Louis J. Michot
|Louis Joseph Michot, Jr.|
Louisiana State Representative
for Lafayette Parish
1960 – 1964
|Preceded by|| At-large:
Allen M. Babineaux
|Succeeded by|| At-large:
J. Luke LeBlanc
Member, Louisiana State Board of Education
1968 – 1972
Louisiana Education Superintendent
1972 – 1976
|Preceded by||Bill Dodd|
|Succeeded by||J. Kelly Nix|
|Born|| November 5, 1922|
Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
|Died|| March 6, 2012 (aged 89)|
|Spouse(s)||Patricia Ann Smith Michot (married 1946–2011, her death)|
|Children|| Marilyn Ann Michot Breaux
Patrick Louis "Rick" Michot, Sr.
|Alma mater|| Cathedral High School (Lafayette)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Louis Joseph Michot, Jr. (November 5, 1922 – March 6, 2012) was an American businessman, philanthropist, and a politician from Lafayette, Louisiana. The entrepreneur of the former Burger Chef restaurant chain, he served as a Democrat in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1960 to 1964, as an elected member of the Louisiana State Board of Education from 1968 to 1972, and as his state's Education Superintendent from 1972 to 1976.
Michot (pronounced ME SHOW) was born to Louis Joseph Michot, Sr., a schoolteacher, and the former Adele Marie Domas (1898–1983), of Marksville, in Avoyelles Parish. He was reared a Roman Catholic in Mamou in Evangeline Parish and in Lafayette, where he was an Eagle Scout, graduated from Cathedral High School, and attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then known as Southwest Louisiana Institute. For six months, Michot was a firefighter and reforestation worker in the Civilian Conservation Corps in northern California. Michot dropped out of college to join the United States Marine Corps during World War II. During his four-year service, he was an anti-aircraft battery gunner officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He flew ten combat missions in the Pacific Theater of Operations. In 2008, Michot appeared in The History Channel series, Battle 360, in which he recounts many of his experiences as part of the Marine detachment on the Enterprise.
On September 7, 1946, Michot married the former Patricia Ann Smith (March 2, 1926 – April 11, 2011), a native of Patterson in St. Mary Parish, and the daughter of William Bathe Smith, Sr., and the former Rita Maria Marin. She was reared along the banks of the lower Atchafalaya River, where her father managed Idlewild Farms, a dairy cattle and sugar cane operation for General Kemper Williams. She graduated in 1942 as valedictorian of her class at Patterson High School. She had a longtime interest in tennis and painting. Mrs. Michot graduated with a degree in home economics from ULL, at which she was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Mrs. Michot worked as a teacher in St. Landry Parish, as a home service agent for Louisiana Power and Light Company in Donaldsonville, and in various positions for her husband's businesses. She was the secretary of Louis J. Michot and Associates and of Michot Family L.L.C.
Michot left the classroom after marriage and entered business with a passion. Michot said that a political science professor taught him "how to form a corporation and start a business without a nickel," and that an individual "could be a success in life without having an educational diploma, if you work hard and you're determined in this country because of the free enterprise system. ... In other words, college is not for everybody." When he was twenty-four, Michot opened the drive-in theater, his first business venture, followed by an appliance and sporting goods store and a building cleaning business. He then became manager of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. In 1958, he purchased the Louisiana, Mississippi, and east Texas franchise for Burger-Chef Systems, a national fast food chain. In 1958, he opened his first restaurant in New Iberia and built forty-five outlets through 1978, when he sold the company. Michot accepted positions with the Navy League of the United States as national secretary and with the Air Transport Association of America as vice president, which took him, his wife, and then six children to Washington, D.C. They resided for two years in Annandale, Virginia. Michot was a licensed pilot and a president of the National Aerospace Education Association. However, Michot noted that "we wanted to raise our children in Lafayette," and hence returned to Louisiana. Michot then launched other business ventures after Burger Chef, including real estate development, insurance, cleaning, commercial air and water transportation, oil well drilling, oil tool manufacturing and sales, offshore and marine fabrication, textile manufacturing in Mexico, communications and foreign trade, and cattle ranching in Central America.
In his later years, Michot was the general manager of his Michot Family, L.L.C., a family-owned holding company which deals principally in real estate sales, development, and rentals. He was one of the organizers of the Bank of Lafayette, having served on its board of directors from 1975 to 1980. He also served on the board of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette and Conrad Industries in Morgan City, Louisiana. He served on the board of the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum located in Abbeville in Vermilion Parish. He was instrumental in the founding of the Louisiana Public Broadcasting Service.
The Musical Michots
Several of Michot's sons formed the "Les Freres Michot" (Michot brothers) band in the middle 1980s. The brothers perform Cajun music. Two of Louis Michot's grandsons, Louis (born 1979) and Andre (born 1975), have formed the Lost Bayou Ramblers, an equally talented group of young musicians, who perform Cajun-style and revert to western swing music of the 1930s and 1940s as well.
La Roue Qui Pend
La Roue Qui Pend, meaning "the hanging wheel," is the French name of the Michot family camp, a secondary residence located in a natural landscape. The camp is used for outdoor recreation, social functions, and as a refuge from urban life or the workplace. It is located in southern Lafayette Parish, near the Vermilion Parish line on the banks of Bayou Vermilion. The Michots had family functions there when the brothers were young, and the brothers hosted Boy Scouts of America camping trips in the adjacent bottomland hardwood forest. The camp was about ten miles from the Michot home in Pilette in Lafayette Parish, close enough so that, when the boys got older, they could ride horses or bicycles there for camping trips, hunting, frogging, hiking, and swimming. There was always plenty of music played at La Roue Qui Pend. The Michots often started a fire in the hearth, cooked gumbo on the stove, and listened to the fiddle, accordion, and guitar until late in the evening.
Michot was elected to the Louisiana House in 1960, when fellow Democrat Jimmie Davis became governor for a second nonconsecutive term. In 1963, Michot, then forty-one, gave up his legislative seat to contest unsuccessfully the Democratic nomination for governor. He ran as a critic of the outgoing Davis administration and said that he would consider supporting Republican Barry Goldwater of Arizona for the presidency in the 1964 general election against Lyndon B. Johnson. Son Michael John "Mike" Michot, a former District 23 state senator from Lafayette, was born on December 12, 1963, just a week after the gubernatorial primary. Michot finished sixth in the gubernatorial primary.
In 1967–1968, Michot reentered the political arena and won a seat on the then 11-member Louisiana State Board of Education. Under the configuration then in place, he represented the former Second Louisiana Public Service Commission District. His board colleagues included subsequent board president Enoch T. Nix of Bossier City. In 1971, Michot challenged incumbent Education Superintendent Bill Dodd, who had also once been in the state legislature (1940–1948), lieutenant governor (1948–1952), state auditor (1956–1960), and a member of the Louisiana Board of Education (1960–1964).
Michot charged that Dodd had injected "cronyism" in the department and overloaded it with useless administrators. Michot used an apple as his logo, with the intention of putting students and teachers first in the educational process. He led in the primary balloting and forced Dodd into a second primary. The discouraged Dodd, however, withdrew from the runoff primary, and Michot became the automatic Democratic nominee. Michot then faced only the second Republican ever to contest the superintendency.
Michot's opponent in the general election was Republican Robert Frye, a native of Shongaloo in central Webster Parish and an education professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. After Michot unseated Dodd, Frye telephoned him to offer congratulations. A few weeks later, Frye alleged that Michot had operated with his brother a bar in Lafayette and had offered Frye a high level job in a new Michot education department if Frye would withdraw from the contest. Michot denied the charges and easily prevailed, 662,597 votes (63.5 percent) to Frye's 380,896 (36.5 percent). Frye carried East Baton Rouge Parish and five north Louisiana parishes, including the Long ancestral stronghold of Winn Parish.
According to his faith in free enterprise, Michot advanced the tenets of "career education" during his term as superintendent. One of his assistant superintendents with duties in special education, was later Superintendent Thomas Clausen, a native of St. Mary Parish then from Baton Rouge. Michot was defeated for a second term in 1975 by his fellow Democrat, J. Kelly Nix, the first executive assistant to Governor Edwin Edwards and originally from West Carroll Parish. In 1984, Nix was succeeded as the last of the elected superintendents by Tom Clausen.
The Republican Michots
Two sons of Louis J. Michot, Patrick Louis "Rick" Michot (born 1948) and Michael J. Michot, both of whom are in the brothers' band, have followed their father into politics as well, but as Republicans. Rick Michot is a state 15th District Court judge in Lafayette Parish, and Mike Michot served as a state senator from 2000 to 2012. Mike Michot was elected in 1995 to the lower house of the legislature as a Democrat but switched parties on June 23, 1997.
Michot died in a Lafayette hospital at the age of eighty-nine. Services were held on March 9, 2012 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Broussard. In 1994, Michot was named "Lafayette's Outstanding Citizen" designated by the Civic Cup. He was a past president and a former district governor of the Lafayette branch of Kiwanis International. In 1997, Louis J. Michot was named an "Outstanding Alumnus" of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette though he never graduated from the institution. There is an endowed memorial scholarship at the university in the name of Michot's father, who attended ULL in 1922 and was later president of its alumni association. He received the first annual "International Achievement Award" from the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government's International Center for his lifetime of leadership in and support of international trade. Michot's involvement with the International Good Neighbor Council as past president took him into Mexico over a three-decade period. He was a key fundraiser for the 75-bed Tarahumara Children's Hospital in northwestern Mexico and a strong supporter of private and religious charities worldwide.
Michot said that he is especially inspired by the life of James Cash Penney, who succeeded in business without a formal education. Michot said that his own philosophy is essentially this: "Promote the general welfare of the people through the private enterprise system. That's what I believe in, because businesses create jobs." He also cites hard work, determination, and taking advantage of the opportunities that one is offered. Lafayette businesswoman and university official Jean T. Kreamer said that Michot has "been an inspiration to so many people of all ages in the community." She described his entrepreneurship as "astute" and his business ventures as a "sense of fun. He has certainly inspired me with his feeling of giving back to the community."
Semi-retired in his later years, Michot continued to play tennis and was frequently engaged in fishing. Pat Michot predeceased her husband by eleven months. Michot had eight living children: Marilyn Ann Michot Breaux (husband Steve Breaux), Patrick Louis "Rick" Michot Sr. (wife Suzanne Lafleur Michot), Thomas Claud Michot (wife Katharine Meleton Michot), David Luke Michot (wife Colette Conway Michot), Timothy Paul Michot (wife Pam Herring Michot), Robert James Michot (wife Beatrice Guwang Michot), Michael John Michot (wife Monique Broussard Michot), and Yvonne Marie Michot Reaux (husband Randy Reaux). Two Michot daughters, Carolyn Rose Michot and Yvette Marie Michot, predeceased him. At the time of his death, Michot had nineteen grandchildren, one deceased, and four great-grandchildren. Michot had one surviving sibling, Jacqueline Michot de Ceballos, of Phoenix, Arizona. He was preceded in death by three brothers and two sisters, James Kenneth Michot, Thomas Warren Michot, William Harold Michot, Beverly Michot Benguiat, and Mary Lois Michot Elliott.
- Obituary of Louis Joseph Michot, Jr.. The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved on March 9, 2012.
- Patricia Ann Smith Michot. Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved on April 14, 2011.
- "Harper PTA Slates Michot," Minden Press-Herald, April 23, 1975, p. 1.
- William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Elections of 1960 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Studies, 1963), pp. 99, 102.
- "Frye Released Papers Say Michot Unethical," Minden Press-Herald, January 27, 1972, p. 1.
- State of Louisiana, Secretary of State, General election returns, February 1, 1972.
- Thomas G. Clausen. parlouisiana.org. Retrieved on October 8, 2013.
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics (Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing, 1991).
- Who's Who in America, 1976–1977.