Gov. Jindal, many guests, honor former Gov. Foster at future archive
Gov. Bobby Jindal stood outside Franklin City Hall and lauded his predecessor Gov. Mike Foster Tuesday afternoon.
Jindal traveled to Franklin to commemorate the archives of Foster’s political career on the third floor of city hall, the former E.A. Crowell Elementary School, where Foster himself attended school.
In his introduction of Gov. Jindal, Sen. Bret Allain said neither he nor Jindal would likely be in their positions if not for Foster. “Once Gov. Foster put his mind to doing something he didn’t care about political risk,” Allain said.
He said the library will “preserve for the future the way he governed and the fine example he set for all elected officials about how to be not a politician but a statesman.”
Jindal said the state has dedicated $2 million to renovate the third floor of the historic structure.
“It’s really about teaching our children about a great man and a great leader,” Jindal said. “I think we were blessed to have him as governor for eight years and to have Miss Alice (Foster) as First Lady for eight years.”
Foster’s administration created the state community and technical college system, Jindal pointed out, which is “one of the fastest growing in the country.”
Foster invested “hundreds of millions of dollars in K-12 education and was a champion for raising teacher salaries year after year,” Jindal said. “He was also a champion of creating a great business climate for our state. In his first year he took on tort reform, getting rid of punitive damages and cracking down on frivolous lawsuits. One of the issues he cared deeply about… was workman’s comp rights, which he is still involved in today.”
Jindal said Foster “left the state better than he found it.”
“Mike has always been the same person,” he said. “He’s always been a very modest, humble and plain-spoken person. Nothing changed about him when he was governor of the state.”
Jindal talked of how lobbyists and others would go duck hunting with Foster and leave frustrated that their platforms were not heard. “If you were on a duck hunt, you were there to hunt ducks not talk business,” he said.
Jindal was hired by Foster to head the state Department of Health and Hospitals. They were to first meet at LSU, then Foster changed the venue to Franklin. “I thought at least I’d get to see Oaklawn Manor,” Jindal said. “Then the governor said he wanted to meet at his construction company, which was a bunch of trailers.”
Though he and the governor agreed on very little in the discussion that followed with a governor who was not at all what he expected, Foster later offered him the DHH post.
“He said, ‘Bobby, just remember, always do the right thing,’” Jindal said.
Jindal said the archives will allow everyone to learn more about “this great governor. Bret (Allain) and I talked about creating the archives, and this is what compelled me. Bret said, ‘If we don’t build this thing, Mike’s liable to just throw all this stuff away, you know how he is.’ And that’s exactly right.”
When Foster took the podium after Jindal, he said, “Boy, if I was bashful before I wouldn’t be now!”
The former governor said, “Being modest, I don’t like the idea of everything being all about one person so much. An archive can serve a dual purpose other than just being a storage of history and a display, which I think can help the town if we get a good one going. The thing I think we tend to forget in Franklin is that there’s so much political history. There were five governors from the Franklin area.”
Foster’s father Murphy J. Foster Sr. was governor from 1892 to 1900. His brother, Prescott Foster, was president of the St. Mary Parish School Board and St. Mary Parish government.
He noted that Alexander Porter, the builder of Oaklawn Manor, was a member of the Louisiana Convention, on the Louisiana Supreme Court and a U.S. Senator. While governor, Foster said a bust of Porter was already hanging in his office, which was once the office of the Supreme Court, when he took over.
Foster said the committee in place to create the archive is “outstanding, and will spend the money well, make this community proud and give the community something people will want to come and see. I envision it being more than something built around my family, because there is a lot of history here.”
Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said when he was elected mayor of Franklin in 1982 Foster was living on Adams Street. “I went to see him one time, knocked on the door, and he waved me away,” Jones said. “He said ‘I don’t do politics. I can’t stand politics. I hate politics.’ After I got elected he called and asked to see me for 15 minutes… I said come on by.”
Jones said Foster told him, “Number one, I didn’t vote for you. Number two, if you do a really good job I’ll vote for you every time after. And he said I always want access to that door, and I only want 15 minutes. I might not ask you but one time in your whole career, but I want access to that door.”
Jones said Foster reiterated that he would never be involved in politics. “When he ran for the Senate I asked him what happened, and he said, ‘(Former La. Senator) Anthony Guarisco did not return my phone call and I got mad.’ So when he got elected governor, I called him and said I needed to see him for 15 minutes.”
Jones said the archive was fitting for all the accomplishments Foster garnered as governor.
Franklin Mayor Raymond Harris said the city is happy to house the library “which will acknowledge those from Franklin who, through public service, have made an impact on our state and in some cases our nation.”
He credited Allain, Jindal and Jones especially for the concept and making the archive a reality.
Allain noted that when the idea was discussed there was talk of building a facility, but he pointed out that “with all the historic buildings in Franklin it would be a shame to build anything else to put it any place else than renovate one of our old historic buildings to preserve that and the archives forever. (This is) where he went to school and played football in the back. In fact, he was looking earlier in the back to see if the football was still there.”