“White best exemplifies the power of the pen and its ability to change the mighty.” — The Advocate
“White, a self-described ‘Louisiana boy,’ has expanded his platform, joining a band of independent political bloggers who can drive coverage and threaten careers.” — The Washington Post
“There’s an old saying in politics about ‘knowing where the bones are buried.’ Lamar knows that in Louisiana, sometimes the bones are buried and sometimes they’re above ground.” — James Carville
For more than 20 years, beginning as a “youth columnist” for my hometown newspaper, The Town Talk, then as a blogger for my eponymous website CenLamar, and now as the publisher of the Bayou Brief, my work as a writer has been almost exclusively animated by a belief in the importance of contributing to the project of building a more informed, more inclusive, and more decent future for the people of my home state of Louisiana.
Unlike many in my generation, I decided to return home after college, arriving only months after two powerful hurricanes devastated communities along the coast and the failure of the federal government’s levee protection system resulted in the catastrophic flooding of 80% of New Orleans. Back then, there was no shortage of those professing their love for Louisiana, but once the cameras stopped rolling and the satellite trucks left to cover the next story, it was often difficult to find anyone in the press who loved Louisiana enough to shine a light on the disaster capitalists and the racist political leaders who used the state’s recovery as an opportunity to privatize public education, disinvest from public colleges and universities, and sell off the state’s system of charity hospitals.
These challenges were compounded by the staggering collapse of local newspapers, something that communities across the country were also experiencing. I saw it first-hand in Alexandria, when the robust and respected newspaper to which I had contributed as a high school student was decimated by its new owners at Gannett. It’s the reason I launched the CenLamar blog in March of 2006, and it’s one of the reasons why, nine years later, I launched the Bayou Brief.
All told, from the very first post on March 8, 2006 to the final one on June 24, 2017, my byline appears on a total of 1,749 articles on CenLamar. In that time, the site attracted more than four million unique visitors, and it also generated national, even international, attention, most notably after I broke the story that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from suburban New Orleans who, as House Majority Whip at the time, was the third-most powerful member of Congress, had once attended and spoken at the “international” annual conference of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (or EURO), a white nationalist hate group founded by former klansman David Duke.
Here’s an introductory video I put together for my supporters on Patreon that covers some of my greatest hits:
Although my output on the Bayou Brief hasn’t been quite as prolific (as of this writing, since its launch in late June of 2017, my byline appears on 344 articles), its total readership has already surpassed what I’d been able to generate on my former publication.
I mention this not to boast about myself (the Bayou Brief is and has always been a collaborative effort), but because I think it explains the values that have guided my career as a journalist and a writer.
“If knowledge is power, we should look to its advancement at home, where no resource of power will be unwanting,” Thomas Jefferson wrote of the importance of public college in his native and beloved Virginia in 1821.
I should note that while I occasionally write about national issues—and am even currently a contributing writer at The Daily Beast—I only do so when the topic either concerns Louisiana or has a direct connection to the state. This, however, should not lead others to assume that either my interests or the interests of those who write for the Bayou Brief are somehow parochial or insufferably pedantic (at least we try not to be). There is an abundance of stories that deserve to be told here in Louisiana, stories that force Americans from all walks of life to confront parts of a broken past and stories from this vulnerable and inimitable place that cry out to the future we will all share. And all of these threats—past, present, and future—are exacerbated by a diminishing supply of institutional knowledge in the news media, particularly in a small state like Louisiana.
For this reason, every single article on both CenLamar and the Bayou Brief are available to read for free. I’ve never charged for content or hidden stories behind a paywall. Also, significantly, neither publication has ever accepted advertisements or sponsored content.
Everything I’ve been able to accomplish as a writer has been directly attributable to contributions from readers.
Although the overwhelming majority of my published work is investigative journalism and social and political commentary, I spent four (and a half) years studying and writing fiction as an undergraduate at Rice University, where I enrolled in and completed more creative writing workshops than any other student in the school’s history, including two Advanced Poetry workshops taught by now-Professor Emerita Susan Wood and a class in creative nonfiction during the second semester of my freshman year that I continue to attribute whatever successes I have achieved in my craft to my professor, dear friend, and mentor Dr. Marsha Recknagel. My father died tragically and impossibly young, only 41, during the second week of class, and rather than retreat, she taught me the transformative power of vulnerability.
I spent two summers enrolled in the New York Writer’s Summer Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, learning under one of my favorite American writers, Rick Moody, who graciously agreed to write a small blurb not about any particular story I’d written but instead about how I wrote. I cannot recall the entire quote, but I remember he’d praised me for being “capable of writing with effortless energy.” (At least, I assumed Rick meant that as a compliment).
When I returned to Rice the following fall for my junior year, I enrolled in an advanced fiction workshop taught by the writer Justin Cronin, a dazzling young writer who had just arrived at Rice and who had managed to reduce his entire interview committee (myself included, as a student representative) into a heaving chorus of sobs after reading a devastatingly sad passage from his debut novel. I somehow managed to take four classes from Justin, and when he decided to launch R2, Rice’s very first literary journal, he named me as its first fiction editor.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my incredible fortune of learning from one of America’s masters of the short story, the late Lee K. Abbott. Even though I enrolled in only one of his two-week workshops, I learned more in those two weeks than I had over an entire semester from other writing professors, and despite our relatively brief encounter in person, Lee and I became friends and kept in touch with one another regularly for the next 15 years, until he passed away in late April of 2019 at the age of 73.
A few other things: I am the recipient of the Rising Tide’s 2012 Ashley Morris Award, and since I haven’t yet mentioned my physical disability, if you are interested in that aspect of my story, I spoke about it in my acceptance remarks:
I also received the 2019 Millennial Award for Outstanding Journalist, a “Top 40 Under 40” in New Orleans distinction from Gambit, and several years ago, Andrew Breitbart’s final tweet, which was also his final online insult and likely his final apology as well.
In 2009, along with my friend Matt Bailey, I helped launch Louisiana’s chapter of the New Leaders Council (the first day of the first institute was at my mom’s house), which has since trained more than 220 extraordinary young Louisianians on how to be effective public servants, building a dynamic network of accomplished progressive leaders across the state. I am a former national board member of the Secular Students Alliance, a position I took in order to draw awareness to a series of so-called “education reforms” passed under the Jindal administration that violated the Establishment Clause, and a former member of the board for the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Not long after moving from Houston to my hometown of Alexandria in late 2005, I was named as one of Central Louisiana’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” by Cenla Focus, which I found hilarious.
In 2011, I enrolled at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas, where I focused on health care law and civil rights litigation. After earning my Juris Doctor in 2015, I once again moved back to Louisiana, first to Baton Rouge for a brief stint as a doctoral student in mass communications at LSU’s Manship School before finally settling down in New Orleans.
Today, as I embark on completing a biography on the life of the longtime “reputed” New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello—a story that challenges our understandings of celebrity and conspiracy, heroes and villains, man and myth, crimes and contrivances, a story about what it means to be an American and a story about Louisiana—I know it is impossible for me to tackle this project entirely by myself.
If you can pitch in, for as little as $3 a month, you will be a part of this story-telling project, and you’ll be providing me with the resources I need to share the most consequential and most compelling story I’ve ever told.
The Godfather Trilogy
- Part One: Calogero Minacore and the Making of Carlos Marcello
- Part Two: Carlos Marcello and the Making of a Mafia Myth
- Part Three: The American Saga of Carlos Marcello