The Jefferson Political Dynasty Turned to Dust and Into a Crime Family

William Jefferson
William Jefferson

By Allan Lengel

Down in New Orleans, in Bayou country, the Jefferson family was a political force to be reckoned with.

The patriarch, former Rep. William Jefferson, headed a political machine called the Progressive Democrats. His power base included his sister Betty, a 4th District Assessor; his brother Mose, a political operative; brother-in-law Alan Green, a state judge; and daughter Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, a Harvard-educated lawyer and state representative, who was hoping one day to replace her father in Congress.

Fast-forward to today. The political dynasty is not only dead, but you need a scorecard to track who in the family is off to prison and who is awaiting trial.

Tulane University political science professor Brian J. Brox says that, simply put, the dynasty rose from humble beginnings and showed some of the best aspects of American politics, but ultimately the worst: “power for power’s sake, power for personal gain.”

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