WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT President Emeritus Edward McElroy and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus Lorretta Johnson issued the following statements after the death of Nat LaCour, who retired as the union’s secretary-treasurer in July of 2008, a position he held for four years after serving as the AFT’s executive vice president, as the president of the United Teachers of New Orleans and on the AFL-CIO executive council.
“Today we lost a great friend and mentor, an iconic trade unionist and distinguished educator. Nat LaCour exemplified the best of our union. He was a true visionary with regard to the essential role of unions in helping increase the power, agency, wages and professionalism of educators. He challenged the racism that he had to confront as a Black man, educator and union leader in the South, and he was admired by friend and foe because of his grace, kindness and brilliance. All of us at the AFT are deeply saddened to learn of his passing. I was honored to serve with him on the AFT executive council and was grateful for his advice. I will remember with great fondness his indelible mark both on our union, and on this movement overall.
“Nat knew the path forward for public education was through elevating educators’ voices and investing in children’s futures. Where others may have backed down, he plowed forward, serving on countless boards, running as a Democratic delegate and, eventually, helping found the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He was tireless, and was celebrated by nearly all who knew him, especially for his work in the civil rights movement.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say the AFT wouldn’t be where we are today without Nat’s influence—it traces back decades, all the way to 1974 when he led the United Teachers of New Orleans to become the first teachers union in the Deep South to obtain a collective bargaining agreement with a local school district.
“We send our deepest condolences to Nat’s family and loved ones, including Connie LaCour, his devoted wife, and we celebrate his legacy today and always.”
“A friend to many and an inspiration to countless, Nat LaCour helped steer us through some of the most important moments in history with grace, kindness, determination and sheer will. His impact on the profession of teaching will be felt for generations, and his leadership will be sorely missed.”
“Nat leaves behind a legendary spirit and an unmistakable generosity. He worked every day of his adult life to advance labor, human and civil rights. He will be terribly missed, but we can console ourselves with knowing that a little bit of Nat can be found in the thousands of lives he touched with his life's work. Rest in peace, my friend.”
The AFT will commemorate LaCour’s life at a memorial in the weeks ahead.