Hundreds gather to honor Tom Benson with second line from Treme to Champions Square

NEW ORLEANS — The community is mourning the loss of Tom Benson in the best way we know how — with music, dancing and revelry.

Hundreds gathered Thursday evening, just hours after news spread that the Saints and Pelicans owner had died, to second line for Benson.

It started at Tuba Fats Park in Treme and marched on down to Champions Square for a dance party at the Tom Benson statue.

On social media, players, team owners, and even former presidents continue to chime in on Benson’s death and his impact on New Orleans, Louisiana, and the NFL.

Former President George H.W. Bush said Benson was a dear friend:

“A brilliant businessman, Tom had a genuine passion for his city and his state — and his remarkably generous support for a wide range of wonderful causes made him one of the brightest Points of Light we had the privilege to know. But most of all, Tom was a true bon vivant and dear friend who visited us in Maine and hosted us at countless Saints’ games. To us, he really was `Mr. New Orleans,’ and we have no doubt Tom Benson is dancing in heaven tonight.”

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones called Benson “a proud Texan who also embraced his leadership role in Louisiana”:

“Tom was a friend and an ally, and I admired him greatly … His spirit and competitiveness were a perfect fit for all Saints fans and the City of New Orleans.

Tom was not only a great and generous owner, but he was also a very productive contributor to the National Football League.

 He was astute, exceptionally smart and an accomplished sportsman and businessman. His marketing and finance expertise guided the League’s Finance Committee for years. He pumped life and enthusiasm into a community and a franchise that had no winning seasons before he became involved, and he brought them a championship and a great sense of pride that will be felt for years to come.

Our thoughts go out to his family and all of the lives that he touched. This is a sad day for the NFL.”

Benson was known almost as much for his charitable giving as he was for being the wealthiest person in Louisiana. Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas said Benson’s generosity was “profound.”

“Over the years, his profound generosity, whether it was through the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center or supporting other philanthropic efforts, had  a tremendous impact across Louisiana and the entire Gulf South.  We are proud to continue his legacy and feel privileged to call him a friend, and we will miss him dearly.

Benson’s wife, Gayle, is slated to take ownership of the Saints and the Pelicans.