What ever happened to the class of ’79?
Edwin Edwards was on the cover of our 1979 People to Watch issue. The then and future governor was not part of the magazine’s People to Watch class of that year, though subsequent events in his career would certainly suggest that he was closely watched, especially by the FBI.
Back then the magazine had a practice of selecting the same number of people as the last two numbers of the year. Thus there were 79 honorees. Many of those recognized provided proof of Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” theory (some were already at the 14-minute mark) and quickly faded into obscurity. Those whose names survived the decades were mostly politicians. Paul Valteau, a young protegé of then-Mayor Dutch Morial (also a “People” that year) was seen as being an up-and-comer. He is now ending a long tenure as Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff. Twenty-three-year-old Mary Landrieu, the daughter of a former mayor, was at the time in the property management business but was suspected of having political ambitions. Jim Donelon, the nephew of Jefferson Parish’s Parish President was eyeing the Lt. Governor’s office. He never made it to that job but is now in his second term as state Insurance Commissioner.
There were some athletes too, including the Saints’ Henry Childs, described as one of the “best tight ends in pro football.”
Most poignant in retrospect were James Hardy, the first round draft pick of the New Orleans Jazz, and Rich Kelley, the team’s center, who it was said could become one of the finest at that position in the NBA. Unfortunately no one in New Orleans would get to watch them play much longer. To the shock of the city, and with little public notice, at the end of the season the Jazz were swiftly relocated to Salt Lake City.
And then there was John Volz, the area’s then newly appointed U.S. Attorney. He had “his work cut out for him,” the magazine said, “considering his goals are to vigorously prosecute white collar crime and public corruption.” I wonder what he thought when he saw Edwin Edwards on the cover. Twice during his career he would indict Edwards and bring him to trial. Both times the governor survived. But perhaps Volz opened the way for a third indictment under a different U.S. Attorney when Edwards was finally sent to prison.
We wish the best for our class of 2009 and trust that none will go to jail. May their fame last for decades, if that is what they choose, or minutes, if they prefer. Most of all, may none of them ever be forced to move to Salt Lake City.