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Hank Braden, Former State Senator and 'Civic Giant,' Passes

Henry E. "Hank" Braden IV, a former state senator and lawyer, died Monday at the age of 68. Braden was a longtime political player in New Orleans, and became an early ally of former mayor Sidney Barthelemy. He was elected to the state Senate in 1978, and served a single term lasting through 1984.


Born in New Orleans, Braden was a graduate of St. Augustine High School. He earned a college degree at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1965, and later earned his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1975, according to a biography.


From 1965-1974, Braden was executive director of the New Orleans Poverty Agency. He then took the helm at the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.


A Democrat, Braden entered formal government work when he went to work in the Moon Landrieu administration as the directior of empowerment and economic development in 1974. In 1977, he was elected to the Democratic National Committee's executive committee, where he served for 10 years.


Braden was a member of the Community Organization for Urban Politics (COUP) political organization, which was a powerful force in the 7th Ward. The organization also included Sidney Barthelemy, who Braden would help elect mayor in 1986. In the state senate, Braden succeeded Barthelemy -- the first black state senator since Reconstruction -- as the leader stepped down to the local level to serve on the City Council.


In the 1980s, Braden proved he still had the fight in him when he started throwing punches with former City Councilman Joe Giarusso at the original Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at N. Broad St. and Orleans Ave.


"There were a couple of fistfights in the dining room," waitress Lainey Love told Randy Fertel, the son of Ruth's Chris' founder. "Joe and Hank made their way into Ruth’s Chris history with that one!"


Later, Braden worked as a lawyer and lobbyist with Braden, Gonzalez and Associates.


"Today we lost a civic giant who worked tirelessly on behalf of our community. Hank Braden served our city, our state and our country with distinction for decades," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. "From his work with the Urban League and Total Community Action, to his service in the legislature, he truly personified what it means to be a public servant. He will be dearly missed, but his legacy will certainly live on."


Braden is survived by his wife, Michele, two sons and two daughters, including New Orleans Police Department Director of Public Affairs Remi Braden.


Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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