Kevin P. Reilly Sr., a former longtime state legislator representing Baton Rouge and head of Lamar Advertising Co., died Sunday.
He was 84.
Reilly, a Democrat, represented Baton Rouge’s District 68 in the state House from 1972 to 1987 and was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 1973 to 1986. He left his seat for an unsuccessful run for state treasurer in 1987.
Reilly and his wife, DeeDee, moved to Baton Rouge in the mid-1950s when he began working for Lamar. He soon became the company’s CEO and chairman and held the positions until 1989 when he retired and began to serve as chairman emeritus.
Under Reilly’s leadership, Lamar grew from a small firm to one of the largest billboard and outdoor advertising companies in the United States.
Reilly was named secretary of the state Department of Economic Development in 1991 by then Gov.-elect Edwin W. Edwards and served in that position for nine years under Edwards and Mike Foster.
“He was my hero,” said Sean Reilly, the son of Kevin P. Reilly and current CEO of Lamar. “His was a life well led.”
Dudley W. Coates, a former senior vice president for the energy investment firm Howard Weil Labouisse Friedrichs Inc.’s Baton Rouge office and a former Lamar board member, called Reilly “Mr. Baton Rouge.”
“I don’t know of a person or a family that’s poured more into Baton Rouge than the Reillys,” Coates said. “He was an outstanding business leader. He was an outstanding legislator.”
Coates said Reilly had a great ability to hire good people within his company.
“He wouldn’t interfere. He would let them do their jobs,” Coates said. “He was a great leader.”
The Rev. Raymond A. Jetson, a former state legislator, said Reilly was a family friend of both him and his father, Louis Jetson, also a former state lawmaker. Jetson said Reilly supported his and his father’s elections to the Legislature.
“He (Reilly) was certainly a source of wise counsel,” Jetson said.
Jetson said Reilly had “the most generous spirit of anyone that I’ve known.”
“He used the resources that he had to make a difference in the lives of people,” Jetson said.
Reilly served as national board chairman of the Volunteers of America, president of the board of directors of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center Foundation, chairman of the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators’ board of directors and chairman of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
Reilly won the Volunteers of America Distinguished Service Award in 1985, the Baton Rouge Business Report Executive of the Year award in 1990 and the LPB Louisiana Legends Award in 2007.
After his retirement from Lamar, Reilly and his wife, DeeDee, established the Reilly Family Foundation, which helped direct philanthropic contributions to nonprofit organizations in Baton Rouge.
John Davies, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, said Reilly and his family were highly involved in philanthropic efforts in Baton Rouge.
Davies said Reilly had great passion and advocated strongly for the ideals in which he believed.
“He was not only passionate and effective in his political leadership, but he was also a joy to be around,” Davies said.
Davies said Reilly was a brilliant, tenacious man who cared deeply about Louisiana.
“A great oak has fallen,” Davies said.
The Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU established a chair in Reilly’s name in 1997. LSU’s Reilly Center in Media and Public Affairs is also named in his honor.
LSU awarded him and his wife honorary doctorates in 2006.
Reilly, a native of Boston, attended Harvard University on a Navy ROTC scholarship. He played on the school’s baseball team.
A private service will be held for the family, and a reception for family and friends will be held Nov. 8 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the City Club of Baton Rouge on 355 North Blvd.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs, the Speech and Hearing Foundation, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, the O’Brien House, the Hospice of Greater Baton Rouge or any charity of a person’s choice.