Roemer remembered as reform-minded politician, ‘kind of an unstoppable force’

ArkLaTex native “represented all that was possible in a Louisiana that was changing for the better”
While his reform-based platform did not see Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III through to the presidency that he later sought, it did spark change in Louisiana po
Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 7:55 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — “The revolution is not over. It’s just begun.”

Shreveport native Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III spoke those words during his election night party in Shreveport when Louisiana voters chose him as their governor.

But it would be the former congressman’s first and only term as his home state’s top official.

And while his reform-based platform did not see him through to the presidency that he later sought, it did spark change in Louisiana politics.

That’s the sense one gets from talking with some of the people who knew and worked with Roemer, those who described him as a politician who was “kind of an unstoppable force” and one who was brilliant, energetic and passionate to the point of sometimes seeming brash.

It was a persona that grew from his childhood days at Scopena, his family’s plantation along US 71 in Bossier Parish where he learned politics from his larger-than-life father and carried him from Harvard, which he entered at the age of 16, to the halls of Congress and the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge.

“He had a lot of fire in him. He believed in what he was trying to do,” said Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who graduated from Bossier High a few years after Roemer did.

“He was a fine speaker who had a way with words and could express himself,” Campbell recalled.

Roemer “had a lot of courage and charisma. He was a great communicator.”

Retired Shreveport Journal Editor Stan Tiner, a Fair Park High alum who like Roemer graduated from high school in 1960, recalls seeing a young man with a shock of hair and a big, leather briefcase. At the time, Roemer was an aide to Edwards when Edwards ran for governor the first time.

Roemer was “not the guy out front but you noticed him.” He came across as being somebody who was important.

Roemer had a “brashness that went against him in many ways,” Tiner said. “Over time, I was extremely drawn to the man for his ideas.”

He was one of the best idea guys and he loved to debate, Tiner added. But Roemer also was a good listener and got excited about others’ ideas.

And that worked well for a sector of the voting public that for the first time felt they were being heard.

The reform-minded politician was a brilliant guy who cared passionately for Louisiana and gave the young people of the day hope that change was afoot, Tiner said.

Well before the Roemer Revolution hit Louisiana and even before he entered Congress, Roemer was pushing for change in Louisiana. He was a leader among those who gave the state its new constitution in the early 1970s.

The Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame credits Roemer — as governor — with increasing teacher pay, toughening campaign finance laws and strengthening the state Department of Environmental Quality to enforce environmental laws.

Others note that he presided over the legalization of the state lottery and riverboat gambling. Roemer left the governor’s office before the riverboat casinos and video poker venues began operating.

As a congressman, Roemer sponsored 20 bills and co-sponsored hundreds more. Congressional records also show that he repeatedly put forth legislation to change the name of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Shreveport to the T. Overton Brooks Memorial Veterans Administration Medical Center.

He was an outstanding U.S. representative who had a reputation as a reformer, something that former Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker says caused problems for Roemer.

As governor, Roemer “stepped on a lot of toes and maybe some he did not have to,” Tiner opined. And “his national political potential was squandered in that first term.”

But Roemer also will be remembered for sticking to his guns and fighting for what he thought was right, sources said.

He at one time “represented all that was possible in a Louisiana that was changing for the better,” Tiner said.

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