BATON ROUGE – The Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU will honor alumni and Shreveport political pundit Lou Gehrig Burnett at its 43rd annual Hall of Fame gala on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Burnett, a native of Houma, La., graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1963 and a master’s degree in journalism in 1965 from LSU. Out of high school, Burnett enrolled at Nicholls State College, where fellow Manship Hall of Fame member Al Delahaye convinced him to study journalism and became his mentor. He became the first sophomore to be named editor of the Nicholls Worth, the college newspaper. After two years at Nicholls, he transferred to LSU, where he served as sports editor, managing editor for two terms and editor of The Daily Reveille.
Following graduation, he was offered the job of press secretary by U.S. Rep. F. Edward Hebert of New Orleans, having been recommended by Journalism School Dean Frank Price. Hebert was fascinated with Burnett being named after Lou Gehrig. Hebert, when he was a young sports reporter, was at the game when Lou Gehrig took over first base for the Yankees for the first time. Being named “Lou Gehrig” locked up the job for Burnett. When he went to work for Hebert on Jan. 3, 1966, the congressman, at the time, was considered one of the most powerful men in America because of his position on the House Armed Services Committee. Burnett served as his press secretary and confidant until Hebert retired in January 1977.
Burnett then became chief-of-staff for U.S. Rep. Jerry Huckaby, who had defeated 30-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Otto Passman in the 1976 elections. Huckaby hired Burnett after being urged to do so by then U.S. Reps. Joe D. Waggonner and Henson Moore. He ran the Washington office and two district offices for Huckaby, was his principal advisor, and raised money for his campaign fund – and handled the news media. He served as chief-of-staff for the entire 16 years Huckaby was in Congress. For his service on Capitol Hill, Burnett was named to Personalities of the South and Who’s Who in American Politics.
Burnett retired from the federal government on Jan. 3, 1993, after 27 years on Capitol Hill. He moved to Shreveport, where he wrote a column for the Bossier Press-Tribune and 13 other newspapers in north Louisiana. In 1997-98, he was tapped to serve as executive assistant to Shreveport Mayor Robert “Bo” Williams. In 1999, he became a political columnist for the Forum News, a Shreveport publication where he is now the senior political columnist and is known as the “political voice” of Shreveport. In both 2002 and 2005, his column was selected Best Column.
Burnett also has published a political newsletter called the Fax-Net Update since 2000. It has an influential readership of more than 3,000 each week in 17 Louisiana cities and 15 states. He has served as a political analyst for KTAL-TV, KSLA-TV and KTBS-TV; does special broadcasts for Comcast Cable political shows; and serves on the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Foundation Board, which selects inductees for the Hall of Fame Museum in Winnfield, La., and served on the Political Hall of Fame Committee.
Other honorees include Marie Bissell Constantin, internationally known still photographer and author; and Alex Martin, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor at the Wall Street Journal.
The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. at Juban’s restaurant, located at 3739 Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. Tickets are $50 and tables of 10 are available for $500. To purchase tickets, visit www.lsufoundation.org/manshiphalloffame or call 225-578-1899 for more information.