Organizers are finalizing preparations to induct seven new candidates into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame, bringing to a total 198 honorees since the inaugural celebration of the hall was launched in Winnfield in January 1993.
The 2022 Hall of Fame Banquet will be held Saturday, February 26, in the Winnfield Civic Center, a gala event beginning at 6 p.m. A warm-up reception will be held from 4:30 until 5:30 p.m. at the 499 Main Street museum, giving area residents an opportunity to meet many of the honorees and their friends in a close and casual environment. There is no charge at attend the reception.
This year’s inductees are Elliot D. Coleman, Jim Donelon, Walter B. “Bert” Hatten, W.L. “Jack” Howard, Robert W. “Bob” Kostelka, Roy O. Martin III and Dr. I.C. Turnley. The Claude “Buddy” Leach Family will be honored with the “Louisiana Political Family of Officeholders Award.”
Tickets for the Banquet are still available at $125 each for the night’s open seating arrangement. Sponsorship tables for eight are also available. For details, contact the Louisiana Political Museum at 318-628-5928 or online at email@example.com.
Elliot D. Coleman, a cotton planter and law enforcement officer born in Waterproof, served from 1936 to 1960 as sheriff of rural Tensas Parish in northeast Louisiana. He was a State Police bodyguard for U.S. Senator Huey P. Long on Sept. 8, 1935, the night of Long’s assassination. (He testified that he shot Baton Rouge physician Dr. Carl Weiss twice). At the age of 17, Coleman became a deputy sheriff and would
also serve as a justice of the peace and police juror. He was a delegate to the 1921 Louisiana Constitutional Convention, a precursor to CC ’73. After his victory as sheriff in 1936, he won reelection every four years until being unseated in 1960 at the age of 79. Of note in that 1936 election, one of Coleman’s fellow bodyguards in the Long assassination, Larry Sale, was elected Claiborne Parish sheriff.
James J. Donelon, a New Orleans native, has served as Louisiana’s commission of insurance since 2006, winning election five times to become the longest-serving insurance commissioner in the state’s history and the second longest tenure in the nation. Major insurance events Donelon has overseen in those 15 years have included Louisiana’s recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and 2020, the state’s worst hurricane season. He was Louisiana’s first insurance commissioner to serve as president of the NAIC (2013). He has sought to improve the office’s effectiveness, efficiency and transparency and to protect consumers. He received his BA degree from the University of New Orleans and his JD from Loyola University N.O. College of Law.
Walter B. “Bert” Hatten, 94, is a Winn native, born in Sikes before moving as a boy with his family to West Monroe. Hatten served 30 months in the Merchant Marine during World War II and was aboard an armed ship headed for Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped, ending the war. With a degree in journalism, he began as a reporter for the News-Star World, leaving 16 years later as managing editor. He won office and served 12 years as mayor of West Monroe, receiving sage advice from Shreveport mayor Clyde Fant. He was able to rebuild the strength of a “weak and struggling city.” A robust checklist of accomplishments includes establishment of the Downing Pines Industrial Park. Returning to his journalism roots, Hatten purchased the Ouachita Citizen which he ran for 20 years before selling to friend Sam Hanna.
W.L. “Jack” Howard understood defeat but made the most of victories that followed as mayor to turn Monroe into a “true regional hub.” He served in the Navy during World War II and later as president of the Louisiana Jaycees (and national vice president). Defeated in his first bid for Monroe’s leadership in 1952, he came back in 1956 to win on a pledge to clean up the bankrupt city and improve its infrastructure and industry. Landmarks during his tenure include the Monroe Civic Center (bringing in
many stars including Elvis Presley), Monroe Theater (now “W.L. Jack Howard Theater”), City Hall, Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo, Monroe Regional Airport and more. Defeated again in 1972, Howard came back to win four years later. He is credited with easing racial tensions in the 1960’s by working with black leaders and challenging while business leaders to welcome blacks as patrons and employees.
Robert W. “Bob” Kostelka, a Shreveport native, attended Centenary College then received his law degree from the LSU Law School (Baton Rouge), also receiving training from Northwestern University School of Law (Chicago). Kostelka served as 4 th Judicial District judge from 1983 to 1998 and 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal judge from 1998 to 2003. Though nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 for the federal judgeship held by retiring Judge Tom Stagg, the nomination died with the election of President Bill Clinton. Kostelka in 2003 was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, District 35. He wrote legislation addressing child support, consumer protection, healthcare, election reform, education, court & judicial funding, taxation and governmental ethics for public officials & employees.
Roy O. Martin III, born in Alexandria, is chairman, CEO and CFO of Martin Sustainable Resources; Martco (manufacturer of OSB, plywood, timbers and land & timber operations); and Martin Timberland, owner of 560,000 acres in Louisiana. Additionally he was co-founder and a director of Indigo Natural Resources, a Houston-based oil and natural gas exploration company. With both a BS in mechanical engineering and an MBA from LSU, Martin holds a host of honors from that university and has made a large impact on his community through the years by hands-on involvement. Those organizations include Lions, United Way, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, LSU-Alexandria Advisory Board, Committee of 100,
Louisiana Baptist Foundation, American Heart Association and more.
I.C. Turnley Jr., M.D. achieved his dream of returning to practice medicine in his hometown Jena in 1958 after opening his first medical office in Winnfield a year earlier. That road to medicine began as World War II was in its wane. Turnley was commissioned in the U.S. Navy in January 1945 and served two years at the San Diego Naval Hospital, continuing in the reserve until 1951. His Jena office would have five
exam rooms, lab and X-ray and served him until retirement December 2015 just prior to his 89th birthday. He served as LaSalle Parish coroner for 60 years, the longest-serving elected public official in Louisiana. For much of that time, his only compensation was $10 per call. He was active in business affairs in the community and in 1995 became the Grand Master of Freemasons for the state of Louisiana.
Over these 30 years, the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame has welcomed new members from both sides of the aisles of politics and, ironically, both sides of the bars of justice. Says director Carolyn Phillips of a longtime adage of the hall: “We don’t indict them. We just induct them.”