NEW ORLEANS—For 80 years, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant has served patrons. Some of those patrons over the years, were civil rights activists, that met in secret meetings at the top floor of the restaurant building. The restaurant is the first historical site that is honored with a marker of the newly created Louisiana Civil Rights Trail.
Sybil Morial (community activist, educator and wife of the late Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, the first African American mayor of New Orleans), spoke at the dedication and spoke fondly of the husband and wife restaurateurs that were her friends saying, “I offer my love to the Chase family. Leah was my dear friend. Leah and Dooky were phenomenal. Leah was the Queen of Creole cuisine, even internationally. I call that room upstairs the upper room, like the last supper. History was made there. This is hallowed ground!”
Dooky Chase the 3rd is the son of both Dooky Chase the 2nd and Leah Chase and says, “civil rights leaders are here today. In the spirit of those times, we are proud to feed them and celebrate life at Dooky’s. My mother would have been proud to see how far this restaurant has come.”
The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail effort began about two years ago officially, and was directed with the help of a lead product development team at GMc+Company Strategic Communications.
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser remembers what led him to initiate the idea saying, “three years ago, I was at a conference and learned we were the only southern state that didn’t have a civil rights trail. We joined the national civil rights trail after that meeting and we began to work on our own plan.”
The trail designated 15 places and will add to the list and included research and input from the community, students of Southern University and A&M College, students of Grambling State University, the greater museum and historian community, as well as living activists from the civil rights movement.
Judge Edwin A. Lombard of the Louisiana Judicial Council, is a New Orleans historian with an intimate connection to the civil rights of New Orleans. Rudy Lombard was Judge Lombard’s brother and was a freedom rider and a member of the Congress of Racial Equality. Lombard vs Louisiana was a court case that resulted from a sit-in protest that resulted in four students being arrested and found guilty under Louisiana law. The Supreme Court of the United States would reverse the decision.
Edwin and Rudy’s family frequented Dooky Chases’ Restaurant and were part of the change that included many members of civil rights activism eating lunch at the restaurant to plan integration. Dooky Chase Restaurant nourished the civil rights movement with gumbo and fried chicken.
Judge Lombard attended the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail celebration at Dooky Chase and says, “it was a great feeling to see all of these great folk come together and remember the important role Dooky Chase played in the struggles.”
The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail conducted an education video project that will be available on their website, along with the list of historic markers.