Former state Sen. Ken Hollis, who worked to keep the Saints in New Orleans, bring legalized gambling to Louisiana and establish state-sponsored property insurance, is dead at the age of 68.
He died Friday morning of cancer at Ochsner Medical Center after a struggle with cancer in recent months, his family said.
Hollis, a Metairie Republican and key figure in state and local politics for more than three decades, served in the state legislature from 1982 until January 2008.
A former chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, term limits forced Hollis out in 2007. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for governor and Jefferson Parish president.
As a lawmaker, he sponsored the bill that established the Louisiana Lottery and pushed for video poker and casino gambling.
Channel 4 political analyst and Gambit political columnist/co-owner Clancy DuBos said that didn't make Hollis popular with all of his constituents.
"I think Ken showed a lot of political courage in championing the land-based casino and the lottery, even though his district was not necessarily wild about those two issues," DuBos said. "But he showed a lot of courage in promoting those issues and fighting for them because he believed, and I think he was right, that they were good for the state in the long run and that's really what political courage is all about."
In 2001, Hollis responded to news that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson might move the team out of New Orleans with a grassroots campaign called Save Our Saints.
In a statement, Gov. Bobby Jindal gave Hollis credit for his work keeping the Saints in the state.
“His passing comes a day after the unveiling of the Saints’ Super Bowl champion banner in the Superdome commemorating the Saints victory – a team he worked to keep right here in Louisiana and a team that has brought so much joy to our people,” Jindal said in a statement.
Hollis also was proud of his earliest legislation, which banned an earnings tax on nonresidents working in New Orleans, and of getting state support for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, his family wrote.
Born and raised in Alexandria, Hollis was the son of a car dealer. After graduating from Louisiana Tech University in 1964 he went into insurance, eventually creating Hollis Companies, which specializes in employee benefits.
He also backed the bill creating the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to handle property insurance for people unable to get other property coverage.
Hollis spent two years on the Jefferson Parish Council before running for the state Senate.
Survivors include his wife, Diane, two sisters, three sons and three stepdaughters.
Visitation for Hollis will be Sunday at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery from 7-10 p.m. His funeral is also at Lake Lawn, Monday at 2 p.m. A memorial service will also be held Tuesday at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge.