Opinion: Lou Gehrig Burnett – Remembering Jerry Byrd

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Remembering Jerry Byrd

On the heels of the passing of noted journalist Charles “Chuck” Fellers, it was with sadness to learn of the death of Hall of Fame sports writer Jerry Byrd.
If not for a fortunate turn into politics, I likely would have been a sports writer.  At the age of 18, after graduation from high school and while attending Nicholls State College, I was the sports editor of the Houma-Terrebonne Star. It gave me the distinction of being the youngest sports editor in the state.  Later, I was sports editor of  the Houma Courier before transferring to LSU.
Byrd was just beginning his illustrious career at  that time with the Shreveport Journal. With the love of sports always flowing through my veins, I began  reading Byrd’s writings in the Journal when I went to work for Congressman Jerry Huckaby. We subscribed to The Shreveport Times and The Shreveport Journal.
It would be many years later, in 1993, that I would come face-to-face with the iconic sports writer.  I started writing political columns for the Bossier Press-Tribune, and lo and behold, there was Jerry Byrd.
When I introduced myself and proudly told him  that I was once the youngest sports editor in the state, he didn’t miss a beat.  Byrd had an elephant-like memory, and he immediately told me he remembered that and had seen some issues of the Star and the Courier.
“I remember calling you a whippersnapper. A sports editor at 18.  I couldn’t believe it,” Byrd said laughingly. Then he chided me for taking the wrong road into politics rather than sticking to sports, adding, “But I’m sure you made a whole lot more money.”
It was an immediate bond between me and Byrd, and I enjoyed our relationship immensely. God speed, Jerry Byrd.

‘Religious freedom’ bill passes House

The so-called “religious freedom” bill being pushed by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier City has passed the House of Representatives.
Considering the controversy surrounding the bill and similar other legislation that has created a firestorm of opposition in other states, the vote in the Louisiana House was rather surprising.
But the bill was substantially amended before the final vote was held. Vague language related to “religious organizations” was replaced with a more specific definition of the clergy and churches the bill applies to, including removing private for-profit businesses from the bill.
The vote was 80 for, 18 against, and 6 not voting. Most area legislators apparently did not have a problem with the legislation after it was amended. Voting for it were Reps. Larry Bagley (R), Thomas Carmody (R),  Dodie  Horton (R),  Mike  Johnson (R),  Jim Morris (R), Gene Reynolds (D), and Alan Seabaugh (R). Voting against were Reps. Cedric Glover (D) and Sam Jenkins (D).  Barbara Norton (D) was absent.
Matthew Patterson, managing director of Equality Louisiana, pointed out, however, that the debate on the House floor made it clear that the primary goal of the bill is to express animus towards same-sex couples.
“We must remember that the mere fact that we would debate this bill  hurts  Louisiana,” Patterson said in a news release. He added, “We lose business investments and tourism every time we decide to discuss whether we should enable discrimination against any group of people.”
He noted that his organization and other anti-discrimination groups will continue to monitor the legislation as it is considered by the Senate and will continue to work to oppose and defeat it.

Louisiana conservatives?

Louisiana is considered a blood-red Republican state filled with conservative legislators.  Well, not as much now that Democrat John Bel Edwards was elected governor. But just how conservative are these Bayou State lawmakers?  We have the answer.
The American Conservative Union (ACU), which sets the gold standard for conservative values and hosts the annual widely publicized Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has released its annual scorecard for 2015. Look for the results in next week’s column.

 Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.