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|Former reporter to sign copies of book|
When author Bill Keith arrives in town Friday, it won't be his first trip to the Twin Cities, but it will be much more pleasant than a trip he made in 1976.
Keith was working as an investigative reporter for The Shreveport Times when the newspaper broke a corruption story about high-powered Public Safety Commissioner George D'Artois and misuse of public funds.
D'Artois had twice attempted to a pay political consultant with city checks. A group of law enforcement officers presented The Times with copies of the checks and, on May 15, 1976, the newspaper published a story detailing the commissioner's attempts to use public funds to pay Leslie.
"The day before that story broke, the editor told me to take my family and get out of town," Keith recalled Tuesday in an interview with The Ouachita Citizen. "We spent our first night on the road at the Howard Johnson's in Monroe."
Keith remained on the run for several days, eventually stopping in Mississippi, where he received the all-clear sign from his editor.
During Keith's period of hiding, D'Artois went to the home of the political consultant at the center of the controversy, former reporter Jim Leslie, and threatened to kill him.
By the time Keith returned to Shreveport, D'Artois was in the hospital and had resigned, citing "medical reasons."
Though D'Artois was no longer in power, the story was just beginning to unfold.
Keith chronicled his experiences with the D'Artois case in a new book, "The Commissioner: A True Story of Deciet, Dishonor, and Death." Pelican Publishing published the book. Keith will be in West Monroe Saturday at One Penny Time on Cypress Street from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. to sign his book.
In the book, Keith details D'Artois connections with underworld crime bosses from New Orleans, culminating on one fateful day in July 1976.
Keith said law enforcement officers learned a mob hitman had come to Shreveport, but they were unsure of the hitman's target.
"They were taking bets on whether it was going to be me or Jim Leslie," Keith said. "My editor asked me what I wanted to do and I said I'd already run once, so I'd just ride it out and see what happened."
Keith was lucky. In the early morning hours of July 9, Leslie was gunned down in a hotel parking lot in Baton Rouge. Leslie had been a party at the Camelot Club in downtown Baton Rouge. The party was held to celebrate the Legislature's approval of a Right-to-Work bill, which organized labor vigorously opposed. Leslie led the public relations campaign to pass the bill. He also lobbied the Legislature to approve it.
While Keith and the team of reporters from The Times played an integral part in bringing down D'Artois, Keith said the real heroes were the five officers who leaked the story — the men D'Artois labeled the "Dirty Five."
Because of Police Chief T.P. Kelly, Chief of Detectives Kenneth Lanigan and the three other officers to whom Keith dedicated the book, Keith said Shreveport was saved from organized crime.
Though several of the men have died, Keith remained in touch with them throughout the years.
"You forge these friendships through the years with people you really respect," Keith said. "They were strong, strong men who took a stand for what they knew to be right and against what they knew to be wrong."