Moderator: Dr. Larry Powell, Tulane University
Panelists: Lolis Elie, Civil Right activist
Jack McGuire, Director of Public Relations in Schiro administration
Gaspar Schiro, former Register of Conveyances for the City of New Orleans
Often called “the transitional mayor” between Chep Morrison and Moon Landrieu, Victor Schiro (1904-1992) nevertheless oversaw the rapid expansion of the suburbs in the East and Algiers, the creation of the Poydras Street Business corridor and World Trade Mart, the completion of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the emergence of the University of New Orleans as a full-fledged university, and the arrival of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the beginnings of the Superdome. His reelection in 1965 was marked by the devastation of Hurricane Betsy. Early on a segregationist, Schiro saw that his position was untenable in a time of change and adopted a more moderate tone on race, in sharp contrast to the virulent racist sentiment at the time. He began dismantling segregation in city government and further desegregated public and Catholic schools. Navigating the complex currents of race and political power became the hallmark issue of his mayoral decade.Watch a video of the panel on Victor Schiro on October 20, 2009 at the Louisiana Humanities Center
July 20, 1961: the City Council elects Councilman-At-Large Schiro as interim mayor when DeLesseps S. “Chep” Morrison resigns to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
1961: NASA acquires Michoud Assembly Facility to build Saturn V and IB rocket boosters.
September 1961: Opening of integrated schools relatively peaceful compared to the Morrison administration’s 1960 federally-forced integration. Unlike Morrison’s refusal to disseminate violent protestors, Schiro protects each school with NOPD officers.
September 1961: LSU at New Orleans becomes a full four-year institution.
March 3, 1962: Defeats moderate Adrian Duplantier by 21,000 votes by painting Deplantier as “soft” on civil rights.
1962: New Orleans Canal Street lunch counters, jobs and entrance signs desegregated on behest of powerful white leaders working behind the scenes with the Citizens Committee.
August 1963: Schiro removes “white” and “colored” signs from all restrooms in municipal buildings.
September, 1963: Massive African American march on City Hall, but a month afterward civil rights leader Avery Alexander is dragged from the City Hall cafeteria. Schiro refuses to meet with African American leaders.
1963: The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet opens to navigation, shortening distance from the Port of New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico by 40 miles.
1964: Continued “Houstonizing” of Poydras Street as older buildings demolished for the construction of the 134-foot-wide boulevard and office buildings such as the Amoco and One Shell Square.
1965: Schiro presides over the building of a new police and civil court complex, expanding the existing criminal justice campus at Tulane Avenue and Broad Street.
1965: Schiro seeks to make New Orleans an ”International City” by visiting heads of state in five Central American countries to propose a common market.
1965: New Orleans wins a National Football League franchise with the caveat that a new facility be built to host games. The Louisiana Superdome, designed in 1967 and completed in 1975, would be the largest fixed domed structure in the world.
September 9, 1965: Hurricane Betsy floods New Orleans East and Lower Ninth Ward, coming in the middle of Schiro’s reelection campaign. Schiro rides out the storm with reporters in WDSU-TV studios when the roof caved.
November 6, 1965: Re-elected Mayor, defeating Jimmy Fitzmorris. Schiro runs as an integrationist and benefits from the aftermath of the storm.
1966: Completion of N. Claiborne I-10 Overpass, a landmark in the changes wrought in downtown New Orleans and the cultural life of African Americans and the Treme neighborhood.
May 1966: Appoints Philip Batiste as aide to the mayor, the first African American to hold an executive post at city hall.
November 8, 1966: The city passes a bond amendment to build a domed stadium, estimated at between $30 and 46 million. Completed in 1975, the final cost was $46 million.
1968: Grand opening of the Rivergate Convention Center.
1968: Schiro helps sponsor the creation of the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission to devise programming for the effective disbursement of federal assistance.
January 1970: Moon Landrieu elected city’s next Mayor.