Hank Lauricella, a Louisiana state lawmaker for more than three decades who was also a former college football star at the University of Tennessee and a successful commercial real estate developer, died Tuesday. He was 83.
The University of Tennessee announced Mr. Lauricella’s death. A triple-threat tailback at Tennessee, who was also the team’s punter, he was a member of the school’s 1950 and 1951 national championship teams. He was also the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1951.
His political career included 32 years in the state legislature, serving two terms in the House of Representatives and then many years as a state senator. He was first elected in 1964 as a Democrat, later becoming a Republican. His districts included Kenner, Harahan, River Ridge and parts of Metairie.
Colleagues remember him as a Jefferson Parish powerbroker, known for helping send millions in state and federal dollars to his home district for street improvements, highway projects and economic development, including the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. Earlier he also served on the commission that built the Louisiana Superdome in the 1970s.
He entered politics after serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in Korea, then returning to Jefferson Parish and going into the real estate business founded by his father. Lauricella Land Company developed much of Jefferson Parish between the Mississippi River and Airline Highway.
Mr. Lauricella’s athletic career began as a star running back at Holy Cross High School, winning the city championship.
A native of Harahan, Lauricella was part of the famed Tennessee 1948 recruiting class and was, according to UT, the first Vols football player from the state.
Nicknamed “Mr. Everything,” Lauricella threw for six touchdowns and rushed for another during his debut season. He was also a starting safety, punter and kickoff and punt returner.
After his successful collegiate career at Tennessee, he later played with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Texans, and in 1981, he was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
"Obviously, it's a sad day for the entire Tennessee family," former Tennessee quarterback and now Denver Bronco superstar Peyton Manning said in a statement from the university. "Hank Lauricella was a good friend to me, and he and I shared a special bond with both playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee and coming from the state of Louisiana. I was always proud to share that bond with Hank.”
"He was a great player and person, and he was always nice to me and my family. I'm glad I had the opportunity to have a great visit with Hank at his son's house last year at a crawfish boil, and I always enjoyed my visits with him. My condolences go out to his family."
In 2008, the university named a building in honor of Mr. Lauricella and his wife, Betty, who was Miss Tennessee and homecoming queen during her undergraduate days there. The couple met on the Tennessee campus.
According to the school, a wake will be held at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home in New Orleans on Tuesday, April 1 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. There will be a visitation, with Mass to follow, from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2 at St. Rita Church in Harahan.