William Hawthorn Lynch

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William Hawthorn
"Bill" Lynch, Sr.
Louisiana Inspector General
In office
April 1, 1988 – February 16, 2004
Preceded byFirst in position
Succeeded bySharon B. Robinson
Personal details
Born(1929-04-16)April 16, 1929
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
DiedFebruary 16, 2004(2004-02-16) (aged 74)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Spouse(s)Donna Mulhearn Lynch
Alma materLouisiana State University
  • Journalist
  • State inspector general
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps

William Hawthorn Lynch, Sr., known as Bill Lynch (April 16, 1929 – February 15, 2004), was an American journalist who served as the first Inspector General of the U.S. state of Louisiana, a position which involves investigations into corruption, misuse of state property, and governmental inefficiency.


Lynch was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and reared, first, in New York City and then in rural Elizabeth in Allen Parish in South Louisiana. In 1951, he graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and then spent two years in the United States Marine Corps, in which he attained the rank of staff sergeant. In 1948, Lynch was a temporary sportswriter for Shreveport Times in Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana.[1]

Journalist and inspector general[edit]

After his military service ended in 1953, Lynch returned to The Shreveport Times, where he became an assistant city editor and political reporter until 1965. At The Times, Lynch covered the 1959 saga of then Governor Earl Kemp Long, the relationship with stripper Blaze Starr, and Long's commitment to the state mental hospital in Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish. He established the Shreveport Times bureau in Baton Rouge, from which he did most of his newspaper investigative work. In 1965, he launched a 14-year association with the since defunct New Orleans States-Item. He covered the destructive Hurricane Betsy, which struck the Gulf Coast and New Orleans area in 1965.[1]

From 1979 to 1988, he worked at the Baton Rouge bureau of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, during which time his investigations into the third term of Governor Edwin Edwards led to Edwards' indictment in 1984 on federal charges dealing with the licensure of hospitals and nursing homes. Edwards and his brother, Marion Edwards, were acquitted in a second trial after a hung jury developed in the first case.[1]

In April 1988, Governor Buddy Roemer, under executive order, named Lynch to the newly established position of inspector general because, in Roemer's words, Lynch had "honor, honesty and a knowledge of government. He was the inspector general of the press corps. He called it like he saw it. He wasn't in anybody's pocket. He cared about Louisiana and wanted to make it a better place."[1] Lynch remained Inspector General until his death.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Lynch died in Baton Rouge at the age of seventy-four after hospitalization from complications related to heart disease. Upon his death, then Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco termed Lynch "one of our state's legendary journalists and a talented man of great character who helped make a stronger Louisiana. ... He relentlessly aimed his journalistic light into the dark places of Louisiana politics. ... As inspector general, he continued his crusade to clean up our political system by exposing wasteful spending and corruption. He leaves behind a legacy of integrity, devotion, and courage."[1]

Jack Wardlaw, who headed the capital bureaus of both The States-Item and The Times-Picayune, said that Lynch, whom he had known for more than twenty years, "carried his reputation for honesty and integrity with him from reporting and into the inspector general's office."[1]

In the second Edwards administration, the legislature passed the so-called "Lynch Law", which allowed courts to assess punitive damages in libel cases, but the measure was repealed during the term of Republican Governor David C. Treen. When Edwards returned for his fourth term as governor in 1992, he retained Lynch as inspector general as a concession to Roemer, whose support he drew in the 1991 gubernatorial general election with David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klansman who was the nominal Republican candidate that year.[1]

However, Edwards believed that the office of inspector general constituted a duplication of services provided by the Louisiana State Police, attorney general, and local district attorneys. He therefore stripped Lynch of much of his power. No longer could the inspector general investigate colleges and universities; at the time Lynch had been conducting probes into various activities involving Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, and LSU and the historically black Southern University in Baton Rouge. Lynch was allowed to continue to investigate the governor—something of a challenge that Edwards set forward—but could not investigate any of the six other statewide officials.[3] Subsequent governors set their own priorities for the inspector general's office.

Lynch was twice honored by the Alliance for Good Government in New Orleans and by the New Orleans Press Club.[1] In 2005, he was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[4][5] Lynch's colleague Jack Wardlaw was inducted into the hall of fame a year earlier in 2004.

Lynch had two sons, Bill Lynch, Jr. (born 1962), of Baton Rouge and Jonathan D. Lynch (born 1968) of Flowery Branch, Georgia.[1][6]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 16, 2004.
  2. "History". oig. Louisiana.gov. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  3. "Governor Edwards outlines powers of the state's inspector general", Minden Press-Herald, August 21, 1992, p. 1.
  4. "Louisiana Political Museum499 E". www.cityofwinnfield.com. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  5. "Hall of Fame inductees". cityofwinnfield.com. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  6. "Jonathan D. Lynch". usa-people-search.com. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
Preceded by
First in position
Louisiana Inspector General

William Hawthorn "Bill" Lynch, Sr.

Succeeded by
Sharon B. Robinson

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