Cappy and I are very sad just now. We learned last night that New Orlean's 'cowboy' for justice, Jefferson Parish Sheriff, Harry Lee, was hospitalized in serious condition, and now during the noon news, it was reported that he passed.
I only heard about him when I first moved to South Louisiana 6 years ago, and Cappy would always mention that his boat was passing Harry Lee's home, as he drove up the Barataria Waterway.
The longer I lived here, the more I learned about the crooked politics of the area. Once, I off-handedly remarked to Cappy that a sheriff couldn't afford a home that like on a sheriff's salary. Cappy quickly came to Harry's defence, letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that Harry had made his own money before he decided to get involved with public servitude, and that it just so happened that "Ol' Harry" was one of his heroes. After that, I started paying more attention, to learn for myself, about this 'larger than life', sometimes controversial character.
The news is presently abuzz with his past, the wonderful charitable things he had done behind the scenes, for which he wanted no accolades, the controversies, things he has been quoted of saying, etc. Well, I'm not familiar with all that. All I know is what I saw on television or read, which is not that much, actually. I know he was fed up with the rise in crime after Katrina, not to mention his toughness in his stand against trouble uprising in the fresh wake of the storm, which caused controversy, and for his thanks, got labled as a racist. After the storm and crime began to explode everywhere in the New Orleans area, Harry traveled with an entourage to New York City (and I think Washington, DC) to try to find a definitive plan to squash lawlessness in his parish. It was a fact-finding tour, for which he hoped to find a solution that would be a stabilizing factor in the rebuilding of New Orleans. If memory serves me correctly...my impression was, that on his return, practically, he was met at the doorstep of New Orleans by the ilk of 'Al and Jesse', protesting that anything he'd do to stop crime would be racial, and fought against 'tooth and nail'. He tried dealing with them, meeting with them, reasoning with them, being blunt about his concern that most of the killing was resulting in young black men dying. After months, he must have been so frustrated and, in my mind, broken-hearted, after expending so much of his time and energy, out of his love and loyalty to New Orleans; traveling north to learn what in the world he could do to alleviate the problems,etc. only to learn it was all to no avail. Finally, in one meeting, he asked, "Ok, let me hear your plan". They said they had no plan. He told them, (paraphrasing, of course) "Alright, then Shut Up! and let me do what I gotta do to get this crime under control!" I think about then I gave him a big 'Cajun yell'! How refreshing. On the news just now, one of the people being interviewed, (who was stifling tears) said that Harry said things that other people couldn't get away with, and still garner respect. I think that rings true.
In the last year or so, his health began to fail; he had weight loss surgery, hip and knee replacement, and now, the leukemia, which was the fatal straw. Still, tho he fought on, planning to run for his seventh term in office. He's quoted as saying, "Even if I'm on a stretcher, I'll still be running". Returning from the hospital earlier this week, he dined out and went fishing. What a full, colorful life he had. I hope whereever he is now, that they listen to what he has to say, cuz it's gonna be good.