William Edgar Borah
Remember
William Edgar Borah
  • October 29, 1937 - September 25, 2017
  • New Orleans, Louisiana

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A courageous fighter to the end, attorney William Edgar Borah lost his final battle to melanoma on September 25, 2017 at the age pf 79. Born in New Orleans on October 29, 1937 to the late Wayne G. Borah, former US District Judge and member of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Elizabeth Pipes Borah Wingfield. Survived by his loving sister Virginia Borah Meislahn (Harry) of Charlottesville, Va., and nephew David Alexander Slaughter (Jodie) of Arlington, VA.



Special thanks to his dear friend Sandra Lynn Stokes, Dr. Alton Oliver Sartor and the amazing team at the Tulane Cancer Center, along with all of Bill’s caretakers at Tulane Medical Center and MD Anderson.



Bill was proud to serve in the US Marine Corps, after which he earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Tulane University. Bill was a tireless advocate, visionary, and champion of his beloved New Orleans. His lifelong dedication to fighting for preservation, for good urban planning, and for better land use policies made the city a better place, and inspired others around the country.



Bill and Richard O. Baumbach, Jr., along with the preservation community, led the legal battle that ultimately defeated the construction of an elevated, six-lane interstate highway along the Vieux Carré riverfront in front of Jackson Square. Saving the now-cherished French Quarter allowed the preservation of not only the important historic architecture but the culture that is now the center attraction of the tourism industry, New Orleans’ main economic engine. Bill and Dick later chronicled this struggle in The Second Battle of New Orleans: A History of the Vieux Carré Riverfront Expressway Controversy.



Bill’s other contributions to the cityscape included successfully opposing the construction of a bridge at Napoleon Avenue, whose six-lane approach was slated to slice Uptown New Orleans in half, and helping to persuade the Corps of Engineers to construct a parallel bridge in downtown New Orleans instead of Uptown. Believing transportation was key to good planning, he worked with a coalition of citizens to establish a streetcar line along the downtown riverfront.



As a way to embody the principles that governed his actions, Bill established Smart Growth for Louisiana. In the post-Katrina era, he spent countless hours authoring and advocating for the Master Plan amendments to the city’s Home Rule Charter—among his more cherished accomplishments. The changes required the city to have a Master Plan with the force of law to direct future development.



Bill has been the conscience for professional urban planning in New Orleans. He was a key figure in the coalition opposing the location and design of the LSU/VA projects, two suburban sprawl hospital complexes in lower Mid-City that called for the destruction of 67 acres of a historic neighborhood. Instead, Bill advocated for more sustainable alternatives such as reusing Charity Hospital with a state-of-the-art hospital inside, to return health care to the city faster and with less expense while complementing its traditional character.



Bill’s awards included the American Planning Association’s National Planning Leadership Award for a Distinguished Contribution, Environmental Lawyer of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Environmental Law Society of Tulane Law School; the Harnett T. Kane Preservation Award from the Louisiana Landmarks Society; the State of Louisiana’s Preservationist of the Year; and the Schwartz-Gage Award from Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates. Bill taught Historic Preservation, Preservation Law, and Urban Planning at the College of Urban and Public Affairs, University of New Orleans.



Bill spent his life in the service of his community, fighting for his beloved city of New Orleans. His keen sense of what is right, along with his wisdom, intellect, irrepressible wit, and unrelenting tenacity have been inspirational. Bill was an eloquent spokesman at local, state and nationwide forums, standing not only as a model, but also as a teacher. His techniques and strategies have been replicated in preservation battles across the nation.



Many times his tireless battles came at great personal cost. While his stance has not always been popular, ultimately time has proven it to be correct. William E. Borah is not only a Louisiana icon, but a national treasure in the field of historic preservation.



In lieu of flowers, tax deductible donations may be made to Louisiana Landmarks Society, 1440 Moss Street, New Orleans, LA 70119 and/or to Tulane Cancer Research – payable to Tulane Cancer Center, with memo line “Sartor Research”. Mail to: Dr. Oliver Sartor, 1511 Dufossat St., New Orleans, LA 70115.



Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Memorial Service on Friday, September 29, 2017 at 2 PM at Trinity Church on 1329 Jackson Avenue in New Orleans. Visitation will begin at 1 PM. Interment to follow in Metairie Cemetery.