Gov. Buddy Roemer funeral: 'He was truly a statesman ahead of his time'

Greg Hilburn
Shreveport Times

Former Gov. Buddy Roemer was remembered by his family and friends as a sparkplug of optimism with a trailblazing vision who was often ahead of his time during a funeral Thursday in his hometown of Shreveport.

Roemer, who was 77 when he died May 17, was memorialized in Baton Rouge Tuesday, but he was returned for the funeral to the historic downtown First United Methodist Church of which his family has belonged for more than half of its 175-year existence.

"He loved baseball," said daughter Caroline Roemer, who said her father was buried wearing a jersey of his beloved New York Yankees. "If he were here today he would say its good to be back on his home field.

"We grew up in this church. This was our home."

Roemer, a fierce reformer whose innovative vision was ultimately too much for voters to digest in a single term when painful budget cuts were also required, served as governor from 1988-1992.

The funeral for former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer was held at the First United Methodist Church of Shreveport Thursday.

He was also Louisiana's 4th District Congressman from 1981-1988.

Beloved friend Laurance Guidry said he spent many of the days following Roemer's death reading accounts of the former governor's public service and business career in banking.

"He finally got the accolades he was due," Guidry said. "He was truly a statesman ahead of his time and a great problem-solver."

Roemer was born in Shreveport and reared on the 10,000-acre Scopena cotton plantation in southern Bossier Parish. He was an intellectual prodigy, entering Harvard at 16, but returned to Louisiana to build his political career.

"Dad was the single most optimistic person I've ever met in my life," said son Chas Roemer. "Dad was a dreamer. He wanted us to be what we could be, not what we were.

"When everybody else said it's time to quit he would say, 'It's time to double down; they don't get it.'"

Though Roemer lived the last decades of his life in Baton Rouge, Chas Roemer said his father "carried (Shreveport and Bossier) with him each day."

"Every day at work there was a story about home," Chas Roemer said. "I'll tell the people of Shreveport and Bossier you carried him on your shoulders and he loved you very much."

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Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, a protégé of Roemer's, eulogized his friend and former boss on the Senate floor this week in a nine-minute speech.

Kennedy called Roemer "one of the most complex and interesting people I've ever known."

"Gov. Buddy Roemer truly believed in the power of ideas," Kennedy said. "I'm going to miss Buddy. All he ever wanted to do was change Louisiana. And he did." 

The family has asked those wishing to honor Roemer’s memory donate to the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org or to the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools’ Little Free Libraries Project at lacharterschools.org.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.