Edmund M. Reggie, whose decades-long association with the Kennedy family dates to 1956 when he delivered Louisiana’s delegates for a vice presidential bid by John F. Kennedy that fell short, died Tuesday morning in his Lafayette, La., home.
Mr. Reggie, who for many years also had a home on Nantucket, was 87. His health had been declining due to a variety of illnesses.
Not merely a vacationer in Massachusetts, Mr. Reggie helped broker a deal in 2004 to establish an independent, nonprofit organization to run the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The players in negotiations included the City of Boston, the Romney administration, and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
At the time, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy noted that his brother President John F. Kennedy had once named Mr. Reggie a representative to the Middle East. Mitt Romney, then the governor, said that compared with the challenges of Massachusetts politics, the Middle East was “just child’s play.”
A stalwart of Louisiana politics, Mr. Reggie had headed up campaigning in his state for the presidential bids of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and Edward Kennedy in 1980. Mr. Reggie became part of the extended Kennedy clan in 1992 when his daughter Victoria married Edward Kennedy.
By that time Mr. Reggie was a longtime confidant of the senator and his late older brothers, going back to when John Kennedy competed with Estes Kefauver of Tennessee in 1956 to become Adlai Stevenson’s vice presidential running mate. Mr. Reggie was a national convention delegate that year and was already well on his way to accumulating political clout in Louisiana.
A son of Lebanese immigrants, Mr. Reggie was 24 when he was appointed city judge in Crowley, La., after his predecessor died, according to a biographical website set up by his family. For 25 years he ran successfully to keep the judgeship until retiring from the bench in 1976.
Over the decades, Mr. Reggie was appointed to Louisiana state government posts including commissioner of public welfare and chairman of the state’s Mineral Board. He chaired the Louisiana Committee on Reorganization of the Executive Branch of State Government, which consolidated 356 state agencies into 19, and headed a transition team for Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, whom Mr. Reggie served as executive counsel. Mr. Reggie was inducted into the state’s Political Hall of Fame in 2004.
At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1956, the Louisiana delegation sat across from the Massachusetts delegation, and “there was a film about the Democratic Party, narrated by Jack, who made such a good impression,” Mr. Reggie told the Globe in 1992. “Everybody in the Massachusetts delegation spoke so well of him that a colleague and I decided to try to deliver the Louisiana delegation to him.
At the time, Earl Long was governor of Louisiana “and he loved the horses,” Mr. Reggie said. “Assuming our delegation was locked up for Kefauver, Governor Long went off to the track, and while he was away, we got Jack to talk to our delegation. He was winsome and everyone loved him. When Long got back and found out the delegation had shifted to Kennedy, he blew his stack, wouldn’t speak to us. He told Stevenson to keep an eye on us, that we were double-crossers.”
Three years later, in September 1959, Mr. Reggie sent a four-page letter to John Kenney’s aide Theodore C. Sorensen, detailing plans for Kennedy’s presidential campaign visit to Louisiana. “Everything is in readiness” for the two-day visit, wrote Mr. Reggie, who listed moment by moment activities and suggestions, ranging from a luncheon with business leaders to crowning the queen of the International Rice Festival to a post-parade visit to the Reggie house, where Kennedy could “take a private swim (if the weather is a little cool we will have the pool heated.)”
Mr. Reggie added: “Every one here is moved to the point of excitement just anticipating ‘Jack Kennedy’s visit.’ ”
For many years, Mr. Reggie was close to Edward Kennedy. After Robert Kennedy died, “I considered Ted my best friend,” Mr. Reggie told the Globe for the book “Last Lion,” published in 2009.
“He’s one of the closest friends I have in the world, so this marriage is a double joy for us,” Mr. Reggie told the Globe in 1992, when it was announced that his daughter and Kennedy were engaged.
“Not only is he our friend of very long standing, whom we love, but he is also the man who is loving with our daughter,” Mr. Reggie said. “I’ve nicknamed him the Commander, by the way, because he’s always ordering everybody around all the time.”Continued...