In these times, a digital keystroke quickly returns an abundance of general information regarding the lives and accomplishments of significant people. Vic Bussie was a such a person. Hence, I will not recite many of the noteworthy facts of Vic's life, which are as easy for any reader to find as this post itself. But on this day, the occasion of his passing, there are a few thoughts and recollections of Vic from my personal experience which an Internet search engine could not produce.
Dignity and presence, those are the characteristics that I would say best described Vic. He was a natural leader. He could be both firery and folksy. I should think the fire was more in evidence in earlier years, when he was successful in campaigning to repeal the first Louisiana state right-to-work law in 1956 (for more on this subject, see earlier post, The Louisiana Bus), than in his later years, when he labored valiantly to persevere despite the dominance of big money anti-union business political operations, which enacted a new right-to-work law in 1976. Through it all he commanded the respect and admiration of friend and foe alike.
Trust, personal trust, was his purchase on the ground he stood. And it bought him a lot of room in which to operate, both nationally and locally. It was a priceless quality that enabled Vic to accomplish many things in the public arena.
It could also task him with a rather surprising chore on occasion. When Governor Earl Long was committed to the mental asylum in Mandeville, he was only able to gain release by firing the Director of that state facility, Jesse Bankston, and appointing a replacement who would give him a clean bill of health. By then, however, the number of people Earl trusted were not terribly numerous, so he called on Vic to come get him and drive him back to Baton Rouge.
Vic was so strong and respected a part of the labor movement for so long, it seems especially poignant and ironic to say good-bye on Labor Day weekend. And while I am not given to reading much into coincidence, honestly, it does kind of tug at me a bit, much like the fact that Thomas Jefferson passed away on the 4th of July.