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Mayor Victor H. Schiro - New Orleans in Transition, 1961–1970

Mayor Victor H. Schiro

New Orleans in Transition, 1961–1970

By Edward F. Haas
Hardcover : 9781628460179, 416 pages, 16 b&w photographs, July 2014

A biography of the last mayor of New Orleans to get things done


During the turbulent 1960s, the city of New Orleans experienced unprecedented economic growth, racial tensions and desegregation, political realignment, and natural disaster. Presiding over this period of sweeping change was Mayor Victor H. Schiro (1904-1992), an unassuming, moderate Democrat who sought the best for his city and adhered strictly to the rule of law in a region where laissez faire was standard practice and hardened defiance was a social norm. Schiro sought fairness for all and navigated a gauntlet of conflicting pressures. African Americans sought their civil rights, and whites resisted the new racial environment. Despite vigorous opposition and an unfriendly press, Schiro won election twice.

Under his direction, the city experienced numerous municipal reforms, the inclusion of African Americans in executive positions, and the broad extension of city services. The mayor, a businessman, recruited new corporations for his city, heralded the development of New Orleans East, and brought major professional sports to the Crescent City. He also initiated the plans for the construction of the Superdome.

At the height of this activity, Hurricane Betsy devastated New Orleans. In response, Schiro coordinated with the federal government to initiate rescue and recovery at a rapid pace. In the aftermath, he lobbied Congress for relief funds that set the precedent for National Federal flood insurance.


No person living knows more about New Orleans politics in the 1950 and '60s than Edward Haas. He's pored through thousands of pages of manuscripts, interviewed many of the period's important players, and grappled with the vital, often stormy issues of that era. His biography of Mayor Victor Schiro, years in the making, is the fruit of his herculean effort. Judicious and evenhanded, Haas' exhaustive biography never founders, not even on the shoals of racial unrest. Historians will be in his debt for years to come.

- Lawrence N. Powell, professor of history, Tulane University

It seems remarkable that the man who served as mayor of New Orleans during one of its most tumultuous periods--when the New Orleans Saints were born and plans for the Superdome first established, when Hurricane Betsy devastated the city, and when New Orleanians finally confronted the full implications of desegregation--has not yet been the subject of a full scholarly treatment. Thankfully, the administration of New Orleans mayor Victor H. Schiro has finally received the examination it so rightfully deserves at the hands of Edward F. Haas. One of the foremost historians of modern Louisiana and southern politics, Haas provides an incisive and balanced account of this fascinating though quiet and often misunderstood historical figure. In doing so, Haas demonstrates his keen wit and discerning eye for the colorful anecdote or story. Based on prodigious research and engagingly written, Mayor Victor H. Schiro is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand not only present-day New Orleans but also the modern South.

- John C. Rodrigue, Lawrence and Theresa Salameno Professor of History, Stonehill College

Ed Haas brings a lifetime of research and insights about New Orleans to his study of Victor Schiro. What emerges is not only a deft portrait of the man and the politics of the city, but a finely tuned story about a troubled city's course through the civil rights era. It is both an urban and a regional tale that is as engaging as it is memorable.

- David Goldfield, Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte