Calvin J. Roach, a hero of the Cajun pride movement but a man largely unknown to most in Acadiana, even those of Cajun descent, has died. The World War II veteran, who spent a successful career as a mechanical engineer, sued his former employer, Dresser Industries, in federal court three decades ago and in so doing won Cajuns federal discrimination protection. Ten days shy of his 85th birthday, Roach passed away Wednesday night.
The Roach family was originally known by the French name Roche but adopted an Anglicized name — not uncommon in early 20th century Acadiana when mainstreaming the Cajun population was a focus of the political and educational culture. Calvin Roach was born in Rayne on April 5, 1925. He worked the cotton fields when not attending school, graduating from Rayne High in 1941. Following a stint as a gunner in the U.S. Navy from 1942-1946, Roach returned to Acadiana and obtained a mechanical engineering degree in 1951 from South Louisiana Institute, now UL.
His career brought him to Massachusetts, California and elsewhere as he rose to supervisory positions with several major American aerospace, energy and defense companies. While employed by Dresser in Alexandria in 1979 as the corporation’s manager of industrial engineering, Roach was dispatched to south-central Pennsylvania to investigate the malfunction at the now-infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant, for which Dresser manufactured parts. Roach’s report found that Dresser lacked proper quality control, a conclusion that inflamed his employer and led to Roach being branded a “whistle blower” and a “coonass.” Soon after, Roach was fired by Dresser.
The latter slur prompted Roach to file suit against Dresser for ethnic discrimination. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, but not before U.S. District Court Judge Edwin Hunter ruled in 1980 that federal law protects Cajuns from discrimination.
CODOFIL President Warren A. Perrin says, “Today we honor Mr. Roach for his fortitude in protecting our cultural rights.”
[Editor’s Note: Historian Shane Bernard takes exception with our account of the impetus for Roach’s lawsuit against Dresser Industries. Bernard reviewed transcripts from the Roach v. Dresser trial in 1980, and tells The Independent that the Three Mile Island anecdote recounted above, which we got from CODOFIL, is never mentioned in the trial. Rather, says Bernard, it was Dresser management’s repeated use of “coonass” in front of Roach while investigating a theft at the company that prompted Roach’s lawsuit.]
To post a comment, please log into your IND account. If you do not have an account, click the "register" button to create one. Facebook comments can be used as an alternative to creating an account at theIND.com.
DEC 11 It's the holiday season, and that means you can count on seeing some pretty crazy stuff going down at the Wal-Mart, but this story out of Marshall, Texas takes the cake. A man went in and attacked a couple of people with a hatchet. Who stopped him? A customer who started launching soup cans at him -- and connected with his noggin. The story tells us that while some folk were injured, everyone's been released from the hospital.
DEC 11 Blogger Tom Aswell joins the ranks of those looking into the "Fund for Louisiana's Future," which of course is not really aimed at improving our future. So far, it seems aimed at getting Louisiana to remove its $100,000 cap on campaign contributions, he tells us. Also, it is overseen by the same guy who tried to give us President Mitt Romney -- and he seems bent on picking our next governor.
DEC 11 Here's a post on NOLA Defender from the chef de cuisine at Delmonico's about gumbo. Chef Anthony Scanio shares childhood food memories that aren't quite a warm and fuzzy cliche -- but they certainly sound authentic. His personal story isn't just about food, it's a true New Orleans boy's upbringing. It's a cool story, and it ends with recipes for seafood gumbo and red beans.
DEC 11 Blogger Lou Gehrig Burnett writes here on Bayou Buzz about GOP efforts to mount a candidate against Sen. Mary Landrieu -- "a" being the operative word. So far, Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness are both in the race, and as long as the ultra-conservative Maness remains he poses a threat to the Republicans' hopes to unseat Mary. There's also a bit on what's up in Texas -- where Gov. Rick Perry's rejection of Medicaid money is causing other lawmakers some trouble.
DEC 11 Qualifying for New Orleans municipal races opens today, and Gambit's Clancy DuBos is most interested in people running against Sheriff Marlin Gusman, a frequent topic of Clancy's posts -- and a lot of other media posts as well. So far, the most interesting candidate expected to qualify is former sheriff Charles Foti. But Gusman's biggest enemy may be himself, given his 33 percent approval rating.
DEC 11 It may be the season of brotherly love, but John Maginnis is not falling for David Vitter's Christmas story. In this post, he poo-poos the very idea that Vitter and his family will spend the holidays in prayerful reflection so that they can decide if the Senator will run for governor. He also gives some predictions on what could happen if Vitter did get elected, throwing in a cautionary reference to the big ole egg laid by the GOP up in North Louisiana's recent Congressional race.
DEC 11 Well, knock us over with a rainbow-colored feather. The Shreveport City Council passed an ordinance granting equal protection to LGBT folks, this KSLA story reports. It basically forbids discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation. According to the story, city workers already have had that protection, since 2009.
DEC 11 That nice lady over in Denham Springs must still be mad at her neighbors for stealing her dog, because she's back up on her roof, making a big ole "one finger salute" in Christmas lights. This story in the Advocate even gives us a picture of the process underway, in case you are experiencing a similar situation and would like some finger-display-creation tips.
Read the Flipping Paper!
Click Here for the Entire Print Version of IND Monthly