SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Colleagues and staffers are remembering the accomplishments of Governor Buddy Roemer, who passed away Monday at the age of 77 after a long battle with diabetes.
The four-time U.S. Congressman also represented Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District in the 1980s. Roemer was born in Shreveport and graduated valedictorian from Bossier High School in 1960, entering Harvard University at the age of 16.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, Roemer returned to northwest Louisiana to work for his father’s computer business and later founded two banks before making a successful congressional run in 1980.
“He was somebody that you certainly listened to and somebody that you were certainly willing to confer with. When we got together, working for something concerning Louisiana, there was almost no difference of opinion,” said Henson Moore, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Fast forward to 1987, Roemer launched his campaign for governor and was a dark horse candidate against incumbent Governor Edwin Edwards.
In a campaign centered on budget reform, Roemer won the governor’s office in 1988.
During his tenure, Roemer increased teacher’s salaries, toughened campaign finance laws, legalized the state lottery and river boat gambling.
In the middle of his term, Roemer switched political parties, going from Democrat to Republican.
Roemer’s Traveling Secretary Lawrence Guidry says the switch happened in large part due to Roemer’s longstanding friendship with president George H.W. Bush.
“They talked once a week. On Wednesday he’d call Buddy on the phone for advice, for example. And of course, that went on for four years,” said Guidry.
To this day, Roemer remains the only Governor in United States history to switch political party affiliation during an elected term.
The party switch didn’t take root, as Roemer failed to defeat former KKK leader David Duke, in the open primary that ended his bid for reelection in 1991.
In 2012, Roemer launched a brief bid to become President of the United States, but the campaign never gained traction.
Roemer dealt with diabetes for most of his life and it led to other health issues later in life.
According to his family, Roemer was surrounded by family when he passed early Monday morning.