Today in New Orleans History

January 7

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Bernard "Buddy" Saverio Diliberto, Jr. Dies
January 7, 2005
Buddy D's November 23, 1963 column in the Times-Picayune, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy.
Read the entire article.

Born in New Orleans on August 18, 1931, "Buddy D" was our sports commentator for over 50 years. He earned a Purple Heart after sustaining shrapnel wounds in the Korean War, during which he was a correspondent for Stars and Stripes. He got his start as a sportswriter at The Times-Picayune while attending Loyola University in 1950, eventually becoming the newspaper's daily sports columnist in his last two years of his stint there. His sportscasting career began at WVUE-TV in April of 1966, where he remained as its sports director/anchor until he switched to WDSU-TV in March 1981, becoming sports director/anchor at that station for 9 years. WDSU-TV had previously been dominated by sportscaster Wayne Mack in this television market.

Buddy D was either loved or hated. For the New Orleans Saints fans, Buddy was a caricature of all their hopes and the team's inadequacies. He hosted a daily sports talk show on WWL radio in New Orleans after years as the sports anchors on two different local news shows. If he thought the comments were ridiculous, he was apt to refer to the caller as a "squirrel." He succeeded noted sportscaster Hap Glaudi as host of this WWL (AM) radio show.

His ardent fans, such as "Abdul D. Tentmakur" and "Dr. Kevorkian" were as colorful as the host. In later years he would also read a halftime editorial during each Saints game. He campaigned for Mike Ditka to get the head coaching job after Jim Mora left. Buddy was the originator of the "Aints" in 1980 (and the paper bag over the head) as the team went 1-15 and also memorably characterized the despair of the typical Saints fan with the quip "When you go to Heaven after you die, tell St. Peter you're a Saints fan. He'll say, 'C'mon in, I don't care what else you done, you suffered enough.'" 

Buddy D suffered a massive heart attack and died on January 7, 2005. 

Buddy D vowed after years of frustration to wear a dress and walk down the middle of Bourbon Street if the New Orleans Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl.  His successor at WWL, former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, promised to fulfill Buddy D's vow. On January 25, 2010, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, with his family's blessing, published an altered photograph of Buddy D in a dress to celebrate the New Orleans Saints' first NFC Championship and subsequent trip to the Super Bowl.

On Sunday, January 31, 2010, Buddy D was honored with a parade of tens of thousands of men in dresses led by Bobby Hebert from the Superdome to the French Quarter ending on Bourbon Street to celebrate the Saints first trip to the Super Bowl. Over 87,000 people were in attendance.(Wiki) 

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Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on thecorner of Josephine and Prytania streets suffered massive damage from a fire on January 7, 2011.

LSU beat Ohio State 38-24 to win the 2008 BCS Championship before a record crowd of 79,651 on January 7, 2008.

On January 7, 1944, the Liberty ship Leon Godchaux was launched by Delta Shipbuilding Company.

Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Henry James "Red" Allen was born in Algiers on January 7, 1906.  His style has been claimed to be the first to fully incorporate the innovations of Louis Armstrong.  The son of bandleader Henry Allen, he took early trumpet lessons from Peter Bocage and Manuel Manetta.  Allen died on April 17, 1967.

Mark Essex Howard Johnson Murder Spree
January 7, 1973

WWL television station received a handwritten note from 23 year-old Mark James Robert Essex. It read, "Africa greets you. On December 31, 1972, aprx. 11 p.m., the downtown New Orleans Police Department will be attacked. Reason — many, but the death of two innocent brothers will be avenged. And many others. P.S. Tell pig Giarrusso the felony action squad ain't shit. [signed] Mata".   This foretold a rampage whereby Essex shot 19 people (including 10 policemen) and killed nine people (five policemen) in New Orleans on December 31, 1972 and January 7, 1973.

On New Year's Eve 1972, Essex parked his car and went down Perdido Street, a block from the New Orleans Police Department. He hid in a parking lot across from central lockup and used a 5-shot Ruger Model 44 .44-caliber semi-automatic carbine to kill Cadet Alfred Harrell, 19. Lt. Horace Perez was also wounded in the attack. Harrell was black, although Essex said he was going to kill "just honkies" before beginning his murderous attacks. Essex also carried a Colt .38-caliber revolver (which had its serial number scratched off) on his person.

Essex evaded being taken into custody by jumping a chain link fence and running across I-10, while setting off firecrackers as a diversion. Essex then ran into Gert Town, and broke into the Burkart building, a warehouse and manufacturing plant on the corner of Euphrosine and South Gayoso. Upon entering the building, an alarm alerted police to a break-in. A dog unit with Officers Edwin Hosli Sr. and Harold Blappert responded to the call, not realizing the connection of the break-in to the attack on central lockup. When Officer Hosli went to get his German Shepherd out of the back seat of the car, Essex shot him in the back. Essex then started shooting the car, shattering the windshield. Officer Blappert then crawled across the front seat to the radio and called for back-up. Officer Blappert then fired four shots at the spot where he saw muzzle flashes from Essex's rifle, then he pulled his partner's body onto the front seat of the car and waited for back-up. When the back-up arrived, they sent two dogs into the building to search for Essex, but Essex had escaped again. Officer Hosli would later die from his wounds on March 5, 1973.

At 10:15 a.m. on January 7, 1973, Essex shot grocer Joe Perniciaro with his .44 Magnum carbine and then carjacked Marvin Albert as he sat in his 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle outside his house on South White Street. Essex drove Albert's stolen vehicle to the Downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel at 330 Loyola Avenue, across the street from City Hall and the Louisiana Supreme Court building. After almost hitting a startled motorist in the hotel's parking garage, Essex began to climb the stairs, only to find the fire doors locked on floor after floor.

Gaining entry from a fire stairwell on the 18th floor, the top floor of the building, Essex told three startled black hotel employees not to worry, as he was only there to kill white people. In the hallway in front of room 1829, Essex found 27-year-old vacationing Dr. Robert Steagall and his wife Betty, a couple from Virginia enjoying a belated honeymoon. After a struggle with Steagall, Essex shot him in the chest and shot Betty in the back of the head. In the room, he soaked telephone books with lighter fluid and set them ablaze under the curtains. Essex dropped a Pan-African flag onto the floor beside the bodies of the couple as he left. On the 11th floor, Essex shot his way into several rooms and set more fires. On the 11th floor, he shot and killed Frank Schneider, the hotel's assistant manager, and shot Walter Collins, the hotel's general manager. Mr Collins died in the hospital three weeks later as a result of his gunshot wounds.

The police and fire department quickly arrived. Two officers tried to use a fire truck's ladder to enter the building, but were shot at by Essex. A few minutes later, Essex shot and killed NOPD Officers Phillip Coleman and Paul Persigo from his perch on the 18th floor.  Attempting to rescue trapped officers, Deputy Chief Louis Sirgo was fatally shot in the spine by Essex. Lt. Lewis Townsend, a Tulane medical student, walked into the open field to carry the wounded officer to safety, then returned to class.

Seeing the story on TV, Lt. General Chuck Pitman of the United States Marine Corps offered the use of a CH-46 military helicopter to assist the police officers. The helicopter was loaded with armed men and dispatched to the hotel. By this time, Essex had retreated up to the roof of the building where he and the helicopter exchanged many rounds over many hours. As nightfall came, Essex managed to hole himself up in a concrete cubicle that would protect him in the Southeast side of the roof. As he stepped out once again in the open to fire again on the helicopter, and after hitting the helicopter's transmission, Essex was barraged with fatal gunfire from police sharpshooters on the roofs of adjacent buildings as well as the automatic weapons aboard the helicopter. An autopsy later revealed more than 200 gunshot wounds.

New Orleans police later entered the residence of Essex at 2619½ Dryades Street and found the apartment completely covered from floor to ceiling with anti-white graffiti.  (From

After the Howard Johnson Mark Essex sniper incident, Joseph Rault reported that two well-dressed men, one fitting the description of Essex,entered the Rault Center on the morning of the fire (November 29, 1972).  A security guard spotted them, acting suspiciously, entering the ground-floor lobby  elevator after reading the building directory.  They were later seen in the lobby by the guard. (See also November 29)

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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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