We learned yesterday that John St. Julien, one of the leading voices behind the strong grassroots support of the LUS Fiber project, passed away on Sunday, January 10. His presence will be missed by us and by the many people he helped through his work to bring better Internet access to Lafayette, Louisiana.
John visited us for the Community Broadband Bits podcast for episodes #19 and #94 to share his advice and experience as a grassroots organizer. John developed the Lafayette Pro Fiber blog in the early days of the the LUS Fiber network fight. The blog helped spread the truth about the network and correct the lies spread by the incumbents. His ability to communicate with the people of Lafayette set the record straight so they could make informed decisions about a municipal fiber network.
When Chris wrote his report about Lafayette's municipal fiber network, he turned to John to learn about the community effort behind the project. Chris had this to say about John and his triumphs:
"I think I met John my second year working on community networks. I had spoken with him several times over the phone and had decided to do a case study of Lafayette. I drove to Lafayette from Dallas and spent an afternoon with him, learning about the struggle against Cox and BellSouth for local self-reliance. Visiting Lafayette while hearing John's stories helped immeasurably to build my passion for this work."
"John taught me many lessons about organizing and compassion over the years. I'm grateful for that wisdom and all the people he shared it with. We will miss him greatly but his work will live on in many others."
John was inspired by his work as an educator. He saw that the possibilities the fiber network offered students in Lafayette were boundless. His work on education and public interest issues did not stop with the LUS Fiber project. John also worked as a co-founder and board member of Power of Public Education Lafayette and he was active for the League of Women Voters. John had worked in education at Louisiana State University (LSU), the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Delaware.
Friends and acquaintances describe John as brilliant, thoughtful, and generous. A colleague from LSU described John:
“He just had a way of bringing complex issues down to earth. He just had such a clear language about him...He was so gentle and had such a presence about him. The world was a better place with him in it. Lafayette is not going to be quite as rich without him. There’s going to be a major voice missing.”
Photo of John St. Julien courtesy of Scott Bradner.size>