Local journalist and columnist Lou Gehrig Burnett, 76, died Jan. 19 after a brief illness. Burnett was a former columnist for the Press-Tribune.
More recently, Burnett wrote columns for Forum magazine.
“It cannot be overstated how important Lou’s voice was to this community and to our Forum readers,” Forum publisher Jay Covington said. “His honest reporting was appreciated and deeply respected. The passion that Lou had for what he did was heartfelt and readers could sense that. His friends and colleagues knew it. I fear we will not see another like him.”
Covington issues the following statement:
It is with sadness we announce the loss of one of our own: Journalist and LSU fan Lou Gehrig Burnett, 76, born July 19, 1941, died Jan. 19 after a brief illness. A private service was held Tuesday, Jan. 23. Burnett has been a contributor to The Forum since 1999, and publisher of Fax-Net Update since 2000. An important and trusted voice in local and national news has been silenced.
Burnett, a native of Houma, 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.