NEWORLEANS-- Retired federal Judge Frederick J.R. Heebe, whose career included 20 years as chief judge of federal court in New Orleans as well as a stint on the Jefferson Parish bench and parish council, died Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 91.
Heebe retired in 1996, thirty years after he was first appointed to the bench by President Lyndon Johnson. He was a former state district judge in Jefferson Parish, where he also served as a parish councilman from 1958 to 1960.
A native of Gretna, Heebe's family is well-known in Jefferson Parish business and political circles. His son, Fred Heebe, is co-owner of the River Birch Landfill in Waggaman and was a onetime candidate for Jefferson Parish District Attorney and U.S. Attorney. Fred Heebe's wife, Jennifer, is a former Jefferson Parish councilwoman.
During his career at federal court, Judge Heebe handled many cases in the 1960s and '70s dealing with the desegregation of schools and redistricting of school boards and parish governments.
'We had a heck of a lot of civil rights work. Lord, it was every time I turned around,' he told The Times-Picayune in 1992.
According to his family, other matters that came before him involved the preservation of historic French Quarter buildings; the effort by Clay Shaw to stop his prosecution by Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy, protests over the Vietnam War; and battles over reapportionment.
Judge Heebe entered semi-retirement at federal court in 1992, giving up the position of chief judge he had held for 20 years. He was appointed to the bench after serving six years as a state district judge in Jefferson Parish.
Born in Gretna, Heebe was a graduate of Fortier High School and Tulane University. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Pacific Theatre and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for wounds he received on Okinawa.
After returning home from the war, Heebe enrolled in Tulane Law School, where he graduated in 1949 and entered private practice.
In addition to his son, Heebe is survived by his wife, Doris; a daughter, Adrea Dee Heebe; and two stepchildren. He is also survived by three grandchildren and eight step-grandchildren.