Governor Buddy Roemer
“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.”
These were meaningful words to Governor Buddy Roemer, who met their author, poet Robert Frost, as a 16-year-old freshman at Harvard University. Buddy spent his life cleaning pasture springs –while growing up on a rambling cotton farm; as a young delegate in the state convention helping to rewrite the Louisiana Constitution; within the halls of the United States Congress as a representative who wasn’t afraid to buck his own party when he felt it was right; as a governor of his home state who attempted to revolutionize the way things got done in a state that was broke financially and broken in many other ways; as a founder of a small business-focused bank willing to compete against the big banks; and as a presidential candidate, vowing to clean up a corrupt campaign financing system by limiting his fundraising to $100 a person so that he wouldn’t be beholden to the big check writers, but would be free to lead. Buddy always sought ways to reform systems. And at the same time, he wanted others – us – to come too. To join a crusader ready to reform – to clean – the pasture springs.
Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III was born to Charles Elson “Budgie” Roemer II and Juliet Adeline McDade Roemer on October 4, 1943, in Shreveport, Louisiana and he peacefully passed away surrounded by his family on Monday, May 17, 2021. The first of five children, he was called “Butch” until he announced in the fifth grade that he needed a better name – and “Buddy” became the moniker that stuck. Buddy and his four siblings – Margaret, Danny, Melinda and Melanie – were raised by their parents on a large cotton farm in northwest Louisiana called Scopena Plantation. There they learned the values of work, family, loyalty, racial equality and education. At the end of a hard day’s work, the parents sat at either end of the supper table and encouraged their children to not just debate the hot topics of the day, but to come prepared after reading the news. It was around the supper table, as well as walking down rows of cotton fields on his own while making speeches to no one in particular, that Buddy got the political bug. He also credited this to watching the 1956 Democratic Convention on a TV set at his grandfather’s house where he saw a young John F. Kennedy speak. Although he would excel in other areas, politics – with its hot-topic informed debates, its speechmaking, its history changing effect – of course would be Buddy’s trade of choice.
Buddy was opinionated, smart, ambitious, optimistic – just to name a few traits. He was a doer in the best sense. He set goals that he wanted himself and others to reach. At times, his drive caused tension – particularly for those comfortable with the status quo and leery of those seeking to upset apple carts. Buddy never let fear of making people uncomfortable – or angry – stop him. The words he said in his 1987 ad for governor summed this up well, “I don’t like Louisiana politics. I love Louisiana. I love Louisiana enough to make some people angry.”
The history books will better record the details of Buddy in his public roles and his business life. His family and friends will be able to record and recall the more private aspects of his life. They will recall what a unique force he was in their own lives. They will miss the timbre of his voice and his story telling. They will recall his love of books, most of which he later gifted to family and friends. They will recall his perseverance over health challenges, particularly the way he quietly managed diabetes for the bulk of his adult life and how he coped with debilitating illnesses in his later years. They will recall his lifelong spiritual thirst, and how he started his walk with Jesus at the feet of Dr. D.L. Dykes, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church Shreveport, with his parents and siblings. That walk sustained him personally, intellectually, and in policymaking as a leader. They will recall how he loved the Methodist church, and when asked, would preach. He supported his brothers-in-law in their pastoral ministries. He supported his wife, Scarlett, in her devotion to God, especially through her beautiful music.
Buddy’s friends and family will recall how he loved to spend hours reading at Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, to watch movies on Friday night, to travel all around the globe, to see his beloved LSU Tigers and Yankees play, to listen to musicians such as Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt.
In 2017, Buddy became an author, writing his first memoir about growing up at Scopena. His book was dedicated to his parents and really was a love letter to them. Budgie and Adeline’s eldest son – the Congressman and Governor; banker; globe-trotting businessman; dreamer; history maker – never lost his love for Scopena and the lessons learned there.
A week before his death, Buddy expressed to his minister Kevin McKee that he had an “accumulation of gratitude.” May Buddy now receive the answers to all his inquisitiveness and passions, and may he be rewarded for his many acts of love and kindness shown to family, friends and the general public.
Buddy is survived by his wife, Scarlett Osborn Roemer; children, Caroline Roemer, Charles Elson “Chas” Roemer IV and wife, Tena Levatino Roemer, and Dakota Frost Roemer and wife, Heather Gatte Roemer; grandchildren, Adeline, Charles, Owen, Ripley, and Dax; siblings, Margaret Roemer Lefler, Danny Roemer and wife, Judy Fulgham Roemer, Melinda Roemer Barrett and husband, Pastor Michael Barrett, Melanie Roemer Melville and husband, Pastor David Melville, and nieces and nephews. He also is survived by former spouses, Cookie Demler Roemer and Patti Crocker.
Visitation and services will be held at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Visitation will begin at 9:00 a.m. until service time at 11:00 a.m. Officiating the service will be Pastor Kevin McKee, Pastor David Melville and Pastor Michael Barrett.
An additional visitation and service will be held at First United Methodist Church Shreveport on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. until service time at 11:00 a.m. Officiating the service will be Pastor David Melville, Pastor Michael Barrett and Dr. Carl Rhoads.
Honoring him as pallbearers will be Buddy’s grandsons, Charles Roemer, Owen Shirley, and Dax Roemer, and his seven nephews: Franklin Roemer, Havard Lyons, Peter Lyons, Drew Lefler, Jude Melville, Daniel Melville, and Taunton Melville. Serving as honorary pallbearers will be Buddy’s granddaughters, Adeline Roemer and Ripley Roemer; and his four nieces: Julie Norton, Alden Murphy, Grace Berios, and Kelley Snead, as well as close long-time friends Laurance Guidry, Danny Walker and Rolfe McCollister.
Special thanks to Buddy’s caregivers at Amedisys and Griswold Home Care.
In lieu of flowers, please honor Buddy with a donation to the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org or to the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools’ Little Free Libraries Project at lacharterschools.org.