Jacques Chirac: New Orleans Days Of A Future President
Except for Andrew Jackson, we’re not sure any future President of a nation spent as much time in New Orleans as Jacques Chirac, who was chief executive of France from 1995 to 2007. Chirac, who died last week (Sept. 26), certainly left stories to tell, the most famous being when the future president was nurtured by a future King of Carnival.
When Chirac was a graduate student at Harvard, he spent time in this city doing a study on the Port of New Orleans. (The study would be entitled “La Nouvelle-Orléans et Son Port en 1954.”) One story has it that in 1954 he became seriously ill with pneumonia so a French- speaking doctor was called on. That was New Orleanian Homer Dupuy, a dedicated Francophile, who nursed young Chirac back to good health. For the rest of his life Dupuy would tell about maintaining a correspondence with Chirac as he ascended to Mayor of Paris and than as President. Dupuy would achieve his own throne. He was Rex in 1963 and continued to be a passionate member of the organization.
There are other stories.
New Orleans native Tom Sancton once served as Paris Bureau Chief for Time magazine. In that capacity, he met Chirac during his presidency a couple of times. One year, while on a panel at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, Sancton recalled that each time he met Chirac, the President was delighted to hear that he was from New Orleans. Chirac told about his experience as an exchange student. His selection for the honor was even reported in the education news of the local daily. According to Sancton, Chirac liked to say that The Times-Picayune was the first newspaper in which his name was ever published.
Some of his memories were confused. Sancton remembered that Chirac would tell about going to New Orleans’ Jazz clubs and hearing Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway perform, neither of whom lived or worked here. He also said that he befriended Ellington and the two had dinner at Galatoires. That, however, was an unlikely occurrence in the segregated 1950s.
Had Chirac ever returned to New Orleans he could have toured the Joan of Arc statue and taken a drive down DeGaulle Drive, maybe even had dinner at Galatoire’s.
His memory continues, however, and last week sadly his name was inThe Times-Picayune one more time.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 p.m., REPEATED AT 11:30 p.m..WYES-TV, CH. 12.