June 27, 2007
Reported by Pam Dixon
The Cameron Parish Courthouse was built strong in 1937-- strong enough to withstand the estimated 140 mile per hour winds of Hurricane Audrey. Cameron District Judge H. Ward Fontenot says, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave special attention to this parish during the depression. He hunted here. He had friends here and when we needed a new courthouse, he saw. That the federal government built one here. It's a monument of concrete and steel."
That monument was one of the few structures that survived the storm and sheltered survivors. Fontenot says, "It saved lives. The courthouse itself is so sturdy. I don't think there was ever any thought that they were in danger. People's minds though were worried about folks who didn't make it here." Fontenot's family was among the hundreds of residents who evacuated their homes and sought refuge at the courthouse while he was away at college. Fontenot says, "I was coming from LSU. I was flagging rides to get here. When we pulled up at the waterfront at Cameron where I had worked every summer, a place I was intimately familiar with, I told the preacher this isn't Cameron. All I could see was mounds of debris. I said this isn't Cameron. He said son look at the courthouse. I got in a position where I could see the courthouse over the piles of lumber and there it was. That's how you tell it's Cameron."
You can still see the signs of Hurricane Audrey on the outside of the courthouse. A water line still there after 50 years shows how high the water got at the courthouse.
Former Cameron Clerk of Court Berton Daigle says, "The clerk's office was on the second floor. We didn't get any water. Water came about four to five feet in the basement." Daigle worked at the courthouse before and after Audrey. He and his family survived the hurricane in the attic of their home. Daigle says the courthouse was at the center of everything for several weeks after Audrey. Daigle says, "There were no other places in shape to do anything. It was used as a multipurpose building for a long time." Daigle says records in the clerk of court's office were not destroyed in the hurricane because they were on the second floor of the courthouse high enough above the flooding.