Cottonport Prison to be renamed in honor of Raymond Laborde


    In a fitting tribute to a local and state political legend, the state House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation to rename the state prison in Cottonport the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center.
    The legislation was filed by state Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), who holds the seat from which Laborde wielded political power for many years.
State Rep. Chris Hazel of Ball also helped have the family to be present when the bill was voted upon, the Laborde family said.
Johnson said it is fitting to name the prison in honor of Laborde because it was Laborde who secured funding to construct the prison in Cottonport.
   Laborde was also instrumental in saving the prison a few years ago when Gov. Bobby Jindal attempted to sell it it to a private company.        Although retired from public service, Laborde went to Baton Rouge just a few days after undergoing open-heart surgery to lobby legislators to defeat Jindal’s proposal.
   “It is with great honor that I bring this bill,” Johnson said as he presented House Bill 442 in the House chamber on Wednesday (April 6).  The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.
   Several members of the Laborde family attended the presentation of the bill.
   “As I was walking to the Capitol, it was very touching,” Charles Laborde of Marksville said. “The House was very accommodating to the family. They acknowledged us and paid tribute to Daddy very well. It was a beautiful presentation and I am glad that I went.”
   Charles Laborde said he, his brother Donnie Laborde of Cottonport, and sisters Minnie Lafargue of Marksville and Rachel Voinche of Alexandria were among family members attending the event. His brother, Ray Laborde of Marksville, was unable to attend. “It was an outstanding honor to recognize our father with that bill,” Ms. Voinche said. “It was very touching. There was no opposition to the bill and the House members gave a standing ovation. They paid a lot of respect for what our father had done for Avoyelles Parish and the state.
   “As hard as he fought to get that prison built and to to keep it open, I believe it is fitting that he is remembered in this way,” she added.
House resolution
   In addition to acting on that bill, the House passed House Resolution 49, expressing the Legislature’s condolences over the Jan. 17 death of Laborde at the age 88.
   “Louisiana has lost a notable figure in the history of the Louisiana Legislature,” the resolution stated. Laborde’s death “left a great void and created a genuine sense of sorrow in all who knew him, including the members of his legislative family.”
   “There is no doubt that Mr. Raymond left his mark, not only in the parish, but also in our state and our government,” Johnson said. “He certainly left a mark on our hearts with his generous spirit.”
Prior to serving 20 years in the House, from 1972-92, Laborde was mayor of Marksville from 1958-1970. He served a term as president of the Louisiana Municipal Association. 
    He was also a businessman, owning and operating Raymond’s Department Store in Marksville for 63 years.
    “It was a rite of passage for a Cub or Boy Scout to go to Mr. Raymond’s store to get a uniform,” Johnson recalled.
    During his years in the House, Laborde served as a floor leader for his long-time friend, former Gov. Edwin Edwards. Laborde was speaker of the House from 1982-84. He served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in his last term.
    Laborde left the House in 1992 to become Edwards’ commissioner of administration.
    Although Laborde was highly respected throughout the state for his role in state government, “at home he was always just ‘Mr. Raymond.’” Johnson said.
    Laborde was named the Avoyellean of the Year in 1978 and was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield in 2003.
    Avoyelles Correctional Facility received its first offenders on June 19, 1989.  AVC is located on 1,187 acres of land. The original design capacity was 610, but renovations and new construction over the years have increased the operational capacity to 1,564.