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RememberIng Dutch Morial


  Christmas Eve marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, the city's first black mayor and namesake of the city's convention center. No commemorative events are planned. Morial died at the age of 60 from an asthma attack on Dec. 24, 1989, two weeks after announcing he would not try to return to the mayor's office he held from 1978 to 1986. "I would like people to remember him as a man who deeply cared about this city and who worked tirelessly to make it a better place," says family spokeswoman Monique Morial, a local attorney and one of his five children. "It's amazing that it has been 20 years. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. Other times, it seems like 40 years ago." In his Christmas Day obituary, The New York Times observed: "During his years as Mayor, Mr. Morial was regarded as many as an adroit administrator who kept the city afloat in difficult financial times when federal aid dried up and the city struggled with a low tax base." Gambit eulogized Morial as a "stern taskmaster" and "hands-on administrator who demanded competence from his staff at all levels" (Commentary, Jan. 2, 1990). Elected in 1977 with a bi-racial coalition, Morial also expressed disappointment that he could not increase his support among white voters as mayor. His supporters blamed "lingering racism" while critics cited his "fiery disposition." "In time," Gambit opined then, "we think many more who did not agree with him in life will eventually come to understand the forces that drove him, and to appreciate the contributions he made. When that happens, Dutch Morial will be remembered as one of our great mayors." Morial's legacy is also captured in a chapter of Creole New Orleans, a 1992 book co-authored by University of New Orleans historians Arnold R. Hirsch and the late Joseph Logsdon. — Allen Johnson Jr.

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