Even today, many older Americans still may have a hard time admitting that an ancestor is bi-racial. But not 34-year-old U.S. Senate candidate Josh Pellerin, a Franklin, La., native and energy company owner based outside Lafayette who views his complex ancestry — and the way it mirrors the history of the state — as part of his appeal to Louisianans.
A graduate of Dartmouth, Pellerin recently circulated an e-letter to selected Democratic supporters revealing that he entered this hotly contested race to replace David Vitter as the only African-American candidate. In fact, Pellerin also has American-Indian ancestors from the Charenton area and Spanish ancestors on his mother’s side. This unique combination probably places Pellerin among the most multi-racial candidates in Louisiana political history.
People bearing the last name Pellerin began coming to Louisiana from Acadia (Nova Scotia) or directly from France in the 1700’s, settling in New Orleans and in Southwest Louisiana’s bayou parishes. Historical records indicate that a Gerard Pellerin was one of New Orleans’ earliest colonists. A concessionaire, Gerard Pellerin arrived from France on the ship Toulouse about 1720 along with his family and servants. His letters, now housed at Paris’ Bibliothequede l’ Arsenal, describe the process of establishing a base of operation for the Company of the Indies in New Orleans, Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez, where he took up residence.
Josh Pellerin is descended from seven Pellerin brothers who resided in the St. Mary Parish hamlet known as Verdunville. His great-great grandfather was Charles Pellerin who married Marie Paul of African and American-Indian descent.
Not unlike many of the early Louisiana Creole families eager to assimilate, at least one member of the Paul family anglicized the last name to Wickliffe. Sylvestre Sosthene Wickliffe, Charlie Pellerin’s brother-in-law who was born free in 1864, gave an extensive interview for the U.S. Slave Narrative Series available through Louisiana Historic & Cultural Vistas. In the interview, Wickliffe discussed his family’s life along Bayou Teche including that of his grandfather Romain Verdun Sr., who owned approximately 38 slaves. By the 1850’s, property records from several Acadiana parishes show that free people of color were becoming prosperous, acquiring real estate and other assets, seeking a more privileged life with enhanced opportunities for education, small-business ownership, and property rights.
“We are all just Americans,” Pellerin told me in a conversation yesterday. While many older Americans remain “stuck” on racial identification, millennial voters agree with Pellerin. They are more likely to judge individuals by their accomplishments rather than by race, according to experts.
Josh Pellerin’s recent decision to reveal his diverse ethnic background could also be driven by political ambition. Pellerin must find a way to stand out among the crowded field of U.S. Senate candidates. Appealing to African-Americans and millennials could provide the lift he needs.
Pellerin, who spoke early-on of self-financing his campaign a la Donald Trump, raised only about $3,000 from donors during the last reporting period. With a new fundraising deadline tonight, Pellerin has been wisely spending these days dialing for dollars.
DARLEEN JACOBS TO INTRODUCE U.S. REP. JOHN FLEMING TO NEW ORLEANS DONORS
Prolific fundraiser and millionaire trial lawyer Darleen Jacobs is opening up her French Quarter home, the “House of the Rising Sun,” tonight to introduce friends, business associates, and elected officials she has supported throughout the years to conservative U.S. Rep. John Fleming M.D., a candidate for U.S. Senate.
A highly-sought-after barrister who specializes in personal injury, class action, wrongful death and maritime litigation, Jacobs is pulling out all the stops to ensure an eager, moneyed crowd with ready checkbooks. This invitation-only event which does not include a specific donation request will feature live music, an open bar and the finest catered buffet. Jacobs will personally prod attendees if necessary to ensure Fleming walks away happy.
Raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, Jacobs saw her first legal clients in the back of the Clover Grill, the famous Bourbon Street eatery owned by her father. Of Lebanese descent, Jacobs began flipping burgers at the grill while attending UNO. Few women — especially outspoken ones — were law school students in the late 1960’s. A prolific debater, Jacobs was the only female member of her 1970 Loyola Law School graduating class.
Jacobs also began selling real estate at an early age and has amassed a collection of properties in the French Quarter, the suburbs, and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that rivals any of the big boys. Fleming’s signs are beginning to appear on Jacobs’ many buildings.
Jacobs’ French Quarter home was once a bordello run by Madame Maria Le Soleil Levant whose surname is French for “rising sun.” Tours of the home will be available at the fundraiser.
Fleming reported $2.6 million in the last quarter, much of which was a personal loan or transferred from his congressional account. Jacobs alone could help add $100,000 this evening.
COUNCILMEMBER NADINE RAMSEY TO GREET OLD AND NEW DONORS TONIGHT
New Orleans City Councilmember Nadine Ramsey, a former Civil District Court judge, has been a cautious and measured legislator, carefully weighing all the issues before making a decision. She has been particularly supportive of the needs of Algiers residents and has formed close working relationships with the other elected officials who represent the voters of Algiers. Ramsey has also been a friend to tourism and businesses in the French Quarter/Marigny area.
Ramsey’s supporters including Mayor Landrieu and the majority of the City Council will be joining her tonight at Basin Street Station for her largest annual event. Also expected to attend are birthday boy Dickie Brennan, Coleman Adler, Darryl Berger, Ralph Brennan, Wayne Ducote, Joe Jaeger, Mohan Kailas, Jay Lapeyre, Ashton Ryan Jr., Angela O’Byrne, Kiana Mitchell, Clint Smith, and Sean Cummings.
FIRST CITY COURT JUDGE VERONICA HENRY KICKS-OFF RE-ELECTION
What smart lawyer doesn’t occasionally need a friendly jurist at First City Court? That might explain why almost 100 lawyers signed up to host Judge Veronica Henry’s re-election kickoff Wednesday, July 13, at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Judge Henry was first elected to the bench in 2010 and had previously practiced law for more than a quarter century.
Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.