Robert DeBlieux

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Robert Buford "Bobby" DeBlieux​

In office
1976​ – 1980​
Preceded by W. Ray Scott (1960–1976)​
Succeeded by Joseph Michael "Joe" Sampite' (1980–2000)​

Louisiana State Preservation Officer​
In office
1980​ – 1988​

Born January 26, 1933​
Natchitoches, Louisiana​
Died January 31, 2010 (aged 77)​
Baton Rouge, Louisiana​
Nationality American
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) JoAnn Weaver DeBlieux (died 1979)​
Children Annie Camille Davis
Dené DeBlieux Mathies​
Alma mater Northwestern State University

Louisiana State University

Occupation Businessman
Historian
Historical preservationist​
Religion Roman Catholic

Robert Buford DeBlieux (January 26, 1933 – January 31, 2010), usually known as Bobby DeBlieux, was a historian, historic preservationist, painter, author, and businessman who was the Democratic mayor of his native Natchitoches, the oldest city in the U.S. state of Louisiana.​ ​

Background

DeBlieux (pronounced as the letter W) was the middle of three sons born to Jefferson Davis "Jeff" DeBlieux, Jr. (1904–1984), and the former Marie Dell Roubieu (1907-2002). Known as "Miss Pat," Mrs. DeBlieux was a devout Roman Catholic who attended mass daily and was like her middle son interested in historical preservation. Robert DeBlieux is named for his maternal grandfather. Mrs. DeBlieux's family came to Natchitoches in 1718, four years after the founding of the city. The ancestors of Jeff DeBlieux arrived in 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase. DeBlieux's older and younger brothers were Jefferson DeBlieux, III (1930–1998), an engineer from Houma in Terrebonne Parish in south Louisiana, and Victor Dale DeBlieux (1941–1993) of Natchitoches.[1] DeBlieux was a younger cousin of the liberal former state Senator Joseph Davis " J. D." DeBlieux, who represented East Baton Rouge Parish from 1956 to 1960 and again from 1964 to 1976. In 1966, J. D. DeBlieux failed in a campaign to unseat his fellow Democrat, U.S. Senator Allen J. Ellender.

In 1956, DeBlieux received his bachelor's degree in fine arts and history from Northwestern State University (then Northwestern State College) in Natchitoches. He served in the United States Army from 1956 to 1958, having been stationed in the former West Germany.[2] In 1960, he earned his Master of Science degree in counseling and psychology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, at which he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. In the early 1960s, DeBlieux was employed by the correctional office of the Natchitoches Parish Juvenile Court. From 1965 to 1976, he was self-employed in the retail hardware business. In 1976, he was elected mayor to succeed W. Ray Scott, who had served for the preceding sixteen years.[3]

DeBlieux had two daughters, both from Baton Rouge: Annie Camille "Cammie" Davis (born ca. 1959) and her husband, Randy Davis, and Dené D. Mathies, and her husband, David Mathies, both from his marriage to the former JoAnn Weaver (1934-1979). He had five grandchildren.[2] He was the proprietor of the Tante Huppe' historic inn at 424 Jefferson Street in Natchitoches, a bed and breakfast named for one of his ancestors.[4] He was a nationally known authority on Louisiana architecture and engaged in landscape painting.[5]

Natchitoches Historic District

​ As mayor, DeBlieux was instrumental in the founding of the Natchitoches Historic District, which includes the mammoth Cane River Creole National Historical Park.[6] Within the district are seven National Historic Landmarks, three State Historic Sites, and historic plantations, homes, and churches. Most of the 116,000 acres is privately owned, but many sites are open to the public. The district extends thirty-five miles and covers both banks of the Cane River, formerly the principal tributary of the Red River.[7]

DeBlieux filed the application for federal landmark designation.[8] The Natchitoches District and French Quarter or Vieux Carre in New Orleans are the only such historic districts in Louisiana. The area had deteriorated prior to the historical designation, and over several years downtown Natchitoches was revitalized.[9]​ ​

State preservation officer

​ DeBlieux was defeated for reelection as mayor in 1980 by fellow Democrat Joe Sampite', who served until 2000. DeBlieux was then named as assistant secretary and preservation officer for the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, initially under the appointment of Republican Governor David C. Treen and continued under Treen's successor (and predecessor), Democrat Edwin Edwards. In this position, DeBlieux succeeded in designating forty-two National Register districts within Louisiana.[2]

In 1989, DeBlieux was the local assistant in the filming in Natchitoches of Steel Magnolias, starring Dolly Parton and Sally Field in a picture which is said to have captured the civic spirit of the community, still known for its brick streets downtown.[10]

In the 1990s, DeBlieux worked in the tourism industry about Natchez, Mississippi. He was for five years the chief executive officer of the Garden Club in Natchez.[2]

DeBlieux's historic preservation endeavors include his establishment of Museum Contents, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Natchitoches. He has also been president and a board member of the Natchitoches Historic Foundation.[2] DeBlieux said that Natchitoches has done more than most cities its size to preserve its history: "Natchitoches Parish is special, because it's maintained its visual heritage. . . . For instance, the plantation houses here are in their original settings and not influenced by a lot of industrial and modern encroachments. A visitor here really feels like he’s stepping back in time.”[11]

Civic endeavors

DeBlieux had been involved too in the American Legion. He was a member of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival Committee, a major event in central Louisiana which is held on the first Saturday of December and draws tens of thousands of visitors into the community. The downtown and Cane River areas are vividly lit during the holiday season through New Years' week. DeBlieux was also been involved in the Louisiana Trails Council and the Boy Scouts.[3] At twenty-seven, he was the president of the Natchitoches Jaycees from 1960 to 1961.

The DeBlieux Collection

His DeBlieux Collection in the archives of Northwestern State University contains the papers of interrelated Natchitoches families spanning more than two centuries. Featured are such Natchitoches pioneer families: Brezeale, Cloutier, Huppe, Hyams, Janin, Lambre, Metoyer, Prudhomme, and Walmsley, many of which intermarried. The topics include social customs, business affairs, home schooling of children, legal cases, political insight, and civic service. There are also the financial records of the DeBlieux & McCain store from 1902 to 1939.[3] There are also some documents on the career of the legendary Huey Pierce Long, Jr., in the collection.[12]

DeBlieux was a co-author of Natchitoches and Louisiana's Timeless Cane River. Another DeBlieux work is A Walking Tour of the Natchitoches Historic District, which focuses on the old Kaffie-Friedrick Hardware building. He also published Historic Black Churches of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.

Death

​ DeBlieux died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge only five days after his 77th birthday. Services were held on February 4, 2010, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Natchitoches, with interment at American Cemetery. His parents are interred at the Catholic Cemetery of Natchitoches.[2]

References

  1. Obituary of Marie Dell Roubieu DeBlieux. files.usgwarchives.org. Retrieved on February 2, 2010; no longer on-line..
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Obituary of Robert B. DeBlieux. The Alexandria Town Talk (February 2, 2010). Retrieved on September 2010; no longer on-line..
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Robert DeBlieux. Northwestern State University. Retrieved on Unavailable; no longer on-line..
  4. Tante Huppe' Inn in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Roadtrippers.com. Retrieved on September 25, 2019.
  5. The Garden Club. Authorhouse.com. Retrieved on Unavailable; no longer on-line..
  6. Isle of Canes. Isleofcanes.com. Retrieved on Unavailable; no longer on-line..
  7. Cane River Heritage Area. caneriverheritage.org. Retrieved on February 2, 2010; no longer on-line..
  8. Home of the Steel Magnolias. americanprofile.com. Retrieved on February 2, 2010.
  9. Robin Miller (April 19, 2006). Natchitoches' historic downtown is a jewel along Cane River Lake. Alexandria Daily Town Talk. Retrieved on February 2, 2010; no longer on-line..
  10. Movies: Complete Production Credits for Steel Magnolias. The New York Times. Retrieved on Unavailable; no longer on-line..
  11. Communities. The Alexandria Town Talk (April 19, 2006). Retrieved on Unavailable; no longer on-line..
  12. Guide to Research Papers: Long, Huey Pierce (1893-1935). Retrieved on September 25, 2019.

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