In 2006 Southeastern Louisiana University proudly dedicated the Performance Hall in the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts to the memory of the late State Senator John J. Hainkel, Jr., who died on April 15, 2005.
A dedicated public servant whose legislative career spanned 37 years, Senator Hainkel was the only state legislator in the United States to be elected the presiding officer of both the House and Senate. He was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1967, a member of the “Young Turks” dedicated on reforming the politics of the state.
He served in the House of Representatives for 20 years and as Speaker of the House from 1980-1984. He was elected to the state Senate, where he served from 1988 until his death. Senate members elected him President of the Senate in 2000, a position he held until 2004.
Senator Hainkel was renowned for his ability to debate fine points of legislation with little preparation. Not one to dodge a good floor fight, he was also considered a “reconciler” for his ability and willingness to gather colleagues and combatants in a true spirit of collegiality for the betterment of the state he loved.
Although his Senate district spanned the north and south shores, Senator Hainkel was equally at home representing the interests of constituents from parts of four parishes ranging from uptown New Orleans to Tangipahoa Parish.
A true friend of Southeastern, Senator Hainkel led a strong and united legislative delegation that helped achieve considerable state financial support resulting in numerous renovation and construction projects on the campus. The restoration of the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts – his “pride and joy” – was the result largely of his efforts in garnering state support for the project. In 1996, he was recognized by Southeastern with its first Golden Ambassador Award, a prestigious award that honors outstanding service, achievement and/or humanitarian efforts.
A commemorative plaque is located in the Columbia Theatre lobby as a permanent memorial to his contributions to Southeastern Louisiana University and to his constituents in the State of Louisiana.