Bill Broadhurst, the longtime Louisiana political strategist who died May 22 at 77.
The old political lions are leaving us, one by one. Each one’s passing leaves a void that cannot be filled — and reminds us that we won’t see their kind again. We lost another lion on May 22 when attorney, consultant, political strategist and lobbyist Bill Broadhurst died at his home in Crowley. He was 77.
In addition to the many hats Billy wore so well, he was also my friend. As a political insider, he taught me a great deal about Louisiana politics. As a trusted friend, he taught me just as much about life.
In the end, we both learned that the lessons of politics truly are the lessons of life, because the same things matter in both arenas: relationships; respect; trust; honor; loyalty.
In the great game of politics, Bill Broadhurst was the ultimate insider. He shunned the spotlight, yet he shone in the quiet corners and in the closed meeting rooms where big decisions were made. A lawyer first and foremost, Bill never lost his cool in the midst of a crisis. To him, problems were merely puzzles awaiting solutions. The knottier the problem, the more he loved unraveling it. He had no equal at his craft.
Bill’s friends ran the gamut from high-ranking D.C. politicians to working-class Cajuns. As much as he loved untangling a complex issue, he loved diving into a juicy burger or sharing a plate of fried oysters with friends even more.
I first met Bill in 1983, when I covered Edwin Edwards’ successful run for an unprecedented third full term as governor. I noticed that whenever TV cameras turned to EWE, a host of hangers-on would crowd around him angling for a slice of the limelight — but one guy always deftly shied away. Afterward, Edwards inevitably huddled with that guy in the shadows.
That guy was “Billy B.” I made it my business to get to know him, never intending to strike up a decades-long friendship. Truth is reporters and politicos aren’t supposed to be friends. Our interests too often collide. In the end, it’s just too difficult — and ultimately not worth it.
But Bill made it easy, and well worth it. “I promise I’ll never lie to you,” he told me. “But there will be times when I just won’t be able to talk. If you’ll respect that, I’ll always tell you everything I can.”
And on those occasions when our duties collided, he always said, “Do what you have to do. We’ll still be friends when it’s over.” He kept his word.
I wasn’t the only media guy Bill befriended. Our mutual friend, former NBC National Political Correspondent Ken Bode, emailed me when he learned of Bill’s passing. Ken’s comments summarize perfectly how Bill’s friends felt about him:
“I first encountered Bill Broadhurst during Gov. Edwin Edwards’ first trial, an event then billed as ‘The Trial of the Century.’ During that maelstrom, we developed a bond of trust and respect: I believed he told me the truth, and he believed I reported it fairly. Out of that experience a friendship developed that was strengthened and grew over the years.
‘Whenever my professional business brought me to Louisiana, my first appointment was with Bill. I took him as my political lodestone to unravel the complexities Louisiana. Meanwhile, together we proved that a political reporter and a politician- political consultant-guru could weather the difference of mission between us to include friends, families, even our dogs. I came to think of him as a man with an extra political gene, who could, and would, tell it to me straighter and deeper than anyone else.”
“He was very loyal to his friends and very helpful, and you could always count on him,” said former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who undoubtedly knew Bill better than anyone.
Former Republican consultant Bill Kearney, also a close friend, called Bill “a political giant and a political genius.”
Bill Broadhurst was the one lion who never roared. He didn’t need to — anyone who knew anything about Louisiana politics would gladly stand in line just to hear him whisper.