Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco died Sunday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced. She was 76.
Blanco revealed in 2017 that she was being treated for ocular melanoma and said in December 2018 that there was “no escape” from the incurable cancer. She entered into hospice care in April earlier this year.
Blanco died at a hospice center in Lafayette surrounded by her husband, children and other family members, Edwards said.
“Louisianans owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Blanco, who always put the people of our state first, fighting to improve the quality of life for our families and children, championing better educational opportunities for all students at every level and building a stronger Louisiana,” Edwards wrote on Twitter. Blanco, a Democrat, was Louisiana’s first and only female governor. She was elected in 2003 after defeating Republican Bobby Jindal, and held office from 2004 to 2008.
Her tenure came to be defined by Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, and Hurricane Rita one month later. Blanco was widely criticized for what some called an insufficient response to the storms, which ruined the city of New Orleans. More than 1,500 people in Louisiana died as a result of Katrina, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
“While she knew that her name would forever be linked with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it was her dying wish that she be remembered for her faith in God, commitment to family and love of Louisiana,” her family said in a statement.
Edwards ordered flags in Louisiana to be flown at half-staff from Sunday to the date of her funeral on Saturday, August 24.