Incumbent coroner backs Grace's run for the office

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

Deputy Coroner James E. Grace appeared before the Iberville Parish Council last week to announce his candidacy for the coroner's office this fall.

The news took incumbent Coroner Steven E. Lee by surprise, but Lee said he would step down and back Dr. Grace.

“Dr. Grace is so wonderful,” Dr. Lee said. “If he declares and runs, I'm going to be supportive of him...When I took the office, I thought Dr. Grace would be the best candidate.”

If Grace is elected, it will be a smooth transition, the incumbent said. He said Grace has worked closely with the coroner's two investigators and Office Manager JoAnne Adams, and filled in for Lee for more than a year while the coroner was in Atlanta for treatment of a personal medical issue.

“I love the parish and love the work,” Lee said, “but Dr. James Grace is just an icon, is what he is. He is the epitome of a wonderful country doctor.”

Grace said he was paying a “courtesy call” to the Parish Council, which finances the coroner's office.

“You should know what's shaking and baking, so to speak,” he said.

Dr. Grace gave the council his resume:

Except for his education and Vietnam-era military service, he is a lifelong resident of the parish. He attended St. John Elementary School and was graduated form St. Stanislaus High School in Bayou St. Louis, Mississippi, then attended Loyola University and the LSU School of Medicine, both in New Orleans.

He continued his medical training as an intern at Shreveport and in a family practice program at Lafayette Charity Hospital. He was there when he was drafted into the U. S. Air Force, serving as a general medical officer with the rank of captain.

Grace returned to Plaquemine in 1968 to practice medicine here for 35 years until his retirement in 2005. He was associated with Dow and other local industries, and served for 31 years as the St. John High School football team physician.

He became deputy coroner in 2008.

“I feel that the parish and community have been supportive of me all these years, and as coroner I can give back in some small way with empathy and compassion at a great time of need,” Grace said.

He told the councilmen he has gone to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center once a year for 20 years for treatment of a rare vascular tumor, but assured them his health was not an issue.

And, he concluded, “I hope none of you need my services any time soon.”