Robert L. "Bobby" Freeman was a man of God and a man of the people. While he was born in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 1934, he was a life-long resident of his beloved Plaquemine, Louisiana. For Bobby, boxing was his first love. At Plaquemine High School, Bobby was a distinguished athlete, winning the 1951 Louisiana State Boxing Championship for his weight class. Upon graduation from Plaquemine High, where he was later inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bobby was able to attend Louisiana State University on a boxing scholarship. From 1952-1956, he was a Varsity Letterman and is the only college boxer to hold three consecutive Sugar Bowl boxing championship titles. In 1954, Bobby received the prestigious Billings Memorial Award for Boxing, and in 1954-55, he was the NCAA Boxing Champion Runner-Up. After LSU, Bobby attended Loyola University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. He opened his first law office in Plaquemine, and his legal career spanned more than half a century, for which he was recognized by the Louisiana State Bar Association. In 1956, Bobby served his country as a Special Agent in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. He was honorably discharged 1959 and continued to contribute to his country and community by entering public service in 1968. He believed that public service was an honorable profession and embarked on a vibrant and lengthy career in public service. He was a lifelong Democrat who was elected to three consecutive terms from 1968-1980, in the Louisiana House of Representatives for the Parishes of Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge. His legislative years demonstrated his seriousness of purpose, with a special affinity for helping others, particularly the marginalized, disadvantaged and voiceless. His appreciation of everyone's opinion and beliefs made him an effective and respected floor leader in the Louisiana Legislature, where he was committed to the right outcome, rather than the partisan outcome. Bobby had the ability to connect to a broad range of people, resulting from his early years where he worked as an oil field hand for Carter Oil and an X-ray technician at Charity Hospital, and later at Wildlife & Fisheries and as a deputy with the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office. These diverse experiences fueled his empathy for working people of all walks. In 1980, Bobby was elected Lieutenant Governor, serving as leader of the Democratic Party. His tremendous pride in Louisiana, which earlier led him to author legislation making "You Are My Sunshine" the State song, continued. With his re-election in 1984, he served as Consul General for the Louisiana World Exposition. Most notably, as Lt. Governor, he was responsible for establishing and presiding over what became the Commission of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and Office of Film and Video. Bobby concluded his public career as a Judge on the Plaquemine City Court bench. His election in 1990 gave him the unique distinction of serving in all three branches of government-legislative, executive and judicial. In recognition of his long career and enduring contributions, he was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum - Hall of Fame. In 1988, Bobby was knighted by the President of the Republic of Italy. In recognition of his community service and his athletic and professional career, Bobby was the recipient of other numerous awards: Louisiana National Guard Cross of Merit; Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award; Twice recipient of the A. Philip Randolph Institute Award; Twice recipient of the United Native American Appreciation Award; Catholic Daughters of America Recognition Award; LSU Athletic Hall of Fame; NCAA College Athletics Top 10 Hall of Fame; Louisiana Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame; USA Southern Region Association Hall of Fame; and Italian American Hall of Fame. Bobby's devotion to his community and State was only rivaled by his devotion to his family. Bobby is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marianne Drago Freeman, his children, Lisa Freeman Guidry and Robert L. "Bobby" Freeman, Jr.; his grand-daughter Mary Katherine Freeman Koch; his son-in-law Burton Guidry; his sister Joan Rougon Freeman; Jana Ilyce Lubert; his sister-in-law Janet Harper Freeman; his nieces, Susan Freeman Futrell and Stacie Rougon Langlois; his nephews, James Freeman, Jr., Dr. Mark Freeman, Shawn Rougon, Scott Rougon, and Steve Rougon; and 11 great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Albert Freeman and his mother, Rosa Borruano Freeman Rivet, and his brother, Dr. James Freeman. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. John the Evangelist Church and School Capital Campaign, 57805 Main Street, Plaquemine, Louisiana 70764. Memorial Service is on Monday, May 23, 2016 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 57805 Main Street, Plaquemine, Louisiana. Visitation from 8:00 until 11:00. Celebration of Life Mass at 11:00.
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Published in The Advocate from May 18 to May 23, 2016.