Today in New Orleans History

August 20

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Al Shea Dies
August 20, 2009


Photo from the Broadcast Museum

Al Shea, born Alvin Francis Caserta, Jr. in New Orleans on November 23, 1927, was a popular local actor and theatre critic.  He spent his early childhood in Paducah, Kentucky, where his father obtained employment. While still a boy, his parents divorced. His father remained in Kentucky, where he re-married. His mother returned with her son to her family in New Orleans. Al's name was then officially changed to Alvin John Shea, Shea being his mother's maiden name. At the age of ten, Shea was heard on WWL radio as Jackey, in the serial, "The Life of Peggy Hill." His stage debut was as Tip in The Land of Oz, in 1941, at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré.

Shea served in the Navy, and was a  Tulane graduate. In 1955, he joined the staff of WDSU-TV, replacing Ed Nelson on "Tip-Top Space Ship," as Sparky. He then had success as Deputy Oops in "Adventures in Fun," in 1960. A bigger success followed when he was the voice of Pete the Penguin on Mr. Bingle broadcasts. He was also producer of the station's "Second Cup" show, with Bob and Jan Carr and served as entertainment critic on "Midday" (1963–73), with Terry Flettrich, where he interviewed many stars of the theatre and cinema. Throughout his career, Shea wrote on various facets of the Fine Arts and of entertainment for varying media, and was often heard on radio, as well.

As an actor, Shea was seen in New Orleans in Our Town, The Boy Friend, The Merchant of Yonkers, Night Must Fall, Bye Bye Birdie, Mister Roberts, and All the King's Men. He also directed local productions of Lo and Behold! and Life with Father. His final stage appearance was in 1998, in Puss in Boots. He can be seen in the documentaries "New Orleans That Was" and "New Orleans TV: The Golden Age."

Shea covered theatre for several years for Gambit (until 1995), and, for twenty-three years, was theatre critic on WYES's "Steppin' Out," with Peggy Scott Laborde. His final appearance on the program was only two months before his death, from cancer, at the age of eighty-one.  Al Shea died on August 20, 2009, in New Orleans.  His funeral mass was held at St. Louis Cathedral. (Wiki)

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Attorney, soldier, governor, and jurist Francis Tillou Nicholls was born in Donaldsonville on August 20, 1834. Educated at  Jefferson Academy and a  1855 graduated of  the  U. S. Military Academy at West Point, he served in the war against the Seminoles. After resigning commission in the army in 1856 he began the practice of law in Napoleonville. During the Civil War he served as captain and lieutenant colonel, K.F.S., Eighth Louisiana Infantry In 1862 he was appointed colonel of the Fifteenth Louisiana Regiment.  As a brigadier general, commanding the Second Louisiana Brigade, he lost left arm at the first Winchester battle, October 15, 1862.  He later lost his leg at the second battle of Fredericksburg. After the war, he resumed his law practice.

NICHOLLS, Francis Tillou, attorney, soldier, governor, jurist. Born, Donaldsonville, La., August 20, 1834; son of Thomas Clark Nicholls (q.v.) and Louisa Hannah Drake. Grandson of Edward Church Nicholls (q.v.). Education: Jefferson Academy, New Orleans; U. S. Military Academy at West Point, graduated 1855. Served in the war against the Seminoles. Resigned his commission in the U. S. Army in 1856 and began the practice of law in Napoleonville, La. Civil War service: captain, lieutenant colonel, K.F.S., Eighth Louisiana Infantry In 1862 appointed colonel of the Fifteenth Louisiana Regiment; brigadier general, commanding the Second Louisiana Brigade, lost left arm at first Winchester battle, October 15, 1862; lost a leg at the second battle of Fredericksburg. After the war, resumed law practice in parish. Married, April 26, 1860, Caroline Zilpha Guion, daughter, of George Seth Guion and Caroline Lucretia Winder. Children: Francis Welman (b. 1863), Caroline Winder (b. 1865), Louisa Josephine (b. 1868), Harriet Guion (b. 1870), Virginia McDaniel (b. 1873), Margaret Guion Lawton (b. 1875), Elizabeth Guion (b. 1877). Elected governor in 1876 and again in 1888. During his first administration he worked to rid the state of carpetbag rule. During his second administration he was instrumental in defeating the Louisiana Lottery Company which was struggling to obtain an extension of its charter. Appointed by President Grover Cleveland to the Board of Visitors for West Point. In 1892 appointed chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Died, Ridgefield Plantation, January 4, 1912; interred St. John's Episcopal Cemetery, Thibodaux, La. S.R. Sources: Miriam G. Reeves, The Governors of Louisiana (1962); Roy Clashan, American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975 (1975); anonymous member of the Louisiana Historical Society, "The Nicholls Family in Louisiana," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, VI (1923); unpublished biography of Governor Nicholls by Evans Casso.  From

Novelist and screenwriter Elmore John Leonard, Jr. was born in New Orleans on October 11, 1925  His earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures. Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, and Rum Punch (adapted for the movie Jackie Brown). Leonard's writings include short stories that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the current FX television series Justified. He passed away on August 20, 2013 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. (Wiki)

On June 12, 2009, Alfred Clifton Hughes was, by designation of Pope Benedict XVI, succeeded by Gregory Michael Aymond, the Bishop of Austin, Texas. Hughes continued to serve as apostolic administrator until August 20, 2009, the date of Aymond's installation mass at Saint Louis Cathedral. (Wiki)

BEZOU, James Francis, leader of Franco-American affairs.  Born, New Orleans, 1910; son of André Ralph Bezou and Lydia Marie Bouligny.  Education:  Pinac's Institute; St. Aloysius College; St. Joseph Seminary; Soulé College; Loyola University, New Orleans.  Married, 1942, Rosalie Julie Lococo.  Children:  Jacques F., A. Raoul, Pierre B., Mrs. Juliette B. Bishop, Mrs. Denise B. Garretson, Mrs. Andrée B. Carter.  Worked in import-export commerce; credit manager, Emile Schulingkamp Co.  Chancellor, Belgian Consulate General, New Orleans, 1952-1969; as official lectural of L'Alliance Française, 1964, gave illustrated presentations on New Orleans and Louisiana in Brussels, Antwerp, and Liege.  Host to Gen. Charles de Gaulle as well as many other French dignitaries visiting New Orleans.  President, 1949-1974, Athénée Louisianais, a literary and cultural society organized in 1876 by  New Orleans French-speaking community.  Executive vice president, New Orleans area chapter of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL).  Board of directors, program director, Foreign Relations Association of New Orleans.  Vice-president, Society of the War of 1812 of Louisiana and Founders of New Orleans.  Contributor of articles on New Orleans and Louisiana to national publications.  Translated from French into English many articles on jazz and Robert Goffin's Horn of Plenty:  The Story of Louis Armstrong.  New Orleans correspondent and business agent for France Amérique, le Journal Français des Etats-Unis; owner, L'Union Française.  Awarded:  French Ministry of Education's Palmes Academiques, 1949; Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, 1960; promoted to rank of Officier des Palmes Academiques, 1968; second American to receive Prix de la Couronne Française, 1970.  Member:  Catholic church.  Died, New Orleans, August 20, 1974; interred St. Louis Cemetery III.  B.R.O.  Sources:  Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, April 9, 1964; Crescent City Credit Courier:  New Orleans Credit Women's Club (n.d.); Robert Goffin, Horn of Plenty:  The Story of Louis Armstrong, trans. by James F. Bezou (1947); New Orleans States-Item, October 9, 1969; obituary, August 21, 1974, New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 21, 1974. From

On Monday, August 20, 1972,  President Richard Nixon and wife began a motorcade down Canal Street a 10:45 a.m.

Born in New Orleans on August 20, 1922, Charles Schwartz, Jr. received a B.A. from Tulane in 1943 and served in the Army as a Second Lieutenant from 1943 to 1945.  He was then an Army reservist from 1946 to 1965,  attaining the rank of Major. He received a J.D. from Tulane Law School in 1947, and was then in private practice in New Orleans until 1976. He was a district counsel for the Gulf Coast District of the U.S. Maritime Administration from 1953 to 1962.  On March 23, 1976, Schwartz was nominated by President Gerald Ford to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana vacated by Herbert W. Christenberry. Schwartz was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 1976, and received his commission on May 7, 1976. He assumed senior status on February 28, 1991. He also taught as an adjunct professor of law at Tulane University beginning in 1977.  He died in his home town on November 3, 2012.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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