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Blakeview: Iris Kelso

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This week we remember Iris Kelso, a journalist who chronicled state and local politics for nearly half a century and would have turned 90 years old Dec. 10. When she died in 2003, Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos, who considered Kelso a mentor, called her "the last of the Steel Magnolias" and "the queen bee of Louisiana political writers." Born Iris Turner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Kelso came to New Orleans in 1951 to work for the New Orleans States, one of the city's two afternoon newspapers at the time. She was a woman covering government when virtually everyone in politics and the press was male. After more than a decade, she left to work for Total Community Action's Head Start program. But the journalism bug never left, and in the late 1960s Kelso joined WDSU-TV. In 1978, she returned to print, working for the weekly paper Figaro before becoming a political columnist for The Times-Picayune. She covered every governor from Earl K. Long to Buddy Roemer and mayors from Chep Morrison to Marc Morial. While respected for her political columns, Kelso often said the columns she wrote about her Mississippi family were the most popular. That included the aunts who raised her and a cousin, Turner Catledge, who became editor of The New York Times.

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