He ushered in a new era at New Orleans City Hall, exactly 35 years ago today. Ernest “Dutch” Morial was sworn in as the city’s first African-American mayor, on the steps of City Hall – May 1, 1978.
In his inaugural address, Morial, who won the election six months earlier, noted the historic nature of his election but struck a unifying tone, calling his election “a noble experiment” for “all the people.”
“History will someday record that today a quiet revolution took place when, for the first time, a black man assumed the office of mayor,” Morial said. “But I have said before and I say again – the election of a black mayor, the appointment of a black official means nothing unless there is tangible advancement for all people.”
Morial, then 48 years old, was sworn in by a fellow trailblazer, Criminal District Court Judge Israel Augustine, the first African-American district judge in Louisiana.
Morial, a New Orleans native and well-known civil rights attorney before taking office as mayor, was also the first African-American member of the Louisiana state legislature, first African-American juvenile court judge in New Orleans and first African-American appeals court judge in the state.
Morial would go on to serve two terms in office, as would his son, Marc, who served from 1994 to 2002. Marc Morial is now president of the National Urban League. "Dutch" Morial and his wife Sybil had five children in all.
"Dutch" Morial died in 1989.