Gov. Mike Foster remembered for 'down to earth' style of government

Staff Report

Friends and colleagues are remembering Gov. Mike Foster as a “down to earth” leader whose legacy included a popular program geared toward sending more Louisiana high school graduates to state colleges.

Former Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster died Sunday at age 90.

Foster, who served as governor from 1996-2004, died Sunday at his home in Franklin. He was 90.

The Shreveport native – whose father also served as governor – worked as a businessman in the agricultural and oil industry. He ran for governor in 1995 after two terms in the state Senate.

It was during his time in the Senate he changed party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. Despite the switch, many of his policies – namely for education – won support from both sides of the floor.

Foster signed legislation that increased pay for K-12 teachers six of his eight years in office. He also gave the go-ahead on creation of the pre-K programs now in public schools statewide.

But the TOPS Program – which allocated billions of dollars for eligible Louisiana students to attend state colleges tuition-free – has become his greatest legacy.

He also spearheaded the Louisiana Community and Technical College for students, which has provided education and training to thousands of workers who opted post-secondary education outside of the traditional collegiate system.

Foster, who was known for his love of the outdoors, rarely spent weekend at the Governor’s Mansion. He usually headed back to his hometown of Franklin, or to Grand Isle.

“A veteran, a businessman and a sportsman, Gov. Mike Foster was a true Louisianan who served his country, his state and his community with honor throughout his life. As governor, one of his most lasting legacies is in education, especially his support for the creation of the TOPS program, which, more than 20 years later, still helps thousands of Louisiana students attend colleges and universities and achieve their goals,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Gov. Foster recognized that there is no greater gift to our state than a bright future for its young people and that not everyone has to travel the same path to achieve a quality education.  That’s why he created the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

"Gov. Foster also worked hard to protect and restore Louisiana’s coastline and moved to dedicate federal funding to this purpose, so that future Louisianans could enjoy the Sportsman’s Paradise he so loved,” he said. “Donna and I are praying for Gov. Foster’s family, and especially his wife Alice, during this difficult time and hope the people of our state will join their prayers to ours. I have ordered that flags in the state be flown at half-staff in honor of his memory."

Attorney General Jeff Landry, a fellow native of the Acadiana region, also commented on Foster’s passing.

“It is with great sadness that I express my condolences to Mrs. Alice, Murphy, and Ramelle. Governor Foster was a wonderful family man, dedicated public servant, and loyal friend. Mike valiantly served our Nation in the Air Force and honorably led our State as a Senator and as the Governor,” he said. “While Governor Foster may be remembered by most as a conservative manager who steered Louisiana into a prosperous period, I will always cherish Mike as a trusted confidant whose guidance was invaluable. His honorable legacy will live forever; and I hope the citizens of Louisiana will join Sharon and me in prayer for the entire Foster family.”

His “down to earth, no-nonsense style” helped him become a radio personality, of sorts, during his two terms as governor.

He hosted the statewide “Live Mike” show, a weekly call-in program. Many callers would ask him about his take on state and federal issues, while others would ask his help on issue when dealing with local and state agencies.