Raymond Sindo Blanco’s influence was felt on the football fields where he trained; on the hallways of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he served as a beloved administrator; and in the harsh political world of Louisiana.
But for generations of Louisians, he is perhaps best remembered as the life partner and trusted advisor to Louisiana’s only female governor, Kathleen Marie Babineaux Blanco, to whom he was married for 55 years and with whom he raised six beloved children.
Services for “Coach” Blanco are scheduled for Sunday and Monday. He died on Saturday at the age of 87.
The visit will be held on Sundays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the UL Student Union Ballroom, 620 McKinley St. A prayer service and celebration of life reflections begin at 5:30 p.m. Parking is available across the street at the Olivier Hall Parking Tower.
Visitations will continue Monday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Walters Funeral Home, 2424 N. University Ave. A funeral service will follow at St. John Cathedral with reflections at 1.30pm and Mass at 2.00pm. After Mass, a funeral service will be held at St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery, 174 Church St., Grand Coteau.
“Coach Blanco once said that students were among his best friends — and our students never had a better friend or tougher advocate than Raymond Blanco,” said E. Joseph Savoie, president of UL Lafayette, whom Blanco hired as associate dean of student affairs 1978
“His dedication to their success and belief in social justice created a legacy that is deeply ingrained in the culture of our university.”
This sense of social justice was developed as the son of two immigrants in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, where Blanco was born and raised. The city has not always welcomed immigrants.
During Blanco’s childhood, Theophilus Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor was the local public safety commissioner for some 26 years and achieved national fame for enforcing segregation and supporting the poll tax in Birmingham, which discouraged black and poor white residents from voting.
From the 1940s to the 1960s there were more than 40 bombings in the city, mostly targeting civil rights activists.
Blanco graduated from John Carroll, a Catholic high school — he has been called “the funniest and best politician” — in 1953 and left the state to attend college, first at a junior college in Mississippi and then at St. Benedict’s College in Atchinson , Kansas, where he played linebacker on the football team and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science in 1958.
Blanco coached high school football in Galveston, Texas, and in New Iberia, where Catholic High won its first state championship under his tutelage. He joined the football coaching staff of UL Lafayette in 1963, but became Dean of Men, Dean of Student Staff, and Dean of Undergraduates during periods of some civil rights-related turmoil on campus. He was later named vice president of student affairs, a position he held until his retirement in 2009.
“Those of us who have worked for and with Coach often heard him say that it was a moral obligation to listen to students and to respond fairly and kindly to their concerns,” Savoie recalled.
“While there are hundreds of stories of his larger-than-life exuberance and antics, there are just as many tales of quiet mentorship and leadership. In dormitories and locker rooms, in his living room and kitchen, he sat with students and just listened,” Savoie said.
“He treated them as if they were his own and offered advice based on a clear sense of right and wrong. He bonded with students as individuals deserving of attention and respect. He heard with his ears and heard them with his heart.”
In a 2003 article by John Hill, former Capitol Bureau reporter for Gannett Newspapers, Blanco insisted that he stayed in the background of his wife’s political career, preferring hunting and fishing, outdoor pursuits that too his wife enjoyed.
His hunting friends included former US Senator J. Bennett Johnston. And while he insisted on putting his wife’s political career on the back burner, he was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in 2019, where he “reviewed aspiring candidates for various municipal and local offices such as clerks of court, councillors, mayor, Mayors, City and County Councilors, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, State Representatives, State Senators and Judges.”
He also took time off to work on his wife’s successful gubernatorial campaign in 2003. He took similar vacations to work on her campaigns for the state Legislature, Public Service Commission, and Lieutenant Governor.
He was preceded in death by his wife Kathleen Marie Babineaux Blanco, father Goumersindo Blanco, mother Mary Locascio Blanco, brother Joseph Blanco and a son, Benedict Andrew Blanco.
He was survived by his children Karmen Blanco-Hartfield (Jerry), Monique Blanco Boulet (David), Nicole Blanco George (John), Raymond Blanco, Jr. (April), and Pilar Blanco Eble (Michael), and 17 grandchildren Savannah Blanco-Trumps & Allyson Hartfield, Kathleen, David, Zachary & Sam Boulet, Angelle, Tripp, Graham, Crawford & Bishop George, Ray and Drew Blanco, Ben Michael, Eli, Miles and Oliver Eble.
He is also survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law and a long list of nieces and nephews.