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Dr. Hypolite Landry, former EBR coroner and record-setting pilot, dies at 96
BATON ROUGE - Former East Baton Rouge coroner and record-setting pilot Dr. Hypolite Landry died Saturday morning. He was 96.
Landry served as coroner for 26 years, from 1972 to 1998. He spearheaded the creation of new services for people with drug and alcohol addiction, rape victims and children who had been abused. He also started the planning that led to the coroner's office having its own morgue.
Chuck Smith worked with Landry at the coroner's office for several years before moving to his current role as forensic investigator at the district attorney's office.
“When you have the opportunity to go out and interact with a family, it’s some of their worst times and to interact with those people and help them go through it.. I think that’s one of the motivations for Hypolite,” Smith said.
The Baton Rouge native found his way to medicine down a winding path.
He attended Catholic High and started at LSU before taking a job at Exxon, where he worked as a pipefitter and boilermaker. He then joined the Army and eventually served as a captain in the medical administrative corps during the Korean War.
After his military service, Landry went back to Exxon and then to LSU as a medical student.
Long before he entered politics, Landry enjoyed aviation as a serious hobby. In 1969, he set several world records during a 23-day solo trip around the world in a single engine plane, using only a compass for navigation. Some of those records still stand.
“Most interesting guy I’ve ever known, hands down. Flying around the world, flying to every capitol in the United States in a number of days, flying directly over Saigon in 1969,” Smith said
Dr. Landry also loved music. He played the harmonica, organ and many other instruments. His friends say he threw the best parties in Baton Rouge.
“If you didn’t go to Hypolite Landry’s parties then you missed the boat. It was the best party ever, even better than those in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago,” long-time friend Marilyn O'Brien said.
“It was almost something out of a 1940s Christmas movie. There would be one person playing the organ, one playing piano, all these people playing musical instruments and people milling in the background,” Smith said.
Landry was a dear friend and those who remember him will never forget his impact.
“Great guy, absolutely a great guy and it was an honor to be able to call him a friend,” Smith said.
“Rarely is there a true character born, maybe every century, and ours lived almost a hundred years. He was a real character like no other. The Bible says a friend is someone that sticks closer than a brother, and I never knew anyone that did that better than Hypolite,” O'Brien said.
Landry was elected coroner in 1971 and served unopposed in subsequent elections for decades. He easily defeated his only opponent in 1995 before retiring in 1998.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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