A life filled with history: Allison Bourque, one of the first Ascension council members, dies

GONZALES — A former Ascension Parish police juror and council member who was part of the coalition that brought parish government into the home rule charter era and also adopt its first road tax has died.

Allison James Bourque, 82, of Gonzales, passed away Wednesday after declining health in recent years, his family said. 

Bourque, a U.S. Army infantry veteran, was a chemical operator who was part of the historic BASF union lockout in the mid to late 1980s that largely preceded his time in local politics.

What was then the longest union lockout in the nation’s history, the dispute between the German chemical manufacturer and Bourque and more than 300 of his union co-workers lasted for more than five years and morphed into a critique of the company’s environmental record blasted on highway billboards.

Bourque was among the operators recalled in late 1987, after 41 months, but the union fight didn’t fully end for all workers until late 1989, when a new contract was signed. He retired from BASF Wyandotte in 2000. 

Bourque also was a passionate musician who played in the Boogie Nights band and an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing and sometimes hunting in the McElroy Swamp and in the St. Gabriel area, his family said.

“He was just always busy doing something,” his daughter, Tanya, said. 

Called a “people person,” Bourque had interest in public service. After a failed run in 1987 in District 7A, the conservative Democrat won his first term to the parish Police Jury in late 1991 with another up-and-comer that year, St. Amant seafood market owner and future parish president Tommy Martinez.

Bourque and Martinez would join incumbent Juror J. Darnell Martinez, who had been lobbying to replace the police jury government since the late 1970s and once called it a “four-legged animal with 11 heads,” and others to push for a home rule charter.

In mid-1993, voters adopted the new charter, replacing the police jury system with the current form of government: an 11-member parish council with a stronger executive in an independently elected parish president.

Just five years before that vote, in 1988, a similar proposal had failed at the ballot. More recent attempts to make the parish president an appointed, but trained executive failed to gain traction.

After the charter vote, Bourque and his police jury colleagues became the first parish council members, finishing terms on the parish council in 1996 that they had begun on the police jury in 1992. But one of those jurors, Tommy Martinez, ran in the fall of 1993 to be the first parish president and won an initial two-year term. 

Bourque would go on to win another four-year term on the District 7 council seat from 2000 to 2004.

In 1994, Bourque, Martinez and others also helped convince voters to adopt a permanent half-cent sales tax. It remains the parish’s primary source for local road funding.

While the winds of change and population growth were already coming to Ascension in those years, the concerns of the day were of a different era. Martinez said the road tax push arose from their campaign promises in 1991 to pave the parish’s 600 gravel roads. 

“He was good guy and a good friend,” said Martinez, who would win three more nonconsecutive, four-year terms as parish president.

Bourque is survived by his wife of 58 years, Judy Babin Bourque; sons Dale Bourque and wife, Bonnie, and Keith Bourque and wife, Dawn; his daughter Tanya Bourque and her fiancé, John de St Germain; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services are private.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *