Joe Sampite'

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Joseph Michael "Joe" Sampite'​


In office
1980​ – 2000​
Preceded by Robert DeBlieux​
Succeeded by ​Wayne McCullen

Born ​January 22, 1931
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died May 18, 2012 (age 81)​
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Resting place Memory Lawn Cemetery​
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Hazel Barnes Sampite' (deceased)​
Occupation Insurance agent ​
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Michael Sampite', known as Joe Sampite' (January 22, 1931 – May 18, 2012), was a Louisiana politician known for promotion of his adopted hometown of Natchitoches, of which he served as the mayor from 1980 to 2000.

Political career

A colorful figure, Sampite' (pronounced SAM PUH TAY) wore white socks, a habit begun during his early days as a coach. He distributed "I Love Natchitoches" stickers by the thousands during his twenty years in municipal office and was instrumental in bringing the filming to Natchitoches of Dolly Parton's Steel Magnolias.[1] Coincidentally, in 1959, the year that Sampite graduated from Northwestern State University, another motion picture was filmed in Natchitoches, John Wayne's The Horse Soldiers.[2]​​

In his first election as mayor in 1980, Sampite', a native of New Orleans, unseated the one-term incumbent Robert DeBlieux. As mayor, he expanded the city's fire and police departments and recreation program and directed improvements in infrastructure and the Natchitoches airport.[1]

As the president of the Louisiana Municipal Association from 1986 to 1987, he was the first recipient of that organization's President's Award. At the turn of the 21st century, The Shreveport Times' named Sampite' among its "Top 100 Influential People in Northwest Louisiana." In 2000, he was inducted into the Northwestern State University Hall of Distinction, or Long Purple Line, the highest designation for NSU alumni.[1] In 2002, he was named to the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[3]

Mayor Sampite' is profiled in The Oxford American literary magazine in an article entitled, "No Ordinary Joe." He received numerous other honors, including "Man of the Year" awards from the Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce, Natchitoches Junior Chamber International, and the Louisiana Parks and Recreation Association. He was a member of the American Legion, the Founders of Natchitoches, and the Roman Catholic men's organization, the Knights of Columbus.[1]

A Democrat, Sampite' did not seek reelection to a sixth term in the municipal election held in the spring of 2000. Two Democrats competed in a runoff election held on April 15 for the right to succeed Sampite'. Then city council member at-large and current mayor, Wayne McCullen, narrowly defeated John Winston, 3,votes (50.3 percent) to 2,962 (49.7 percent).[4] Sampite' sought a political comeback in the fall of 2007, but he was defeated in a competitive campaign by the Republican Rick Nowlin, a Natchitoches businessman, for the District 23 seat (then Natchitoches Winn parishes) in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Nowlin polled 4,609 votes (55 percent) in the general election to 3,766 (45 percent) for Sampite'.[5] In the primary on October 20, Nowlin led a four-candidate field with 4,849 votes (35 percent) to Sampite's 4,598 (33 percent). Two other Democrats, Ralph Wilson and Mack James, polled a significant 2,847 (21 percent) and 1,459 (11 percent), respectively. Hence, Nowlin and Sampite' were thrust into the general election.[6]​ After one term, Nowlin was defeated in a reconfigured district in his bid for a second term in the House. He is now the first president of the Natchitoches combined municipal and parish governments.dd

Legacy

Sampite' died in Natchitoches at the age of eighty-one. His services were held on May 22, 2012, at his home church, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Natchitoches, with interment at Memory Lawn Cemetery.[1]

Sampite' was preceded in death by his wife, the former Hazel Barnes, and a daughter, Sharon Elizabeth Sampite'. He was survived by a son, Chris Sampite' and wife Daphne Gray Sampite'; two daughters, Sheila Sampite' Hardin and her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Hardin, and Michaela Marie Sampite'; two sisters, Sally S. Logan of Alexandria and Marielise Sampite' Brosset of Cloutierville; a brother, A. J. Sampite', Jr., of Hemet, California, and six grandchildren.[1]

Mayor Wayne McCullen issued this statement on his predecessor's death:
​ "It is certainly a sad day for the citizens of Natchitoches and the state of Louisiana. Natchitoches has lost an icon with the passing of Mayor Joe Sampite'. He touched so many lives through his years of coaching and twenty years as mayor ... He was a mentor of mine as I served with him while I was city councilman at large. Our prayers certainly go out to his family. Mayor Sampite's legacy will live on forever in Natchitoches."[7]

David West, the Northwestern State University news bureau director in 2012, described Sampite' as "a tireless advocate for Natchitoches and NSU. He loved NSU a lot. He was always available to speak to freshmen at our Freshman Connection and was a commencement speaker at one of our graduations. Mayor Sampite' was one of a kind."[7] A Joe Sampite' Scholarship Fund was established at the Northwestern State University Foundation.[8]

In 2017, the 100-year-old house in which Sampite' had lived as a boy, located in the Cloutierville area south of Natchitoches, was burned to the ground. The owner lived in Baton Rouge. The blaze may have been caused by electric power lines damaged in a thunderstorm.[9]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Joe Sampite' obituary. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  2. Personalities Along the Cane. natchitochestour.com. Retrieved on May 20, ; no longer on-line..
  3. Political Hall of Fame. lapoliticalmuseum.com. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  4. Natchitoches Parish election results, April 15, 2000. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  5. Louisiana general election returns, November 17, 2007. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  6. Primary election returns, October 20, 2007. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Former Natchitoches Mayor Joe Sampite' dies. The Alexandria Town Talk, May 18, 2012. Retrieved on May 20, 2012.
  8. Longtime Natchitoches Mayor Joe Sampite', Pi Kappa Phi alumnus Joe Sampité remembered. Pikappnsu.org (May 20, 2012). Retrieved on March 5, 2019.
  9. Home of late Natchitoches Mayor Joe Sampite' goes up in flames. KTBS-TV in Shreveport (June 15, 2017). Retrieved on March 5, 2019.
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