“Every stream and river south of Canada, west of the Alleghenies and east of the Rockies, has to drain through New Orleans. She’s also the key to Central and South America. As for the folks themselves, we’re a friendly people. New Orleans is the Queen City of the South in the sense that she’s regal. She has Mardi Gras, the Cabildo, the Port, and the wherewithal to put on the greatest party on Earth. Besides her rich history she holds the key for so many immigrants.”
Romantic as it sounds today, not everything was so rose-colored for this attorney growing up in his favorite city. Despite the serious racial tensions that existed in the mid-50s, his parents insisted that he attend school with all other children. As a result he knew all too well the humiliation of being pelted with tomatoes because he chose to associate with minorities.
Such lessons were hard, but were in keeping with a man who has always practiced what he preached. For instance, at LSU while a member of the Law School Fraternity, LeRoy Hartley was at the head of the line welcoming the first black into the organization.
Certainly no one then, or now, would ever accuse LeRoy of backing away from his beliefs, even if the party in question were David Duke. While at LSU, Mr. Hartley was known for his positive views on integration. Klu Klux Klanner Duke naturally did not agree with his position; Mr. Hartley, on the other hand, did not appreciate being labeled a “communist” (Duke had a problem confusing tolerance with communism), and proceeded to “knock him out.”
After college Mr. Hartley campaigned with black candidates in white neighborhoods and once more experienced abuse first-hand. However, it was not simply race issues which troubled him. It was injustice in general that caused him more than a night’s rest. As Chief Deputy of the Sheriff’s Department he worked day and night to improve the lives of inmates. Outside the prisons, he was aware of police corruption and the disbursement of drugs, and would intercede, whenever he could, to correct the problem.
However, it is not only social issues which move this tireless fighter. He has always had a soft spot for charitable causes and this has become synonymous with his life. Call him a sentimentalist–he simply enjoys the charitable side of life. As early as his LSU days he made the effort to hand over his daily tips to both the Baton Rouge Orphanage and the School for the Deaf. Over the years he has been just as generous with associates, friends and children of his friends. And why does he do it? “I really believe it’s God’s will that I help my friends and family. Besides, it makes me happy and what good is money if you can’t help people.”