Reverend Lewis, Reverend Poullard, Reverend Pete, Reverend Burnett, officials, honored guests, friends and members of the congregation of Israelite Baptist Church;
On behalf of the City of Crowley, the Honorable Isabella L. delaHoussaye, Mayor, honorable members of the Board of Aldermen, the department heads, other officials and all the employees of the City of Crowley and most especially, on behalf of the citizens of Crowley, we extend our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to the family and friends of the Honorable Joseph A. Pete, Mr. Pete, as he was more affectionately known to all of us.
We offer to you our sincerest condolences and at the same time, we thank you for sharing him with all of us. It is both a distinct honor and a personal privilege to stand here today before you as we remember Mr. Pete, not only as a public servant, a member of our community, a husband and father, but more importantly, for the kind and gentle human being he really was.
Patient, humble, thoughtful, incisive, determined.
These words I believe best describe a man who quietly sought to represent a constituency which far exceeded the boundaries of Ward 3 and the City of Crowley. The spirit and memory of Joe Pete will extend far beyond any monument, marker, building, road or other physical manifestation which we chose to honor him. These monuments pale to insignificance when compared with his spirit and the accomplishments of his life. Joe Pete as not about physical structures, monuments or markers. Joe Pete was about human beings their relationships and building enduring friendships, opening doors, spanning boundaries, whether physical or mental, erected by generations of bigotry and racial prejudice.
I can say this with a certainty because I served with and saw this humble man reach out to others with a sincere spirit, a humble nature and an honesty which still to this day is etched in my memory as though it were yesterday. The loss of Mr. Pete, both as an individual and as a public servant, is as immeasurable as he is irreplaceable.
Joe Pete was a young man when he was elected to the Crowley City Council in 1954 as one of two African Americans who were among the first black elected officials in the State of Louisiana and the Deep South which was indeed a great accomplishment. While this is certainly true, I do not believe that election was the mark of this man nor does it adequately tell the story of his human kindness and his sincere effort to improve the quality of life for all, not only through the 28 years of service with honor and distinction on behalf of the City of Crowley, but through all aspects of his life for the betterment of mankind.
Mr. Pete was not a person to seek recognition nor was there a lot of recognition in his early days for the distinctive accomplishments of he and Dr. May. Yet, in all the years I knew him, Mr. Pete continued to act in the manner he felt best represented the ideals of basic human rights, freedom and independence which we all cherish.
It is through his efforts that the foundation was built through which the civil rights movement achieved the tremendous progress it has. For I remember all too well, not that many years ago, there were still many signs which clearly stated blacks were not welcomed, which segregated restrooms, drinking fountains, entrances to and seating in public buildings and schools. Mr. Pete rightfully can be credited with establishing the foundation upon which actual racial progress truly was made at the local level and felt in individual lives. While the accomplishments of Dr. King and many others are often celebrated and viewed as historic, many times the field commanders, as Mr. Pete truly was, are not credited with the actual success which occurred. Despite his gentleness, his soft spoken manner and his always respectful demeanor, he was a man of steel, of absolute conviction and a determined force to be reckoned with when it came to enforcing civil rights and for the betterment of all people. Make no mistake, he had a vision that many failed to appreciate, that while fighting for civil rights, there is also a responsibility to ensure those rights are felt in a practical sense. He was an accomplished leader in obtaining those important physical improvements, job opportunities and fostering better respect and relations between the citizens of Crowley.
Mr. Pete recognized, long before many others, that progress for the City of Crowley was an essential element that transcended race, creed or color, where a person lived, where a business was located or where an improvement was being built. No matter how difficult the problem, how intractable the issues, his efforts were always with a vision towards moving forward to a better life for everyone. He did this with the presence of his humble spirit, his sincerity, and a dignity which Mr. Pete clearly saw in our Lord, Jesus Christ, when the rest of us were s blind.
Our loss today is both profound and deeply felt as a personal loss, especially to the family. Surely a kind and loving God has welcomed him home to the peace and love we all hope to find one day. We ask that God allow us to retain in each of us a small part of the spirit and dignity which Mr. Pete imparted to us during the short time he was with us on earth.
The posting of Tom Regan's eulogy on this website is dedicated to the memory of Mary Grace Poullard Pete, Joseph A. Pete's beloved wife of 56 years.