(Nov. 11, the New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune) Ben C. Toledano, who died Nov. 6 at age 89, was for nearly two decades one of the most prominent citizens in New Orleans, a renaissance man of art and culture but best known, beginning in the 1950s, for helping reinvigorate a state Republican Party that had been moribund for 80 years.

The Republican nominee for mayor of New Orleans in 1970 and for the U.S. Senate in 1972, Toledano showed Republicans could run credible campaigns, attractive to working-class voters, in a city and state long hostile to the GOP.

In today’s world of narrow political focus, Toledano was a broadly cultivated man active on many fronts.

A noted historic preservationist, he helped New Orleanians recognize the value of our unique housing stock. A man of letters and renowned collector of first-edition books on fine art, political theory, and history, he gave people reason to wonder how he also had time to practice as a lead partner in a prominent law firm.

Toledano was good friends with nationally famed literary critic Cleanth Brooks, conservative intellectual godfather Russell Kirk, and novelist-essayist Walker Percy, and a cultural writer of some note himself, having been published in National Review, The Wall Street Journal, Chronicles, the Texas Monthly and others. And he was a distinguished lecturer on political theorists such as Richard Weaver — the title of whose most famous book, “Ideas Have Consequences,” certainly described Toledano’s insistence that learning and culture are the drivers of civilization.

Yet Ben C., as he was known (usually with the middle initial said aloud), earned a reputation as quite a contrarian. In still-segregated New Orleans in the late 1960s, he brought noted black author Ralph Ellison (“The Invisible Man”) to lunch at the most traditional of all New Orleans restaurants, Antoine’s, and then sat up late that night hosting Ellison for drinks on the Toledano’s Uptown front porch…. [The rest of this column on this remarkable man — who also was my godfather — is right here at this link.]


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