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Jack Breaux

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Jack Louis Breaux, Sr.
Mayor of Zachary
East Baton Rouge Parish
Louisiana, USA
In office
Preceded byStanley M. Noble
Succeeded byJessie Pendergest, III
Personal details
Born(1926-11-06)November 6, 1926
Carencro, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana
DiedJanuary 26, 1980(1980-01-26) (aged 53)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Resting placeAzalea Rest Cemetery in Zachary, Louisiana
Political partyBreaux was the first Republican since Reconstruction to have been elected to the office of mayor in the state of Louisiana.
Spouse(s)Betty Ellis Breaux
ChildrenDr. Jack Breaux, Jr.
Frank William Breaux
Alma materUniversity of Louisiana at Lafayette
OccupationBusiness executive
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Jack Louis Breaux, Sr. (November 6, 1926 – January 26, 1980)[1] was the Republican mayor of Zachary, Louisiana, in East Baton Rouge Parish for nearly fourteen years — from his first election in 1966 until his death of a brain tumor. He was also the first member of his party since Reconstruction to head the municipal government of a Louisiana city.

Breaux (no relation to Democratic U.S. Senator John Breaux) was elected as a part-time mayor in the spring of 1966. In 1978 the Zachary municipal charter was altered to provide for a full-time mayor, and Breaux (pronounced BRO) was again chosen to lead his community.


Breaux was born in Carencro in Lafayette Parish, where his father, Lawrence L. Breaux, had been mayor. He graduated from Carencro High School and thereafter served in the United States Navy in World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then the University of Southwestern Louisiana, from 1947 to 1950. He moved to Zachary in 1951. He was an industrial and labor relations supervisor at Copolymer Rubber and Chemical Corp., until his retirement to become Zachary's full-time mayor in 1978.

Louisiana's "most progressive" city[edit]

Using a door-to-door campaign approach, Breaux was elected mayor on June 14, 1966, by a 15-vote margin, 353 to 338, to unseat incumbent Democrat Stanley M. Noble.[2] When Breaux became mayor, Zachary had a population of about 4,000; the 2000 census showed the count at just under 12,000.

Under the Breaux administration, Zachary was named the "most progressive" city in Louisiana.[3] Mayor Breaux initiated the expansion and improvement of many city projects and programs, including the widening of Louisiana Highway 64. As mayor, Breaux led the drive for annexation of several outlying areas of the city. In his last race for mayor, he cited his achievements as improvements in roads, water, and the city drainage system.

On Breaux's watch, Zachary became the first Louisiana city to elect delegates to draft a home-rule charter, which provided for the full-time mayor. The new charter took effect in the fall of 1978. It formally organized the departments of city government and delineated the powers of the mayor and the city council.

Breaux was a member of the Capital District Law Enforcement Planning Council, the Capital Economic Development District Council, Inc., Zachary Chamber of Commerce, Zachary Rotary International, Capital Region Planning Commission, Recreation and Parks Commission, Louisiana Municipal Association (including a term as vice president), and the Republican State Central Committee.

Running for sheriff and EBR mayor-president[edit]

In 1975 and 1976, Breaux unsuccessfully sought election as a Republican for sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish and for the Baton Rouge mayor-president position, a combined municipal-parish office. In the sheriff's race, Breaux, who was opposing Democratic incumbent J. Al Amiss (pronounced AIM ISS), ran third with 19.6 percent and narrowly missed a general election berth. Amiss led the field with 31.9 percent, and another Democrat, D.P. "Skip" D'Amico trailed with 22.9 percent in the primary.[4] Amiss defeated D'Amico and served from 1972 until his death early in 1983. A Republican, Elmer Litchfield, was subsequently the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff from 1983 until his retirement in 2006 because of health problems and subsequent death.

Breaux ran third again in the 1976 primary for the mayor-presidency, having finished with 21.7 percent to the incumbent Democratic Mayor-President Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Dumas, who nearly prevailed outright with 47.3 percent of the ballots. The second-place candidate was the outgoing Democratic mayor of neighboring Baker, Norman E. "Pete" Heine, who polled 27 percent in the primary.[5] While he was seeking the 1976 Republican presidential nomination, Ronald W. Reagan came to Baton Rouge to campaign for Breaux; the former governor of California made a controversial remark, soon forgotten, in which he likened himself to an "honorary Cajun coonass."[6]

In 2001, a Baker Republican, Bobby Simpson, became mayor-president, but he was unseated after one term in 2004 by the African American Democrat Kip Holden, a former state representative. Simpson had succeeded a Democrat-turned-Republican Tom Ed McHugh, who served three terms as mayor-president from 1989 to 2001 and was later the executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association.

Breaux hence started the path which made possible the future breakthroughs by the Republicans Litchfield and Simpson.

Breaux's legacy to Zachary and Louisiana[edit]

Tom Ed McHugh, who chaired the charter commission, said that Breaux saw the change in government as "another opportunity to serve the community." He said that Breaux's death was a great loss to the Republican Party: "I think it's a very tragic thing; we hate to lose our oldest Republican mayor in terms of service. He was a great asset to the community, not only as a mayor, but as an individual."

Former state Republican chairman James H. Boyce of Baton Rouge said that Breaux "got his job done" and had a good relationship with the community. ... The fact that a Republican could go into a community like Zachary and be reelected and get his program adopted is a great tribute to him."

Baker Mayor Mike Cross, a Democrat who later served in the Louisiana State Senate, lamented Breaux's death: "Zachary is going to be the one to lose ... [he] did a tremendous amount to put Zachary on the map."

On November 8, 1966, Tom Colten, a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, was elected mayor of Minden in Webster Parish. Colten hence joined Breaux as the first two Republican mayors of the 20th century in Louisiana.

Breaux's obituary[edit]

Breaux underwent neurosurgery in November 1978, just after becoming the full-time mayor. He was readmitted to the hospital in August 1979. His illness led him to take a leave of absence from mayoral duties. He died in Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge.

Services were held on January 28, 1980, at Breaux's church, Plains Presbyterian in Zachary. Burial was at the Azalea Rest Cemetery.

Survivors included his wife, the former Betty Ellis (born December 1929), a Zachary teacher; his mother, Mrs. Lawrence L. Breaux of Lafayette; two sons, Dr. Jack L. Breaux, Jr. (born 1951), and wife Carolyn Derbes Breaux (born 1948), of New Orleans, later of Baton Rouge, and Frank William Breaux (born 1954), then of Guadalajara, Mexico, and later of Baton Rouge; a brother, William R. Breaux (1924–1995)[1] of Lafayette, and a granddaughter, Jennifer Ann Breaux of New Orleans.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved November 30, 2009.
  2. Lake Charles American-Press, June 15, 1966, p. 10.
  3. This definition of "progressive" means "moving forward," not the expansion of government associated with the former Progressive movement.
  4. Louisiana Secretary of State, Baton Rouge, Election returns for November 1, 1975
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election returns for August 14, 1976
  6. "Reagan hits nerve with 'coonass' comment", Minden Press-Herald, May 7, 1976, p. 1.

The Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate, January 27, 1980, p. 1 and obituary section

Preceded by
Stanley M. Noble
Mayor of Zachary, Louisiana

Jack Louis Breaux, Sr.

Succeeded by
Jessie Pendergest, III

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