession is politics and my hobby is people. That’s my life,” Fitzmorris said.

For a time, Fitzmorris was targeted by reports of a federal investigation that he received a $10,000 campaign contribution in his race for governor in exchange for the promise of favors. No charges were ever filed.

During the federal corruption trial that was dubbed Brilab in the early 1980s, a tape of New Orleans mob kingpin Carlos Marcello was played to the jury in which Marcello said Fitzmorris would not be any good in a corrupt scheme.

“Say, ‘Here’s a million.’ He’ll say, ‘Man, get away from me. Please get away,'” Marcello, who was convicted, was heard saying.

In 1983, Fitzmorris tried to regain the lieutenant governor’s job, losing to Bobby Freeman. After that, Fitzmorris became a private consultant and eased out of the spotlight.

Fitzmorris’ wife, Gloria, died in 1995. The two met during World War II when he was an officer getting a physical checkup in New Orleans. She was a medical technician. He is survived by their daughter, Lisa Clement. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

China cuts interest rate to shore up sagging economy

BEIJING (AP) — China’s central bank trimmed a key interest rate Monday to shore up sagging economic growth at a politically sensitive time when President Xi Jinping is believed to be trying to extend his hold on power. The ruling Communist Party effectively acknowledged last month it can’t hit this year’s official 5.5% growth target […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

GURNEE, Ill. (AP) — Three people were injured late Sunday in a shooting at an amusement park north of Chicago. Three people were hurt in a parking lot outside Six Flags Great America in Gurnee when shots were fired from a vehicle, according to a spokesperson for the park, which is located about 45 miles […]
21 hours ago
A motorist pumps gasoline at United Oil gas station in Los Angeles Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. The avera...
Associated Press

Average US gasoline price falls 45 cents to $4.10 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline plummeted 45 cents over the past three weeks to $4.10 per gallon. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the continued decline comes as crude oil costs also remain low. “The drop of a dollar per gallon has not been […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Actress Anne Heche poses for a portrait in Park City, Utah on  Jan. 21, 2012.  Heche, who fi...
Associated Press

Anne Heche, star with troubled life, dies of crash injuries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anne Heche, the Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and accomplished career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil, died of injuries from a fiery car crash. She was 53. Heche was “peacefully taken off life support,” spokeswoman Holly Baird said in a statement Sunday night.. […]
21 hours ago
In this photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from left, U.S. Democratic House ...
Associated Press

US Congress members meet Taiwan leader amid China anger

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met Monday with a delegation of U.S. Congress members in a further sign of support among American lawmakers for the self-governing island that China claims as its own territory. Taiwanese media showed the delegation arriving for the talks, but details of the meeting were not immediately released. […]
21 hours ago
FILE - An iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. Facebook failed to detect...
Associated Press

Strike four: Facebook misses election misinfo in Brazil ads

Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, a new report from Global Witness has found, continuing a pattern of not catching material that violates its policies the group describes as “alarming.” The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming election, such as promoting the wrong election date, […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Louisiana’s ex-Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris dies at 99