The President’s visit last week got me to thinking about the last time a sitting President visited Ouachita Parish in 1982. Monroe was reeling from the effects of a devastating flood. The usual places that flood went under and area residents were furiously filling sandbags. It was one of the worst floods in Monroe since the 50’s.
President Reagan was returning from a Palm Springs, CA vacation, when he decided to make a detour south to view the flooding for himself. Monroe was chosen as the place to stop Air Force One. Local officials were informed early in the morning the day of arrival that the President was coming.
Reagan landed at Monroe Regional Airport at 2:40 pm, where he met Governor Treen and local officials and was taken through the NLU campus to visit Town and Country subdivision. This was a disappointment to some, who thought he would be taking the 165 North route. The Secret Service decided it was safer to go through the campus. He stopped at Town and Country to help fill sandbags and see the flooding. It was suggested he tour Deborah Drive but the Secret Service thought it was not advisable, since there was only one way in and out.
The President then stopped at Mel’s Diner on Elmwood Drive to talk to the workers who were helping. He was then taken to the flooded KMLB radio station. Reagan had to hop into a Jeep to be taken to the station, since there was two feet of water all around! Reporters in the crowd jokingly told him to walk on the water, and he quipped back that he knew how to swim!
From the radio station, the President addressed the nation about what he had seen in Monroe and promised to help. President Reagan was then taken back to his vehicle where he was driven through the Booker T. Washington community and the Monroe Industrial Park, then back to the airport to fly to Washington. He was in Monroe about an hour and a half.
Read a transcript of President Reagan’s diary entry the day of his visit here: https://www.reaganfoundation.org/ronald-reagan/white-house-diaries/diary-entry-01021983/