Saturday, April 16, 2005

Louisiana legislative legend dies ...

Paul Murphy of ABC26 News reports on the death of former House Speaker and Senate President John Hainkel:

Louisiana is mourning the loss of a legislative legend. Former Speaker of the House and Senate President John Hainkel of New Orleans died in his sleep Friday morning.

Hainkel was at his best with a gavel in his hand or hunched over a podium, giving a speech. The 67-year old was the longest serving Louisiana lawmaker still in office.

He's the only one to serve both as speaker of the house and president of the state senate.

"Besides his children, I know the state was probably his first love," said Hainkel's son John III. "Politics is what he really enjoyed doing."

Hainkel's family gathered at his son's house in uptown New Orleans. John the third says his father was at a camp in Mississippi where he went to bed last night and didn't wake up.

"He was at Senator Walter Boasso's camp in Poplarville, Mississippi, where he was doing what he loved to do with some fellow senators and that is cook, maybe a little bit of drinking and a lot of eating," said John Hainkel III.

Hainkel started his 37-year legislative career as a house member in 1968. He went to Baton Rouge as one of a group of reformers known as the "young turks." It's a group which also included former State Senator Tom Casey.

"He absolutely loved politics," said Casey. "I always said that John needed politics just to live. I thought as long as he was in politics and he had connections with politics, he'd be around forever."

State Representative Peppi Bruneau of New Orleans says John Hainkel was the big brother he never had.

"I'll tell you my greatest memory of John is when I lost some folks in my family, John Hainkel was standing by me, propping me up when I was about to fall," said Bruneau. "That was a true act of friendship."

Longtime friend and law partner William Porteous says Hainkel was as good an attorney as he was a politician.

"The judges, jurors, witnesses other lawyers liked him and cared about him and recognized he was truly a wonderful trial lawyer," said Porteous.

Hainkel's children say he was also a wonderful dad.

"I think we'll remember him as one of the most loving, dedicated fathers you could have," said John Hainkel III.

John Hainkel turned 67 on March 24th and his family says he didn't have any major health problems.

Hainkel's body will lie in state at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge on Sunday from 3pm to 6pm. His funeral takes place Monday at 1 p.m. at St Francis of Assisi Church in Uptown New Orleans.


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