Local honored with induction

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

FERRIDAY — Ferridian Al Ater made his mark on Louisiana politics, and he will be honored for that when he is inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum’s Hall of Fame at 6 p.m. today in Winnfield.

“I feel very honored,” Ater said. “It was a total surprise, and it caught me off guard when I learned about it.”

First elected at the age of 28 as District 21 representative in 1983, Ater served two terms before quitting the political game. While in the house, he served as floor leader.

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After he retired from elected life, Ater returned to Ferriday and became a businessman.

But then one day he received a phone call from the late Secretary of State Fox McKeithen.

The Secretary of State’s office was being restructured, and McKeithen asked if he would help with the department’s election responsibilities.

“(Election law) is something I am interested in, and I thought it would be intriguing setting up a new agency,” Ater said.

So Ater served as assistant secretary of state until 2005, when an accident paralyzed and eventually killed McKeithen.

McKeithen’s death moved Ater from the assistant secretary to the full-blown secretary of state position.

Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Katrina struck the state.

“I was doing everything from interviews on National Public Radio to debating the Rev. Al Sharpton to putting on the New Orleans elections,” Ater said.

“It was a very fun ride.”

Inductees into the political hall of fame are decided by a statewide committee, Louisiana Political Museum Director Carolyn Phillips said.

Past inductees to in the museum have included McKeithen, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Harry Connick Sr. and District 34 Senator Francis Thompson.

When serving in his public roles, the thought about being counted among Louisiana’s political greats in the museum never crossed his mind, Ater said.

“Usually, that kind of stuff happens to dead people, so it’s not something that you’re in a hurry to (have) happen,” he said.