This past Sunday, August 18, 2019, Kathleen Blanco succumbed to complications from cancer. Blanco edged out Bobby Jindal in 2003 to become the first female elected to serve as governor of Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city, state, and her political career 20 months later.
Blanco was born in French-speaking Acadiana in 1942. She was one of seven children. She attended a five-room school before moving to New Iberia and graduating from Mount Carmel Academy. She met her future husband, Raymond "Coach" Blanco, while attending UL at Lafayette, where she earned a degree in business education. They married when she was 22.
She was a mother of six, a hunter, and a fisherman-and a devoted housewife until 1979 when she began working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Four years later, she gained a spot as a pro-life, pro-guns Democrat in the Louisiana State House of Representatives. She eventually served two terms as lieutenant governor before being elected governor.
As governor, Blanco cut business taxes and brought in new companies, and she focused on improving public education. During Katrina, she struggled for federal rebuilding aid, created the Road Home program, and re-opened Orleans' public schools through the state-run Recovery School District. Before finishing her term, Blanco gave teachers a raise and created a budget surplus.