Today in New Orleans History

March 22

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Broadcaster Alec Gifford Dies
March 22, 2013
In 2005, the Press Club of New Orleans honored Alec Gifford with their Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 50 years of service in the city's television news industry. He was also inducted into the New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame by the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association.  On November 11, 2006, he officially announced his retirement from WDSU TV where he had worked as anchor and former news director.  He had worked in the New Orleans market for 51 years, most of them at Channel 6.
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/AlecGiffordEssoReporter.gifA New Orleans native, he was a Jesuit graduate who entered the Navy at age 17, then attended Johns Hopkins University on the GI Bill.  His early professional years included working for the Houston Post, a radio stations in Baltimore and Texas before moving back home. His father, Alexander Gifford, was a political reporter for the Times-Picayune who covered the administration of Governor. Huey Long. His great-grandfather, Numa Dufour, published the French-language newspaper L'Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans (The New Orleans Bee).
 In 1955 Bill Monroe, first news director for the seven year-old WDSU television station hired him as a reporter.   “It was the golden age, but in a sense it was the stone age,” he  I hate to say it, but we had no idea what we were doing.  We had no idea how to do TV news – how to cover it and so forth.” he said of his early career during the 1950s in a 2003 interview for WYES-TV.  Gifford became the WDSU  Esso Reporter/anchor reading news pre-approved by sponsor Esso Standard Oil Company. (Photo from Joe Bergeron Gallery & Studios).  His continuous coverage of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 brought him renown and brought us Mayor Vic Schiro's live on-air interview with Gifford which included, " "Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me." 
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/AlecGiffordMature.gifIn 1966 he took a job with NBC News in New York City.  He returned home a year later to become news director, anchor, and reporter for WVUE-TV were he worked with Nash Roberts and Buddy Diliberto.  After 13 years there he moved back to WDSU in 1980 where he remained until his retirement after 26 years with Channel 6. He held an exclusive, sit-down interview with Senator John F. Kennedy on the night Kennedy announced his bid for the White House and covered his presidential campaign.  His roles included morning and "The Midday Show" news anchor, public affairs host, political reporter and  cooking show host.  He was also news anchor for the “Midday” show, with Terry Flettrich, Wayne Mack, Bob and Jan Carr, Nash Roberts and Al Shea.  He covered all major news stories including racial desegregation, the Howard Johnson Hotel sniper incident (1973) and, of course, Hurricane Katrina.  He also reported news from around the world -- visiting Germany in the 1960s, Israel in the 1970s, and Japan.
Upon his retirement in 2006, WDSU dedicated its newsroom in his honor.  Alec Gifford died on March 22, 2013 at the age of 85.  His body was donated to LSU Health Sciences Center.

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Paul S. Devrouax (October 4, 1942  in New Orleans — March 22, 2010) was an African-American architect in Washington, D.C.. He founded the architectural design firm of Devrouax+Purnell, and helped design the Verizon Center, Nationals Park, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and the D.C. headquarters of Freddie Mac and Pepco. He co-designed the African-American Civil War Memorial, and provided design adjustments to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Elsie Elizabeth McLundie "Peggy," Bolton civic and cultural leader.  Born, Chattanooga, Tenn., August 19, 1917; daughter of Elizabeth Griffiths and Archibald Stevenson McLundie.  Graduate of Stephens College; attended Louisiana State University.  Married Robert H. Bolton, Alexandria, La., April 14, 1939.  Children:  Robert H. Bolton, Jr., of Princeton, N. J., Mrs. Robert C. Hassinger of New Orleans, and Mrs. James K. Jennings, Jr. of Houston, Tex.  Founded Alexandria Museum in 1977, first president, later served as chairman; awarded the first Elizabeth McLundie Bolton Golden Circle Award for excellence in the Arts by Alexandria Museum board of trustees; received a special congressional citation for outstanding service to the nation, state and community, first recipient ever in Louisiana's Eighth Congressional District.  Organizer and first president, Historical Association of Central Louisiana; received Alexandria Junior League's Award as Outstanding Sustainer; the Harnet Kane Award presented by the New Orleans Chapter of the Landmarks Society for person who has done most for a better understanding of historic Louisiana; Alexandria Civic Oscar Award given by Alexandria Daily Town Talk for outstanding achievement in area of community service and betterment; Historic Preservation Award given by Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Baton Rouge; Individual Preservationist Award from Louisiana Preservation Alliance; president, Louisiana State Museum Board, the first woman and first non-resident of New Orleans ever to hold this position; member, Advisory Council, New Orleans Museum of Art; member, President's National Council on Historic Preservation, an original founder, board member, and vice president of Louisiana State Museum Foundation; member, state review committee, National Register of Historic Places; board member of Old State Capitol Associates, Baton Rouge; vice chairman, State Arts Council; president and chairman of board, Kent Plantation House; board member, Alexandria Historical and Genealogical Library; board member, Anglo American Art Museum; Baton Rouge; received Alexandria Lions Club Good Citizenship Award, donated two sculptures, "Moses" and "John the Baptist," by Charles Umlauf to Louisiana College and sculpture "Angels" by Lyn Emory to Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Member, Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Died, March 22, 1987; interred Greenwood Memorial Park, Pineville, La.  Posthumous recognition from Louisiana Association of Museums, Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, and Historical Association of Louisiana.  R.H.B.  Source:  Author's research.  From


Born in New Orleans on September 25, 1895, beloved police leader George "Red" Reyer was educated at St. Henry's Parochial School but learned the ways of the streets early on, hanging out with the notorious "Terminal Gang" whose members gathered at the Southern Railroad Station on Canal Street, posing as livery drivers and chauffeurs while engaging in a wide variety of criminal activitiess.   Early in his career as chief of police he eliminated their threat -- mostly effectivley by requiring professional licenses for their alleged occupations.  No licence and they were carted off to jail for vagrancy. After a stint as a streetcar conductor, Reyer was employed as patrolman on September 20, 1918.  He was promoted to detective on April 1, 1921 and appointed captain of detectives on July 9, 1925.  He was named Supervisor of Policeon December 19, 1928,  appointed Chief of Police on May 7, 1930, and became the Superintendant of Police on December 24, 1931. When he resigned from the police department as superintendant in 1946, "Red" Reyer had imprisoned 4,000 criminals and left only one unsolved crime.  He was a member of the Policemen and Firemen Holy Name Society, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (1938), and president of the Louisiana Peace Officers Association. Reyer died in New Orleans on March 22, 1979.  He is interred in Metairie Cemetery.  Source:

Photo -- Mayor Schiro confers with his legislative leaders: from left, Representative Edward F. LeBreton, Jr., Senator Laurence Eustis, Jr., and Representative Salvador Anzelmo. The Mayor keeps a close liason with the legislature working for the passage of bills that are good for New Orleans. (March 22, 1967)

Sister Clare Coady was born Margaret Ann Coady in New Orleans on October 3, 1875.  Raised in the Irish Channel and Mount Carmel Orphan Asylum, she entered the community of the Sisters of Mount Carmel on September 2, 1891.  Sister Clare served as  Superior general of the order in New Orleans from 1915 until 1931; during her tenure the sisters took charge of St. Dominic, St. James, and St. Augustine  schools in New Orleans and Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Westwego.  In 1926 she opened Mount Carmel Academy in the Lakeview.  Her other accomplishments inlclude the establishment of a state-approved normal school in New Orleans in 1923, winning state approval for community high schools, and fostering state certification for teaching nuns. She died, Lafayette on March 22, 1935 and is interred in St. John the Evangelist Cemetery.  Source:

Robert Hopkin, the well-known marine painter, died on March 22, 1909. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1837. His major decorative accomplishments included the interior of the Detroit Opera House (1869) and the Cotton Exchange in New Orleans (1883).


Maximilian Ferdinand Bonzano, physician, minter, administrator.  Born, Ebingen, Germany, March 22, 1821; son of Nicholas Antonio Bonzano.  Education:  Ebingen, including some college studies.  Arrived in New Orleans, 1835, working first in a printing office as a roller boy and then as printer, which provided opportunity to master the English language.  Within a few years became a druggist apprentice and then pharmacist.  In 1843, started study of medicine at Charity Hospital, where upon graduation he was appointed a visiting physician.  In 1848, President James K. Polk appointed him melter and refiner of the New Orleans mint; later he was appointed assayer, and remained in that position until the Civil War.  Morally opposed to slavery.  Also opposed secession and refused to serve the Confederacy.  After destroying "all the coining dies" at the mint, he fled to New York City and remained there until the capture of New Orleans by Union forces.  Returning to New Orleans in June 1862 as superintendent of the mint, Bonzano soon became engaged in efforts to bring Louisiana back into the Union.  After restoring the mint facilities, he accepted an additional post as acting lighthouse engineer and inspector, a position he retained until 1872.  He was elected from his district as a delegate to the state's 1864 constitutional convention, where he chaired the committee on emancipation and personally wrote the ordinance which freed Louisiana's slaves.  The state's first Republican convention elected him as a delegate to that party's 1864 national convention.  Later that year, in September, he was elected to Congress from the First Congressional District of Louisiana, but Congress refused to seat the state's delegation.  Shortly thereafter President Lincoln appointed him commissioner of the direct tax for Louisiana, a position he kept only a few months.  After the war he supported congressional reconstruction and the Republican party.  He turned down an offer of President Grant in 1869 to become one of the state's collectors of internal revenue.  In 1872, he chaired the state's Republican electoral college and the following year received an appointment as surveyor-general of the port of New Orleans, giving up that position in 1874 to become superintendent of the mint until the mint was reduced to an assay office in 1875.  After the extension of silver coinage in 1878 and the reinstatement of the mint, Bonzano, at his own request, took the position of coiner, and for awhile also served as melter and refiner, retiring in 1883.  That same year he was defeated as the token Republican nominee for state treasurer.  Bonzano, always a bachelor, lived out the remainder of his life, surrounded by the latest inventions and scholarly works, on a plantation in St. Bernard Parish, the site of the Battle of New Orleans, in a mansion which had served as the headquarters of Gen. Andrew Jackson (q.v.).  J.A.B.  Sources:  Goodspeed, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana (1892); Diary and Correspondence of Salmon P. Chase (1903); Jessie A. Marshall, ed., The Private and Official Correspondence of General Benjamin F. Butler …  (1917).  From


William Carroll, soldier, politician. Born on a farm near Pittsburgh, Pa., March 3, 1788; son of Thomas and Mary Montgomery Carroll. Education: meager. Married Cecelia Bradford, ca. 1813. Hardware merchant, captain and brigade inspector of Tennessee militia in February 1813; advanced to rank of colonel and inspector-general in September 1813; became major general in November 1814; raised a force of volunteers, transported them down the Cumberland, the Ohio, and the Mississippi, and arrived in time to give General Jackson (q.v.) invaluable aid in repulsing the British in the Battle of New Orleans. Governor of Tennessee, 1821-1827, 1829-1835. Died, March 22, 1844. The Carrollton section of New Orleans was named in his honor  Source:

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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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