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Marc H. Morial Biography

Entered Mayoral Race, Curbed Crime In New Orleans, Earned Respect As Mayor And Organization Leader


Executive, civil rights activist

Morial, Marc H., photograph. AP/Wide World Photos Reproduced by permission.

As both politician and leader of the National Urban League, Marc H. Morial has dedicated himself to helping others. Morial served two terms as mayor of New Orleans. His tenure marked the third time in the city's history that an African-American held the top post. When he first won the election in 1994 few, it seemed, expected this politically inexperienced son of Ernest "Dutch" Morial—the city's first African-American mayor—to accomplish what he did during his first term. By putting in place a series of anti-crime measures, reforming the police department, and capturing federal funding for other programs, Morial and his administration set in motion a precipitous drop in violent crime in the city. Enjoying near-unprecedented support and popularity—among both black and white residents of New Orleans—he easily won a second term in 1998. "Morial," noted New York Times reporter Rick Bragg, "has always been one of the crown princes of this city," and remarked that the younger politician's popularity had now surpassed that enjoyed by his late father. So popular did Morial remain that he petitioned to revise his post's term limits in order to run for an unprecedented third term as New Orleans' mayor. Unable to lift the law, Morial moved on in 2003 to become president and CEO of the National Urban League. He has brought the same enthusiasm and skill to the Urban League, and in his first years of leadership has initiated new, revitalizing programs aimed at addressing the most pressing problems for black Americans.

Born on January 3, 1958, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Morial was the second of five children in the family of lawyer Dutch Morial and his schoolteacher wife, Sybil. Both parents were politically active in local issues and the wider civil-rights struggles of the 1960s. Dutch Morial eventually became a judge and was elected New Orleans's first African-American mayor in 1978. Marc Morial, then a college student at the University of Pennsylvania, served as a campaign coordinator for his father. After earning a degree in economics in 1980, Morial attended Georgetown Law School and received his degree in 1983. After two years with a New Orleans firm, he opened his own firm in 1985.

Morial soon became actively involved in the Democratic Party both on the local and national levels. During the Rev. Jesse Jackson's bid for the 1988 Democratic Party presidential nomination, Morial was a key player in Jackson's New Orleans support organization. That summer, he also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In 1991, he ran for and won a seat in the Louisiana State Senate in Baton Rouge. During his first few years, he earned accolades as a "rookie" legislator for his voting record and sponsorship of bills. Strongly liberal in his politics, Morial supported reproductive rights for women and opposed the death penalty.

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