WINNFIELD – If you pay a visit the Louisiana Political Museum, you’ll see the vehicle the late Gov. Earl Long used for political campaigning and Gov. Huey P. Long’s ornate dining room set. But you can also take a gander at the roster of this year’s inductees into the museum’s Political Hall of Fame, including retired Lafayette Judge Kaliste Saloom Jr.
Born in 1918 to Lebanese immigrants, Saloom graduated from Cathedral High School, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a bachelor of law degree from Tulane University. After serving in the Army Counterintelligence Corps during World War II, he opened his own law practice until being named city attorney in Lafayette. Saloom was later elected to the post of judge for the Lafayette City Court, serving as the sole judge there from 1953 to 1983 and eventually retiring from the bench in 1993.
In March, the museum honored Saloom and six others as Hall of Famers with a reception and induction banquet.
The museum’s director, Carolyn Phillips, said in an email to the Louisiana Record that anyone can nominate a candidate for induction into the Hall of Fame. But there is one overarching requirement, she said: The person nominated has to have made a significant contribution to Louisiana politics. Thus, familiar names such as Huey P. Long and Earl Long made the cut years ago.
“Judge Saloom was nominated because he has served our state’s legal system and the public in general nearly all his life,” Phillips said.
She indicated that members of the museum’s foundation board vote on who will be inducted each year.
Saloom was immersed early on in the Acadian culture and the French language, according to the Acadian Museum’s website. During Saloom’s childhood, Lafayette’s Catholic schools provided students with a bilingual French-English education; but in public schools there, the French language was forbidden, the museum’s bio of Saloom states.
One of the reasons for his selection as a special agent in the Counterintelligence Corps was due to his proficiency in French, according to the Acadian Museum. The museum, located in Erath, honored Saloom in 2009 with its “Order of Living Legends” award.
According to the Acadian Museum, Saloom served in North Africa during part of the war, acting as a liaison with French military as well as civilian agencies. He later served with U.S. and French forces during the invasion of southern France in 1944.
“To my knowledge, Judge Saloom is retired and continues to serve his community,” Phillips said.
Created by an act passed by the state legislature in 1987, the Louisiana Political Museum opened in the 1990s. Its location in Winnfield seemed natural since the city was the birthplace of three governors. The museum also has tens of thousands of artifacts and memorabilia from different eras of state politics.