BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — Charles “Buddy” Roemer III, a one-term Louisiana governor and former U.S. congressman died earlier this morning at the age of 77.
His son, Chas Roemer, told the Associated Press the former governor died peacefully at his home in Baton Rouge after a long battle with diabetes. He was surrounded by family, Chas Roemer said.
Buddy Roemer served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 to 1988 in the state’s 4th District. He was elected as the 52nd governor of Louisiana in 1988, defeating the multi-term incumbent Edwin Edwards, only to lose to him before his first term ended in 1992.
His campaign, dubbed the “Roemer Revolution,” was perhaps best remembered for his vows to “scrub the budget” and “brick up the top three floors” of the Department of Education building.
During that first term, he also switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1991 while in office, becoming the first Louisiana governor to do so. He made another attempt to run for governor in 1994 but did not make the runoff, paving the way for Mike Foster to win the seat.
Roemer also made an attempt to run for U.S. president in 2012, seeking the nomination from both the Republican Party, the Reform Party and Americans Elect Party before dropping out and endorsing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Married three times (his second marriage ended while he was governor) Roemer kept a lower public profile after suffering a stroke in 2014.
He was born Charles Elson Roemer III, and grew up on his family’s cotton plantation, Scopena, in north Louisiana’s Bossier Parish. He learned politics from his father, Charles E. Roemer II, who served as Edwards’ chief budget officer in the 1970s.
Elected to the U.S. House in 1980, Roemer forged a reputation as one of the “Boll Weevils” — conservative Southern Democrats who helped President Ronald Reagan pass legislation.
But no political label quite fit Roemer, whose north-Louisiana drawl belied his Ivy League education. Although he was reared in a politically active family and elected to four congressional terms, he ran for governor in 1987 as an outsider, railing against special interests and bureaucracy.
U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy released statements this morning praising Roemer.
“Louisiana weeps,” said Kennedy. “Buddy was one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He was immeasurably talented. All he ever wanted to do was make Louisiana better, and he did. That meant making the right people mad, but he understood that. When I count my blessings, I count Buddy twice.”
“Buddy’s election as governor signaled a turning point in Louisiana’s history,” said Cassidy. “He loved Louisiana, contributing to it through the public and private sector. He leaves a great legacy. My condolences to his family.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Gov. Roemer’s life and legacy on May 17, the day of his interment.
“From the fields of Scopena to the halls of Congress and then the Governor’s Mansion, Buddy Roemer proudly represented the state he so dearly loved,” said Edwards. “His astute intellect led him to enter Harvard at the young age of 16, but he still returned to Louisiana, driven by a desire to serve. I am especially grateful for the balanced, pragmatic approach he took as governor during a turbulent time for our state’s budget. I hope that we will all carry on his legacy by espousing his positive, passionate approach to public service. Donna and I ask that you join your prayers to ours in praying for Gov. Roemer’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
A statement from the Roemer family stated:
“His charismatic presence captured the attention of audiences within moments, a talent he put to work battling corruption and waste in government, drawing attention to opportunities to improve our educational system, and building support for those in need.
“Buddy positively impacted all who crossed his path by generously sharing his knowledge, resources, and time, regardless of station in life. His authenticity gave everyone a feeling of friendship and encouragement.
“We are saddened by his passing but find comfort in knowing he is eternally rejoicing in the presence of our heavenly Father. We also celebrate the life he lived and the legacy he leaves behind.”Roemer Family
The Associated Press has contributed to this story.