Louis J. Michot: Wikis


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Louis J. Michot in 1969, while representing the elected Second Public Service Commission District on the Louisiana State Board of Education

Louis Joseph Michot, Jr. (born November 5, 1922), is a prominent Lafayette, Louisiana, businessman, entrepreneur of the former Burger Chef restaurant chain, philanthropist, and a former Democratic state representative (1960–1964), member of the Louisiana Board of Education (1968–1972), and state education superintendent (1972—1976). He is the Roman Catholic father of ten children.

Michot (pronounced ME SHOW) was born to Louis Joseph Michot, Sr., and the former Adele Marie Domas (1898–1983), of Marksville, the seat of Avoyelles Parish. He attended Cathedral High School in Lafayette and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then called "Southwestern Louisiana Institute."

Louis J. Michot reading The Cajun Night Before Christmas, 1975

On September 7, 1946, Michot married the former Patricia Smith. She grew up on the lower Atchafalaya River in St. Mary Parish and graduated from SLI in the year of their marriage. Michot dropped out of college to join the United States Marines in World War II.


Super businessman

Michot left the classroom after marriage and entered business with a passion. Michot said that a political science professor taught him "how to form a corporation and start a business without a nickel," and that an individual "could be a success in life without having an educational diploma, if you work hard and you're determined in this country because of the free enterprise system. . . . In other words, college is not for everybody."

When he was twenty-four, Michot opened a drive-in theater, his first business venture, then an appliance and sporting goods store, and a building cleaning business, then became manager of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. In 1958, he purchased the Louisiana, Mississippi, and east Texas franchise for Burger-Chef Systems, a national fast food chain. He opened his first restaurant in New Iberia in 1958, and built forty-five outlets through 1978, when he sold the company.

Michot was offered positions with the Navy League of the United States as national secretary and with the Air Transport Association of America as vice president, which took him, his wife, and six children at the time to Washington, D.C., for two years. However, Michot noted that "we wanted to raise our children in Lafayette," and hence returned to Louisiana.

Michot then launched other business ventures after Burger Chef, including real estate development, insurance, cleaning, commercial air and water transportation, oil well drilling, oil tool manufacturing and sales, offshore and marine fabrication, textile manufacturing in Mexico, communications and foreign trade, and cattle ranching in Central America.

At age eighty-four, Michot is presently still general manager of his Michot Family, L.L.C., a family-owned holding company which deals principally in real estate sales, development, and rentals. He was one of the organizers of the Bank of Lafayette and served on its board of directors from 1975–1980.

The musical Michots

Several of his sons formed the "Les Freres Michot" (Michot brothers) band in the middle 1980s. The brothers perform Cajun music. Two of Louis Michot's grandsons, Louis (born 1979) and Andre (born 1975), have formed the Lost Bayou Ramblers, an equally talented group of young musicians, who perform Cajun-style and revert back to western swing music of the 1930s and 1940s as well.

La Roue Qui Pend (The Hanging Wheel)

La Roue Qui Pend is the French name of the Michot family camp, a secondary residence located in a natural landscape. The camp is used for outdoor recreation, social functions, and as a refuge from urban life or the workplace. It is located in southern Lafayette Parish, near the Vermilion Parish line, on the banks of Bayou Vermilion.

The Michots had family functions there when the brothers were young, and the brothers hosted Boy Scout camping trips in the adjacent bottomland hardwood forest. The camp was about ten miles from the Michot home in Pilette in Lafayette Parish, close enough so that, when the boys got older, they could ride horses or bicycles there for camping trips, hunting, frogging, hiking, and swimming. There was always plenty of music played at La Roue Qui Pend. The Michots often started a fire in the hearth, cooked gumbo on the stove, and listened to the fiddle, accordion, and guitar until late in the evening.

Democrat Louis J. Michot

Michot was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1960, when fellow Democrat Jimmie Davis became governor.

In 1963, Michot, then forty-one, gave up his legislative seat to contest the Democratic nomination for governor, but was unsuccessful. Ironically son Michael John "Mike" Michot, the District 23 state Senator from Lafayette, was born on December 12, 1963, just a week after the gubernatorial primary.

In 1967–1968, Michot reentered the political arena and won a seat on the then 11-member Louisiana State Board of Education. He represented the former Second Public Service Commission district on the education board.

In 1971, Michot challenged incumbent Education Superintendent William J. "Bill" Dodd, who had also once been in the state legislature (1940–1948), lieutenant governor (1948–1952), auditor (1956–1960), and a member of the Louisiana Board of Education (1960–1964). Michot and Dodd hence had both been in the legislature and on the State Board of Education.

Michot charged that Dodd had injected "cronyism" in the department and overloaded it with useless administrators. Michot used an apple as his logo, with the intention of putting students and teachers first in the educational process. He led in the primary balloting and forced Dodd into a second primary. The discouraged Dodd, however, withdrew from the runoff primary, and Michot became the automatic Democratic nominee. Michot then faced only the second Republican ever to contest the superintendency.

Michot's opponent in the general election was a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, Republican Robert L. Frye of Hammond. Michot easily prevailed, with 662,597 votes (63.5 percent) to Frye's 380,896 (36.5 percent). Frye carried East Baton Rouge Parish and five north Louisiana parishes, including the Long stronghold of Winn Parish.

According to his faith in free enterprise, Michot promoted "career education" as superintendent. He was defeated for a second term in 1975 by his fellow Democrat, J. Kelly Nix, originally from Monroe.

The Republican Michots

Two sons of Louis J. Michot, Patrick Louis "Rick" Michot (born 1948) and Mike Michot, both of whom are in the brothers' band, have followed their father into politics as well, but as Republicans. Rick Michot is a 15th District state judge in Lafayette Parish, and Mike Michot has been a state senator since 2000. He is also a former state representative (1996–2000). Mike Michot was elected to the lower house of the legislature as a Democrat but switched parties on June 23, 1997.

Michot's legacy

In 1997, Louis J. Michot was named an "outstanding alumnus" of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette though he never graduated. There is an endowed memorial scholarship at the university in the name of Michot's father, who attended this college in 1922 and was later president of its alumni association.

He has received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Lafayette (city and parish) consolidated government International Center for his leadership and support of international trade.

Michot's involvement with the International Good Neighbor Council as past president has taken him into Mexico for the past three decades. He is a fundraiser for Tarahumara Children's Hospital and a strong supporter of private and religious charities worldwide.

He is a past president of Lafayette Kiwanis and former district governor of Kiwanis International. He was awarded the Lafayette Outstanding Citizen (Civic Cup) in 1994.

Michot said that he is especially inspired by the life of James Cash Penney, who succeeded in business without a formal education. Michot said that his own philosophy is essentially this: "Promote the general welfare of the people through the private enterprise system. That's what I believe in, because businesses create jobs." He also cites hard work, determination, and taking advantage of the opportunities that one is offered.

Lafayette businesswoman and University Official, Jean T. Kreamer, said that Michot has "been an inspiration to so many people of all ages in the community." She described his entrepreneurship as "astute" and his business ventures as a "sense of fun. He has certainly inspired me with his feeling of giving back to the community."

Now semiretired, Michot takes time out two days a week to play tennis, and he fishes almost as often. The rest of his time is spent with his large family, which now includes nineteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Preceded by
William Joseph "Bill" Dodd
Louisiana State Superintendent of Education

Louis Joseph Michot, Jr.

Succeeded by
J. Kelly Nix


Who's Who in America, 1976-1977



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