Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Attorney and former state senator Henry “Hank” Braden IV, a force in state and local politics for nearly 35 years, has died. He was 68.
Among Braden’s four children is Remi Braden, the director of public affairs for the New Orleans Police Department.
During his career in the state senate, from 1978 to 1984, and even after leaving office, Braden was a force in local politics, particularly as a leader of the African-American political organization COUP.
A St. Augustine High School, LeMoyne College and Loyola University Law School graduate, Braden was first elected to the state senate in 1978, as one of the first Africa-Americans since Reconstruction to serve in the Louisiana senate.
“Hank loved politics and public service and was among the most insightful politicians I have ever covered,” recalled Clancy DuBos, Eyewitness News Political Analyst and Gambit political editor and columnist.
In the senate, Braden replaced Sidney Barthelemy, his longtime friend and ally, who would later be elected mayor of New Orleans. Braden won the 1978 senate election by a razor-thin 14 votes, defeating then-state Rep. Louis Charbonnet.
Braden was a top leader of COUP, the Seventh Ward black political organization, born of a time when political organizations and their candidate endorsements were seen as much more powerful and important than today. As an example, COUP (led by Braden, Barthelemy and political consultant Ron Nabonne) often tangled with former mayor Dutch Morial and members of his political organization, LIFE.
As a political consultant and leading figure in city politics during the 1970s and 1980s, Braden and COUP worked to get Barthelemy elected mayor in 1986.
As a player in the rough and tumble world of local politics, Braden was also at the center of more than one fight – including one where punches were thrown, in the dining room at Ruth’s Chris Steak House on Broad Street, where he tussled with former councilman and police chief Joe Giarrusso.
Braden was active in state and national Democratic Party politics as far back as the 1960s and was elected to the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee in 1977.
Early in his career he was an executive director for the New Orleans Poverty Agency (Total Community Action) and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. From 1974 to 1975, he was the Director for Manpower and Economic Development for the City of New Orleans.
His father, Dr. Henry Braden III, was known for breaking down racial barriers in the city as the first African-American member of the Orleans Parish Medical Society and the boards of Charity Hospital and Tulane University.
In addition to his daughter Remi, Braden is survived by his wife, two sons and another daughter, Heidi.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.