Hemelt: It’s time to honor “Big Scott” for his many years of service to St. John

Published 12:04 am Saturday, September 8, 2018

Harold J. Roussel Sr. was a man of action and opinion.

The longtime St. John bus driver, known to many as “Big Scott,” was born and raised in Vacherie and resided in Edgard.

It was there at his home that he raised seven children with the help of a loving wife, Daisy.

According to daughter Jermaine, Mr. Roussel was a devoted father and supporter, who made sure his family ate together each night around the dinner table.

He stressed that each of his children complete high school and attend college.

Jermaine said her dad passed away in 1985 after a distinguished career as a community organizer, youth supporter and champion of employee rights.

“We used to use a phrase for him, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ because he always came in contact with lawyers, judges, superintendents of school, the parish president at the time, police jurors, parish councilmen,” Jermaine told me this week.

“If he had something of concern about anything or anybody, he wouldn’t hesitate to write you a letter about what he thought and what it should be, whether he knew the person or not. I’m pretty sure if you searched or go back into your archives, you’ll see a bunch of letters he wrote to L’OBSERVATEUR with his opinions.”

Mr. Roussel wrote his own grant to secure funding to launch a summer feeding program in the 1960s, which he was the director of for a couple of years, Jermaine said.

According to loved ones, Mr. Roussel served on the civil service board, was the first black poll commissioner in St. John Parish, worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center and championed numerous community causes on the East and West Banks.

“He did a lot of research,” Jermaine said. “He was a frequent reader of the newspaper, the whole newspaper everyday. He was a frequent visitor of the public libraries in New Orleans, at least two or three times a week.”

His lifetime of service beyond self was recognized in 1999 with an ordinance naming the Edgard park on Castle Drive “Harold J. ‘Scott’ Roussel Sr. Memorial Pool and Park.”

Unfortunately, nearly 20 years later, there is still no sign designating the complex in honor of Mr. Roussel.

Jermaine said she recently addressed the issue with Parish Councilmen Kurt Becnel, Lennix Madere Jr. and Larry Snyder, who were very receptive to her concern.

“They apologized that the previous administration never took care of it, but they are going to take care of it now,” Jermaine said, adding when the West Bank Recreational Park is officially named “Juan Anthony Joseph Park” with new signage, the same is promised for her father’s park on Castle Drive.

Family members say it’s a shame it didn’t happen sooner but the recent effort by Council members and Parish administrators is appreciated.

“I’m aggravated that it took so long,” Jermaine admits, “but I’m still thankful. I’m just sorry because my mom, who died the year before this, never got to see it.

“(My dad) stood for a lot. The younger kids coming up probably don’t know, but their parents know of all that he did for the community.”

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.