Louisiana said goodbye to its first and only female governor this month. Kathleen Blanco, the state’s 54th governor, died Aug. 18 at the age of 76 after a battle with cancer.
Although much of her political career was defined by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Blanco was showered with statewide sympathy and praise in the months leading up to and after her death. State leaders and columnists remembered Blanco—who was elected governor in 2003 after defeating Republican Bobby Jindal—as a trailblazer for women, a champion of education reform and as someone who put the state’s interests ahead of her own. Perhaps one of her most courageous accomplishments was spearheading the charter school movement in New Orleans post-Katrina, where test scores and graduation rates have risen significantly ever since largely as a result of this effort.
Blanco, amid criticism of the state’s response to Katrina, decided not to seek re-election in 2007, saying her administration would focus on their work rather than election-year politics.
Sharing the news of her death, Gov. John Bel Edwards called the late governor a champion of Louisiana and a “woman of incredible strength and abiding faith.” In an interview in July, Blanco said her life has been both charmed and challenged by unexpected events, but “Got puts you where he wants you to be.”