Private services for will be held for Governor Murphy James “Mike” Foster, Jr.,at Oaklawn Manor on Wednesday, October 7 at 11:00 a.m. followed by a public military graveside service at 12:30 p.m. at Franklin Cemetery.
Governor Foster, a retired businessman and sugar cane farmer from St. Mary Parish, left this earth on Sunday, October 4, 2020 surrounded by family and close friends.
Mike Foster became Louisiana’s 53rd governor after running for office as a little-known senator to fix things that were broken. He served Louisiana as its chief executive from 1996 – 2004.
The first thing Governor Foster handed to his senior staff members were coins that read, “Do the Right Thing.” That was the mantra that he lived by, the standard that he held his staff to, and that to which he insisted Louisiana government aspire.
He began his construction company, Bayou Sale, so his farm employees would have work during the off season. He was also an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing along the Louisiana coast and hunting in southwest Louisiana on Pecan Island.
Governor Foster was first elected to the state senate in 1988 at the age of 58. He was an Eagle Scout, a veteran who served as a Captain of the United States Air Force in the Korean War, and grandson of former Louisiana Governor Murphy J. Foster (1892 -1900). He became the first GOP governor since Reconstruction to serve two terms as the state’s chief executive.
One of his most significant accomplishments as a legislator, the creation of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, lives on today and has saved Louisiana employers tens of millions of dollars.
As Governor, Mike Foster brought honesty and integrity to state government. He restored fiscal sanity by balancing budgets, running surpluses, ending the repeated pattern of budgeting by crisis, and making massive new investments in infrastructure and education, both K-12 and Higher Ed, to position Louisiana more competitively for the future.
He called a special session early in his first year in office and successfully pushed the legislature to restore balance to Louisiana’s legal system. He created the Louisiana Workforce Commission and then persuaded legislators and voters to catch Louisiana up with the rest of the country by creating the Louisiana Community and Technical College System—which has been Louisiana’s fastest growing workforce development system ever since. He fought fraud, abuse, and runaway spending in the Medicaid program, ensuring money was available for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and brought the Charity Hospital system under the supervision of LSU Medical School.
Governor Foster paid down state debt more than any other Governor while investing hundreds of millions of dollars into new university buildings and deferred maintenance and reimagining the entire state government complex which rebuilt and revitalized downtown Baton Rouge.
He made restoring Louisiana’s coast a national issue as well as a statewide priority, passing constitutional amendments that required new federal funding dedicated to coastal restoration.
In 2002 in a special session, he not only ensured the Saints would stay in New Orleans, but that Louisiana would secure an NBA franchise, while planting the seeds for economic development successes to come by modernizing the Quality Jobs Act, expanding the film and video production incentives, and creating the research and development and technology commercialization tax credits. He also guided $100 million in investments in biosciences and information technology to build Louisiana’s capability in the industries of the future.
In K-12 education he passed teacher pay raises, created charter schools, the LA-4 pre-K program and the school and district accountability framework that has led to dramatic increases in student academic performance and high school graduation rates. To retain Louisiana’s most talented high school students, he created the TOPS scholarship program that has provided scholarships to tens of thousands of students in the past two decades.
Governor Foster also spearheaded the building of the renowned New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, giving New Orleans the finest performing, visual, literary, and culinary arts programs in any secondary school in the nation.
When he left office in 2004, Louisiana was in a dramatically better place financially and the foundation had been laid for future success in all other areas of state government. He credited his success as a legislator and as Governor to his non-partisan approach, always putting Louisiana’s needs and priorities first.
Governor Foster graduated from Louisiana State University in 1952 with a Bachelor of science in chemistry and he also managed, while in office, to complete his courses at the Southern University Law School and graduated with a juris doctorate in 2004. He was never happy with lawyers telling him he couldn’t accomplish his objectives in state government because it “was against the law” and sought to change those laws by further understanding how it could best be done.
In 2003, Governor Foster was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame.
His curiosity and commitment to learning new things that were practical always drove him. Always looking to learn a new craft, Governor Foster was also a certified welder, had fixed wing and helicopter pilots’ licenses, loved riding his motorcycles, had a 20-ton boat captain’s license, and completed EMT courses.
Above all, Governor Foster was a loving husband to his wife, Alice, and father to his son, Murphy J. Foster, III (Diane) and daughter Ramelle Foster, and sons Paul West (Lisette) and Troy West (Sandra). Governor Foster’s legacy includes nine grandchildren (Murphy J. Foster, IV, Clark Foster, John West, Jennifer Harding, Michelle Eunice, Christopher West, Zachary West, Spencer West, and David West) and five great-grandchildren (Murphy J. Foster, V, Charles Foster, Matthew West, Hudson West, and Graham West).
He is also survived by his devoted employees, friends, and caregivers, Ann Cortez and Leslie Braud, and his dear friend, confidant, and CPA, Randy Battaglio. He is preceded in death by his parents, Murphy J. and Olive Robert Foster, and his brother, William Prescott Foster.
We are a better people and a better state because Murphy J. “Mike” Foster, Jr. came our way.
The family extends its heartfelt gratitude to Beverly Broussard and Heart of Hospice for their assistance and care.
Pallbearers will be his grandsons. Honorary pallbearers are Randy Battaglio, Charlie Billodeau, Bernie Boudreaux, Leslie Braud, Dr. Tom Kramer, Donnie Stiel, and Dr. C. T. Stirling. Please observe normal guidelines for face coverings and social distancing. In lieu of flowers, contributions to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Franklin or the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana (CCA) are appreciated.