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Joseph David Waggonner Jr.

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Joe D. Waggonner, Jr. BOSSIER CITY, LA - Joseph David Waggonner, Jr., 89, former Congressman for the Fourth District of Louisiana, died on October 7, 2007. A dedicated public servant, Mr. Waggonner was born near Plain Dealing on September 7, 1918, to Joseph David, Sr., and Elizzibeth Johnston Waggonner. Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, October 9, at Centenary College's Brown Chapel with interment to follow at the Plain Dealing Cemetery. Officiating will be Dr. Donald Webb, former President of Centenary College, assisted by the Reverend Lynn Malone, Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Benton, LA. Visitation will be held at Rose-Neath Funeral Home in Bossier City Monday, October 8 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Mr. Waggonner was a graduate of Plain Dealing High School and Louisiana Tech University where he also received an honorary doctorate. The lifelong Louisiana Tech supporter and Bulldog fan was named a charter recipient of the Tower Medallion for distinguished Tech alumni in 1977 and Alumnus of the Year in 1992. Two professorships - one in Political Science and one in Engineering - have been endowed in his name at the University.

Mr. Waggonner, an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Plain Dealing, was Chairman of the Board of the church when the current sanctuary and educational building were constructed. He was an honorary alumnus of Centenary College of Louisiana and was a Life Member of its Board of Trustees.

Mr. Waggonner served in the United States Navy during World War II where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Before serving again during the Korean Conflict, he was the Commanding Officer of Division 8-35 of the Naval Reserve.

He operated a successful wholesale petroleum products distribution company in his hometown for many years and entered politics there when he was elected to the Bossier Parish School Board in 1954. During his terms on the school board, he served as President of the parish board. He was President of the Louisiana School Boards Association, served as President of the United Schools Committee of Louisiana, and was elected to the Louisiana State Board of Education in 1960.

First elected to United States House of Representatives in a special election in 1961, Mr. Waggonner served nine terms. He was selected as the leader of southern conservative Democrats after only five years in the Congress and was widely acknowledged in the House of Representatives as the unofficial leader of the conservative forces.

Upon his election to Congress, Mr. Waggonner became a member of the Science and Astronautics Committee and the House Administration Committee where he served until January 1971 when he was selected to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

He began his tenure on the Science and Astronautics Committee shortly after President Kennedy's declaration that America would land a man on the moon within the decade. He served on the Manned Space Flight Subcommittee and was actively involved with NASA as they pursued and achieved the President's lofty moon landing objective. One of the plaques left on the moon bears his name and the names of other members of the House and Senate Committees who were instrumental in sending men to the moon.

As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, he was involved in issues involving tax policy and social security. He was named the first Chairman of the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee and was Ranking Member on the Social Security Subcommittee. He served on various Ways and Means Committee task forces and chaired the Task Force on Tax Treatment of Singles and Working Couples in two sessions of Congress.

Throughout his Congressional career, he worked to improve northwest Louisiana. He was instrumental in the planning and funding of Interstate 49 between Shreveport and New Orleans and in securing approval of and funding for the Inner and Outer Loops. Because of his efforts, a portion of Interstate 220 was named in his honor. He worked his entire career to bring navigation to the Red River and remained actively involved in developing the river until his death. In 1998, Lock and Dam No. 5 was named the Joe D. Waggonner, Jr. Lock and Dam in recognition of the vital role he played. Throughout his career and after his retirement, he actively promoted Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk and their significance to the nation's security and the area's economy. Until his death, he was also active in the effort to secure Cyber Command for Barksdale Air Force Base.

While he was privileged to count former Presidents and high ranking government and corporate officials among his friends, he treasured his Louisiana friends most. He never forgot his northwest Louisiana roots and throughout his career he was known as the "Plain Dealing man."

He retired from Congress in 1979 and moved home. After retiring from public service, he remained active locally and on the national level. He served as Chairman and President Emeritus of the Greater Bossier Economic Foundation. President Reagan appointed him in 1981 to the 15-member National Commission on Social Security Reform, known as the Greenspan Commission, to study and make recommendations regarding the short-term financing crisis Social Security faced at that time.

Mr. Waggonner, a member of many organizations, was active in the American Legion, the 40 & 8, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. A member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity at Louisiana Tech, he was active in the fraternity at the national level serving as Worthy Grand Master and on the Supreme Executive Committee and was named the fraternity's "Man of the Year" in 1973. He was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and received the Grand Cross Court of Honor and the Red Cross of Constantine. He was selected "Distinguished Salesman of Shreveport" in 1973 and "Mr. Shreveport" in 1976. In 1978, he received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award, recognizing him as a great humanitarian and a friend of the Jewish people. In 1979, he was presented the Liberty Bell Award on Law Day USA; and in 1998, he was named March of Dimes Citizen of the Year. He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Susie W. Carroll; and two brothers, Sheriff Willie Waggonner and Johnnie J. Waggonner. He is survived by his wife of almost 65 years, Mary Ruth Carter Waggonner of Bossier City, LA; a daughter, Carol Jean Johnston, and her husband Billy Tom, of Benton, LA; a son, David Waggonner, of New Orleans, LA; and three grandchildren, Elizabeth Johnston Blackburn and husband Nate of Scottsdale, AZ; Sarah Johnston of Birmingham, AL; and Peter Waggonner of New Orleans, LA.

Honoring Congressman Waggonner as pallbearers are Wayne Davis, James Davison, Joe Festervan, Ken Grainger, Roy Hurley, Don Jones, Modell Robinson, Byrum Teekell, David Walke, Jerry Webb, Tony Wolf, and grandson Peter Waggonner.

Serving as honorary pallbearers are the loyal members of his Congressional staff.

A special thanks is offered to Dr. Allen Cox and Dr. Michael Walton and the doctors, nurses, and caregivers at Willis Knighton Bossier and Promise Hospital Shreveport for their care and compassion over the years.

Memorials can be made to the First United Methodist Church of Plain Dealing, 300 East Mary Lee Street, Plain Dealing, LA 71064; the First United Methodist Church of Benton, 4615 Palmetto Road, Benton, LA 71006; the Louisiana Methodist Children's Home, 901 South Vienna Street, Ruston, LA 71270; or the Louisiana Tech University Foundation - the Waggonner Center for Bipartisan Politics and Public Polic
Published in Shreveport Times from Oct. 8 to Oct. 9, 2007
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