Moderator: Dr. Bobby Dupont, University of New Orleans
Panelists: James Fitzmorris, former City Councilman & Lt. Governor
Dr. Pamela Tyler, University of Southern Mississippi
Robert Wall, former Morrison aide
Elected in an upset over incumbent Robert Maestri and his Old Regular Machine, deLesseps “Chep” Morrison (1912-1964) took office in 1946 and began to refashion the government, infrastructure, and image of New Orleans. Focused on large-scale construction projects, international trade, and strengthening his political hold on the city, Morrison cut a dynamic profile, modernizing city services, navigating a tumultuous relationship with the state government, and running unsuccessfully three times for governor. Elected mayor four times, he remains one of the city’s most popular and influential mayors. His power and charisma led Time magazine to label him “King of New Orleans.”Watch a video of the panel on deLesseps Morrison on October 6, 2009 at the Louisiana Humanities Center
January 22, 1946: Defeats Robert Maestri in runoff by 4,372 votes.
September 1946: Establishes New Orleans Recreational Department (NORD).
November 1946: Ends garbage strike after organizing and leading volunteer pick-up.
April 1948: Earl Long elected governor, defeating Morrison-backed Sam Jones. Long orders legislature to pass a series of bills intended to restructure the administration of New Orleans, severely weakening the power of the Mayor and siphoning tax revenue from the city.
June 1948: Opening of the International Trade Mart.
February 1949: Police Superintendent Adair Watters resigns, decrying Morrison’s political interference in police affairs.
January 24, 1950: Re-elected for 2nd term. Defeats businessman Charles Zatarain and Dixiecrat Alvin Cobb, with 64% vote in primary. Morrison-backed candidates for Council win 5 of 7 seats.
1950: First African-American policeman hired by NOPD.
January 1951: Organized crime hearings held in the city by Sen. Estes Kefauver. Morrison maintains the problem is under control.
November 1952: New city charter approved in public referendum, restructuring city government to give the mayor sole executive authority, but limiting him to two consecutive terms.
1953: Independent investigation and public hearings on NOPD corruption reveal widespread abuse, leading to the indictment of the Superintendent of Police.
1954: Re-elected with minimal opposition from Councilman Thomas Brahney and Sheriff John Grosch.
May 1954: dedicates new Union Terminal train station.
August 1955: declares candidacy for Governor to replace outgoing incumbent Robert Kennon.
January 1956: Earl Long wins the primary outright and reclaims the Governor’s seat. Though the personal enmity continues, Long does not repeat his attacks on New Orleans in his 2nd term.
February 1958: Elected to 4th term. TIME Magazine labels him “King of the Crescent City.”
May 1957: Opening of the new City Hall & Civic Center complex, as well as expanded airport terminal.
1959: Earl Long suffers a nervous breakdown in the state legislature chambers.
February 1959: Wife Corrine Morrison dies at age 37.
1959: Morrison support for a monorail connecting the CBD to the airport generates controversy, ends in defeat in City Council.
January 1960: After leading the Democratic primary for Governor, Morrison faces former governor Jimmie H. Davis in the run-off. The Davis campaign focuses on race, painting Morrison as “soft” on segregation. Morrison defends himself as a segregationist, but loses for the 2nd time.
September 1960: The city’s first organized sit-ins lead to the arrests of demonstrators. Morrison defends the arrests.
November 1960: Despite emergency sessions of the state legislature to subvert court orders, New Orleans Public Schools are desegregated when four African-American girls attend first-grade classes at William Frantz Elementary and McDonogh 19 in the Ninth Ward. Over the coming months, angry segregationists react with rioting, assaults, and vandalism. Morrison provides police protection in the name of law and order but allows demonstrations to continue.
April 1961: Voters defeat a proposed charter amendment to allow the mayor to run for a third consecutive term.
June 1961: Morrison accepts the post of US Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS). City Council approves Councilman-at-large Victor Schiro to serve as interim mayor.
January 1963: Loses in third attempt at governor’s seat, defeated in run-off by John McKeithen.
May 22, 1964: on a trip to Mexico, Morrison and his seven-year old son die in a plane crash.