Skip to main content
Learn More

McNeese Lecture Series set for March 1

McNeese Lecture Series set for March 1

Preparing for the lecture series         

The ninth annual McNeese State University McLeod Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1, in Ralph Squires Auditorium in the Shearman Fine Arts Center will explore the pivotal role that the Speakers of the Louisiana House of Representatives play in Louisiana politics. Former House Speakers Charlie DeWitt, Jimmy Dimos, Hunt Downer, E.L. "Bubba" Henry, Joe Salter and Jim Tucker will share their views and first-hand experiences during the presentation titled "The Speaker of the House Wields a Heavy Gavel." Preparing for this year's event are, from left, Sara McLeod Judson, McLeod Lecture Series committee co-chair, current House Speaker Charles "Chuck" Kleckley of Lake Charles - the first legislator from Calcasieu Parish to be elected to this position - and Torrie Thibodeaux, a McNeese junior government major from Jennings and this year's McLeod Scholar.
"The Speaker of the House Wields a Heavy Gavel" is the title of the 2012 McLeod Lecture on Louisiana Politics Series to be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1, in Ralph Squires Auditorium of the Shearman Fine Arts Center at McNeese State University.

This free event-featuring six former Louisiana Speakers of the House-is sponsored by the McNeese Banners Cultural Series and the McLeod Lecture Series Committee.

This past January, state Rep. Charles "Chuck" Kleckley of Lake Charles became the first legislator from Calcasieu Parish to be elected Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives. It has been 80 years since a representative from Southwest Louisiana held this important position.

The ninth annual McLeod Lecture Series will explore the pivotal role the House Speaker plays. The panel includes former House Speakers Charlie DeWitt, Jimmy Dimos, Hunt Downer, E.L. "Bubba" Henry, Joe Salter and Jim Tucker, who will share their views and first-hand experiences. This year's panel moderator is Beth Courtney, president and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting. LPB will once again tape the event for statewide broadcast later this spring.

Funding for this year's LPB broadcast is provided in part by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Chesapeake Energy, Jeff Davis Bank, State Farm Insurance, The Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting and contributors to the McLeod Endowment of the McNeese Foundation. Additional support for this program is provided by Col. (Ret.) and Mrs. Bernard H. McLaughlin Jr.

DeWitt, a rancher/farmer from Alexandria, served as Speaker of the House from 2000-2004 during the second term of Republican Gov. Mike Foster.  He represented District 25 as a Democratic member of the House from 1980-2008. DeWitt is an inductee into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

Dimos, a retired state Fourth Judicial District Court judge and an attorney from Monroe, served as Speaker of the House from 1988-1992 during then Democratic Gov. Buddy Roemer's administration. He represented District 16 as a Democratic member of the House from 1975 to 1999 until he was elected as state district court judge.  Dimos served on the Civil Law and Insurance Committees and was a House member appointed to the Louisiana Law Institute for 16 years and is now a permanent member of the institute.

Downer, a retired Major General of the U.S. Army Reserve and an attorney from Houma, served as Speaker of the House from 1996 to 2000 during the first term of Gov. Foster. He represented District 52 first as a Democrat and then as a Republican member of the House from 1975-2004. From 1988 to 1992, Downer also served as Speaker Pro Tem.
           
Throughout his 28 years in the House, Downer had served on various committees, boards and councils. Downer is also well known for his leadership in legislation supporting the military, veterans, law enforcement/ policemen, firefighters and first responders. He is also an inductee into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame.  He served as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (2004-2008) under Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco and later as her legislative director in the Office of the Governor.  Downer has served his country with distinction and has won more than a dozen military awards, including the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Henry, a Baton Rouge attorney and lobbyist, served as Speaker of the House from 1972-1980 under Democratic Gov. Edwin Edward. He represented District 13 (he is a native of Jonesboro) as a Democratic member of the House from 1968 to 1980. Henry is an inductee into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

Henry came together with a group of fellow freshman legislators that included Bill McLeod to bring about legislative independence and reform through the 1970s. The "Young Turks," as they were called, passed sweeping/major legislation ranging from the decorum in the House Chamber to removing lobbyists from the House Chamber floor. They enacted major reform such as spending cuts, decreasing the amount of state workers, reducing the amount of bonded indebtedness and legislative independence during the 1973-1974 Constitutional Convention, where he served as Convention chairman.  He was appointed Louisiana Commissioner of Administration from 1980-1984 by Republican Gov. David C. Treen and was responsible for the daily operation and management of state government.

Salter, an educator with 33 years of elementary and secondary education experience from Florien, served as Speaker of the House from 2004-2008 under Gov. Blanco's administration. He represented District 24 as a Democratic member of the House from 1986-2008.  He made the education of children a priority. He served as a commissioner for the Education Commission of the States, was a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures Education Committee, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory's Board of Directors and the Southern Regional Education Board Legislative Advisory Council, and was vice chairman of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Art Board of Directors.  Salter, an inductee into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame, is currently director of Governmental Affairs at the Louisiana Department of Education.
           
Tucker, a New Orleans real estate investor and financial adviser, served as Speaker of the House from 2008-2012 under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. Tucker represented District 86 as a Republication member of the House from 2001-2012.  He was chairman of the House Republican Delegation from 2004-2007 and committee assignments included insurance, retirement and transportation, highways and public works.

The annual McLeod lecture series honors the late Bill McLeod, a prominent retired district judge and former state legislator. McLeod, who died in 2003, practiced law in Lake Charles for 33 years until he was elected to a six-year term as district judge in 1990. He reentered the private practice of law upon his retirement from the bench in 1997. A distinguished public servant, McLeod also served 23 years in the Louisiana Legislature. All research materials, records and artifacts pertaining to the annual lecture will become a part of the McNeese Library Archives.

The 2012 William L. McLeod Scholar is Torrie Thibodeaux, a McNeese junior government major from Jennings. She is a member of the McNeese Pre-Law and Politics Society. 

Dr. Thomas Laehn, assistant professor of government, holds the McLeod Endowed Professorship at McNeese. Laehn received bachelor's degree in political science and philosophy at Drake University in Des Moines and his master's degree and doctorate in political science at Louisiana State University. He teaches courses in political theory, American constitutional law and American political institutions.

Persons needing accommodations as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the ADA Coordinator at 337-475-5428, voice; 337-475-5960, fax; 337-562-4227, TDD/TTY, hearing impaired; or by email at cdo@mcneese.edu