THIBODAUX – Researchers of politics and history will soon have a vast, new resource waiting for them at Nicholls State University. Two of the Bayou Region’s most prominent political figures, Hunt Downer and Charlie Melancon, have donated their professional files and memorabilia to the Ellender Memorial Library Archives. The items are currently being cataloged.
As a former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, retired Major General, U.S. Army / Louisiana National Guard, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and a candidate for Congress, Downer’s first-hand experience with recent state history has resulted in an extensive historical collection for the Nicholls library.
“You have to know where you’ve been, to know where you are, to know where you’re going,” Downer said. “Researchers will be able to review these files and other materials for decades to come to learn about this period in our state’s history. I am so proud to be a Nicholls Colonel and to have served this region, and I am delighted to help Nicholls in any way I can. Nicholls is the center of gravity for education in this area.”
Materials donated by Downer include legislative and military memorabilia – files, records of correspondence, artifacts, background papers and recordings on issues and policy. Downer said researchers will especially be interested in learning about his role in the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina, including the challenges with the federal bureaucracy. Correspondence with Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as several Louisiana governors, are included among his career materials.
Downer said he is honored that his political and military memorabilia will be archived at Nicholls alongside the records of other noted leaders from the Lafourche/Terrebonne region, including former U.S. Representatives Charlie Melancon and Billy Tauzin and former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives and U.S. Senator, the late Allen Ellender.
“The Lafourche/Terrebonne area has produced so many leaders in this state,” Downer said. “I am pleased that these materials will be available right here, at Nicholls, so future generations will be able to get a better idea of the impact this area has had on Louisiana as a whole.”
As a former three-term United States Representative from the Third Congressional District of Louisiana and a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Melancon served the Bayou Region during some of its most difficult days.
“The six years I served in Congress were an eventful period for south Louisiana,” Melancon said. “The records, letters and other papers I am donating provide a firsthand account of our fight to recover from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and the BP oil spill. They describe our work to save our coast, to grow our economy and to simply make life a little better for the people of south Louisiana. I am proud to be partnering with Nicholls and the Ellender Memorial Library Archives to preserve our history for future generations.”
Melancon’s donation includes correspondence with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on behalf of Louisiana, the final report of the bipartisan commission that studied the flaws in the official Hurricane Katrina response – a commission on which he served – and numerous letters, press releases, news clippings and recordings on DVD.
The donation also includes briefing materials prepared for the annual, multi-day Congressional working trips that Melancon led to the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to highlight the ongoing recovery needs of the region. The three visits enabled members of Congress from around the country to meet directly with local elected officials, community leaders and affected citizens to discuss how Congress could better partner with Louisiana to expedite the rebuilding effort.
Melancon said Nicholls is “in the heart of the Third Congressional District,” and he is pleased that his files will be housed in the same archives where his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, donated his own papers.
“I am also proud to have worked with my friend and former legislative colleague, Hunt Downer, in the aftermath of these multiple events that affected the land and the lives of the citizens of the Third Congressional District, New Orleans and the State of Louisiana,” Melancon said.