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Home News News Fox 8 Chris Rose: Who was Alfred Danziger?

Chris Rose: Who was Alfred Danziger?

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Born to a Jewish family of means in the late 19th century, he rode his familial connections to many avenues of prominence in Louisiana:
Assistant attorney general, public counsel to New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri, private attorney for Gov. Huey P. Long.

Like many men of his era possessed of both power and means, his was a life of moral ambiguity.

He was Huey Long's wing men, provider of goods and services with which to satisfy the Kingfish's super-sized appetites.

He hosted legendary weekend romps at his beach house in Grand Isle, where Long was wont to loosen his tie and his tongue, in pursuit of of indiscretion and peccadillo.

But this man was also a passionate supporter of the arts, particularly children's theater. He was an early patron and developer of Grand Isle, helping turn that Jefferson Parish outpost as a resort destination. He was chief organizer of a city-wide boycott of German goods and services in the mid-1930s.

Biographies often refer to him as “Active in flood control legislation” which would no doubt fit someone's idea of irony.

Perhaps this man's greatest contribution to the commonweal was his voluntary roll as chief fund-raiser for the creation of Dillard University, persuading much of the white business elite to contribute to the establishment of the city's esteemed university for African American students.

Oft-told family accounts say that Long once promised to build a roadway to his Grand Isle retreat - and name it after him - in honor of his many years of loyal service. That project, however, never got off the drawing board - and Alfred David Danziger got a bridge instead of a highway.

And a name that will live in infamy.

When the jury renders a verdict in the Danziger Bridge case in the coming days, it will not mark the end of this period – of this story - but only a turning point.

When justice is rendered, Danziger is not something we will be able put behind us, walk away from, tidily store in our collective memory bank for historical reference.

Danziger is an era, an idea, a state of mind, a state of being. It's the measure of the depths to which the human species can reach in times of desperation, despair, and  danger.

Whether Danziger holds any moral ambiguity is up to you and - perhaps more acutely - the jury that sits in judgment today.

I would not like to be on that jury.

I would not like to be Alfred David Danziger, a man and a name inextricably linked to the horror of the human condition.

Remember the Danziger 7, indeed.

Remember, too, Alfred David Danziger, a political operative, a visionary, a civil rights pioneer, by all accounts a good and decent man, a historical footnote in his era, a rallying cry for all time.

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