Louisiana lobbyist Charlie Smith recalled as a colorful, throwback character
Charlie Smith sports a look that is part musical superhero, part Carnival royalty in his purple cape made of parachute fabric, trimmed in gold fringe, with the words "King of Jazzfest" in 2007. (Kathy Anderson/The Times-Picayune)
Louisiana has long been known for its ribald politicians, from Earl Long’s carousing in New Orleans to Edwin Edwards’ trips to Las Vegas and quip that Klansman David Duke wasn’t the only “wizard under the sheets” in the 1991 governor’s race.
But occupants of the Governor’s Mansion aren’t the only colorful characters who make Louisiana politics what it is, even if they are the most famous. By most any measure, Charlie Smith — lobbyist, poet, JazzFest enthusiast, recovering addict, LSU fanatic — belongs in the same company as the colorful elected officials.
The Louisiana Political Hall of Fame agreed, making Smith, who died March 1 after a long illness, the only lobbyist ever enshrined. Smith’s death has prompted a steady stream of remembrances on social media and Louisiana political websites, a flurry that prompted a review of The Times-Picayune archives, which is dotted with Smith anecdotes, quotations and even a few letters to the editor.
Weaving that all together here is perhaps the best way to capture Smith, who was 69, for someone who never saw him in his cape at the Fair Grounds or listened to him grouse and grumble at the Capitol or watch him yell in his purple & gold Hawaiian-style shirts at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.
Read more at NOLA.com