John Maginnis, R.I.P.

John Maginnis, the dean of Louisiana political reporters and pundits, died unexpectedly today at the age of 66. I was lucky enough to meet John several times over the years and he was witty, intelligent and kind; a gentleman in the best sense of the word.

John was a helluva writer and storyteller. His books The Last Hayride and Cross To Bear, about the 1983 and 1991 Gubernatorial races respectively, are two of the best books ever written about Louisiana politics. I’ve read both of them multiple times, and highly recommend them to anyone who wants to know more about Louisiana politics and some of the remarkable characters who John covered: Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer and David Duke to name a few.

I’ll give Bob Mann, who dealt with John both as a journalist and press secretary to Russell Long, John Breaux and Kathleen Blanco, the last word:

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would swear that John Maginnis had been a corrupt Louisiana state senator in a previous life.

How else to explain how this legendary political journalist, who died Sunday at age 66, developed his uncanny ability to read the minds of the pols he covered in more than four decades of writing about Louisiana’s political culture?

In my 30-plus years in and around Louisiana politics, I never met a non-politician who understood the state’s political system better than John. For those of us who write about politics, he was the gold standard by which we all measured ourselves.

He was, as Huey Long once said about himself, sui generis.