On Saturday, April 14, Lafayette lost a man who for two decades was one its most powerful and influential political figures. Former District Attorney Nathan Stansbury died at the age of 77.

nathan_stansburySurvivors include his son, Craig Stansbury (Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Department spokesman), and his wife Nicole; three grandchildren, Derek Stansbury, Sydney Stansbury and Kennedy Stansbury; one sister, Ann Redlich, and her husband Ted; one brother, Howard Stansbury Jr., and his wife Alice; one niece, Lisa Stansbury; and two nephews, Jeff Bennett and Stephen Bennett.

Advertising executive Larry Sides recalls his longtime friend, a fair and focused prosecutor who was committed to truth and justice:

Nathan Stansbury quietly ruled the political scene in Lafayette Parish for a 15-year period between the mid-1970s until the early 1990s. At a time when Democrats still held every major elected office, Nathan, along with Sheriff Don Breaux, were the center of our politics and leaders of our communities. His decision to seek the office of district attorney then held by Bertrand DeBlanc brought Nathan from an assistant district attorney in the 15th Judicial District to a candidate with John Kennedy-looks to a position of quiet dominance in the overall area of Lafayette, Acadia and Vermilion parishes.  

Initially opposed by the political forces of the Edwards group in Crowley, Nathan earned their respect and became a personal friend of Edwin and Nolan Edwards. I met Nathan as a TV reporter while still in graduate school at UL Lafayette. When there was nothing to cover, I would spend time in his office, learning about how Lafayette works. Our friendship led to Nathan’s decision to let me handle his first campaign and every one that followed. That also opened the door to campaigns for his closest friends, Donald Breaux for city marshal and then sheriff, and Hugh Brunson, one of Nathan’s ADAs who was elected district judge, among many others. The string of political efforts ultimately totaled more than 80 campaigns.

Nathan and I were on the same side for most but not all of them.

Nathan loved to hunt, fish offshore and spend time at his camp at Pecan Island. In addition to being a local son of a family involved in real estate, he was involved in virtually every major civic and community project during his term of office. And he was the DA who was under a national spotlight for high profile cases. Nathan successfully prosecuted Gilbert Gauthier, the parish priest convicted of child molestation, when there were many in the community who hoped to make what happened quietly go away without a visible trial. He also prosecuted Dalton Prejean, who ultimately was executed for the murder of Louisiana State Trooper Donald Cleveland after a conviction and more than a decade of appeals.

Nathan was talented, focused and charismatic. Mostly, Nathan was my friend. And because he was my friend, he became my wife’s friend and mentor when we married. Kathy (Ashworth) likes to say that what made Nathan stand apart from all others was his commitment to truth and justice. Those who were in the system knew, no matter their station in life, they had a fair shot with Nathan. No matter who you were, what you did for a living or why you might find yourself in trouble, Nathan looked for and acted on the truth of a situation. There is no one I have respected more.

From his office came a host of others who went on to make a mark in Lafayette, including former Lafayette Police Chief John Hyde, former State Sen. Max Jordan and current District Attorney Mike Harson, who was the lead ADA at the time Nathan suffered a massive stroke while at his residence in Lafayette.

Following his heart attack in the early 1990s, a long stay in intensive care and extensive rehabilitation efforts in Texas and Louisiana, Nathan was cared for at home and a local nursing home for almost 20 years. His short-term memory failed him long ago, but until the end he still had vivid recollections of his long career, one I believe made him the most important political figure in our area of Louisiana for more than two decades.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at a 10 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Interment will be in Holy Mary Mother of God Cemetery.

The Rev. Msgr. Keith DeRouen, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Opelousas, is the celebrant of the Funeral Mass and will conduct the funeral services. Con-Celebrant is the Rev. Chester Arceneaux, rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette.

Nathan Stansbury was preceded in death by his parents, Howard Stansbury Sr. and Sara Ann DeRouen Stansbury.

Stansbury served as president of United Way of Acadiana, was a member of the Lafayette Parish Bar Association and participated with the Boys & Girls Clubs. He also served on the Governor’s Committee on Youth & Children, headed the Leadership Lafayette program for the Chamber of Commerce and was very active in the Lafayette Juvenile and Young Adult Program.

Pallbearers will be Derek Stansbury, Craig Stansbury, Ted Redlich and Donald Breaux. Honorary Pallbearer is Howard Stansbury Jr.

The family requests that visitation be observed in Martin & Castille’s downtown Lafayette location on Tuesday, April 17, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday from 8 a.m. until time of service. A Rosary will be prayed on by Brady LeBlanc Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Martin & Castille Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions can be made in Nathan Stansbury’s name to United Way of Acadiana, 215 E. Pinhook Road., Lafayette, LA 70501 or to Heart of Hospice, 201 W. Vermilion St., Lafayette, LA 70501.

View the obituary and guestbook online at www.mourning.com

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