1997 Louisiana Legends Honorees »»»
Willie Davenport's long and distinguished Olympic career spanned five Olympic Games from 1964 to 1980, during which he won a gold and bronze medal. He is one of only eight U.S. Olympic athletes to have competed in both the summer and winter games. Davenport won the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and took the bronze in the same event in Montreal in 1976. After four Olympic appearances in the hurdles, Davenport competed as a member of the U.S. four-man bobsled team in 1980. He served for two years as the Director of the Louisiana Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Davenport coached the 1993 and 1994 U.S. Army Track Team to victory in the Armed Forces Track & Field Championships. He was the head coach of the United States Army Track & Field Team for the 1996 Olympics.Michael Doucet
Michael Doucet serves as the lead vocalist and plays the fiddle for America's premier Cajun band, six-time Grammy winning Beausoleil. Doucet also played fiddle on Mary-Chapin Carpenter's 1991 Grammy-winning hit "Down at the Twist and Shout." Doucet and his band combine Cajun and Zydeco music with blues, country, Tex-Mex, Caribbean, and every other style that's made its way down the Mississippi or across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana. Doucet and Beausoleil also held key spots at the inaugurations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He began playing rock n' roll and New Orleans-style swamp pop in high school bands. In 1973, Doucet went to France and England where he studied with the great Scottish fiddle player Barry Dransfield. With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, he spent years tracking down the artists who wrote and sang on the first Cajun records. In 1988, Doucet was honored with the first annual Clifton Chenier Award as the best musician in French-speaking Louisiana. Doucet and Beausoleil have won national as well as international fame with over a dozen albums since 1976 and more than 180 concerts a year.Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean was born in 1939 in Baton Rouge and has lived and worked in Louisiana all her life. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957. Prejean is the author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her role as Sister Helen in a film based on the book. Involvement with poor inner-city residents at the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans in 1981 led her to prison ministry where she counseled death row inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. She has accompanied three men to the electric chair and witnessed their deaths. Since then, she has devoted her energies to educating the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. She has also befriended murder victims' families and helped found "Survive," a victims' advocacy group in New Orleans. Currently, she continues her ministry to death row inmates and murder victims' families. She is also at work on a book about women's struggle for equality in the Roman Catholic Church.Robert Rucker
Robert Rucker is one of Louisiana's most renowned impressionistic artists. Born in New Orleans in 1932, he is as Southern as the Mississippi River which finds a prominent place in his paintings. Other common subjects are the streets and buildings of the New Orleans French Quarter, where he studied at the John McCrady School of Fine Art and had his own gallery in his early years as an artist. His body of work includes all types of paintings from watercolors to oils. He prefers to paint nostalgic subject matter. His fascination for steamboats comes from his father and grandfathers, who were all riverboat captains. He manages to simultaneously reflect many of the broader impulses and currents of the Southern region in his work while producing contemporary art of lasting significance. His paintings are included in many private, public and corporate collections throughout the country and hang in museums and galleries throughout the South.