Richard Ieyoub – a class public official
Published 8:57 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Former three-term Attorney General Richard Ieyoub passed away last week at the age of 78. He was currently serving as Louisiana’s commissioner of conservation, overseeing the regulation of all oil and gas activities in the state. Richard and I were both good friends, and we also worked together on a number of major state problems.
The year 1991 was a crossroads year for both of us. Four years earlier, while serving as secretary of state, I lost a close race for governor and joined a Dallas law firm. As election time approached four years later, I was eyeing a comeback for one of several statewide elected offices. One such office was Attorney General. I felt qualified for the office as an attorney, the named director of one of Texas’s largest law firms, and having been elected twice for both secretary of state and state senator.
At the time, Richard was serving as district attorney the lake Charles area, and was popular in Southwest Louisiana. He too was eyeing the office of attorney general, but knew I had a much broader base statewide. We had several long phone calls weighing both our political futures. I finally opted to run for insurance commissioner, giving Richard a wide opening to be elected attorney general. Both of us were elected to those respective offices in the 1991 statewide election.
Once I was sworn in, I realized I faced a dysfunctional office that needed a major overhaul. In the coming months, I shut down over 40 busted insurance companies. I called on Richard week after week to give me his legal advice, and for him to assist in making numerous criminal referrals to the Justice Department. We often campaigned together during the next two election cycles, attending a number of fairs and festivals and coordinating our efforts to get out the vote on election day.
Richard compiled quite a record in his three terms as attorney general. He did not shy away from controversial issues and took on major tobacco companies obtaining major settlements for the state. He helped my office form a consumer protection division, and was actively involved in a number of landmark civil rights cases.
In later years, we joined the same health club here in Baton Rouge, and we always took a break to talk about state politics. We both were glad to be away from the elected public fire, and felt sorry for some of our friends who were in public office and who were being attacked often from both right wing conservatives and left wing liberals. Richard told me: “Trying to serve the public is just not rewarding or fun anymore.” How true.
Richard was a devoted Catholic, rarely missing Mass and making regular retreats to the Catholic religious haven at Manresa. Shortly before he died, I told him I was attending the traditional Catholic Mass in Latin at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in downtown Baton Rouge. He told me he was interested, and wanted to come along on a future Sunday. Unfortunately, he never got the chance.
General Ieyoub (I always called him that in front of a crowd or when I had not seen him in a while) was a decent, family loving, hard-working and honest guy. He donated one of his kidneys to his ailing brother. He should have been governor of Louisiana, just missing out in quite a close race. Louisiana is a better place because of Richard. I was both glad and honored to call him my ally and my friend.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.