Her career in print and broadcast journalism lasted for almost 50 years. Writing about New Orleans and Louisiana politics, Iris reported on every mayor from deLesseps S. "Chep" Morrison to Marc Morial and every governor from Earl Long to Mike Foster.
She was born in December 1926 as Iris Turner of Philadelphia, Miss. Graduating from college in 1948, Miss Turner got her first job on a paper in Hattiesburg, Miss. as a general-assignment reporter. And in a few short years, she moved to New Orleans where she began work at the New Orleans States, one of the city's afternoon papers. She then started to write feature stories about crime and people on trial.
In 1954, she was assigned to cover City Hall, thus beginning her career as a political reporter. And in 1959 she was sent to Baton Rouge to cover the Legislature.
The 1960s saw many changes in Iris' life. First she married Robert Kelso, an employee of The States-Item (the two afternoon papers, the States and Item, had merged). She also became an activist in our community. Joining the anti-poverty group Total Community Action, Iris was responsible for the Head Start Program and a nationally recognized medical program.
And it was in the 1960s that she made her debut on television when she joined WDSU-TV to cover politics. For more than 11 years she reported on the administration of Moon Landrieu and the election of Dutch Morial.
Iris' husband, Robert, died in 1972, and in 1978, she returned to writing about politics, becoming a political columnist for The Times-Picayune in 1979. But in addition to her political observations, we were also treated to the occasional column about her family.
Retiring from The Times-Picayune at the end of 1996, Iris spent much time in her garden and even had a daylily named in her honor. More importantly, she was inducted in 1997 into the Louisiana Center for Women and Government's Hall of Fame.
Ms. Kelso received many honors and awards. The New Orleans Press Club and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have honored her. A story in 1959 about Gov. Earl Long earned her the New Orleans Press Club Award for "Best News Story of the Year." In 1970, her television series of stories about New Orleans' financial woes, entitled "City in Crisis," was recognized with a Peabody Award. Women in Communications, Inc. named her their "Communicator of the Year" in 1990. The New Orleans Press Club acknowledged her with a lifetime achievement award in 1994.
She once wrote, "I have always been more interested in what politics tells about people than in politics itself. Politics is a profession that tests men and women in ways few of us ever face. It takes them to the heights and drops them just as suddenly. In the dizzying course they follow, people in politics sometimes let you know just who they are."
And the people of New Orleans knew who Iris Kelso was: a pioneering female journalist who was known to be fair and insightful.
Hats off for a great article on the City Park Race Track. I have searched high and low for a picture of the track but no luck. Any suggestions where to locate an old map or a picture?
Thanks for the compliment. I guess you can tell that racetracks are dear to Old Blake's heart, so you have come to the right place for an answer to your question. There is a wonderful book entitled Historic City Park: New Orleans written by Sally K. Evans Reeves and William E. Reeves, and published by the City Park Improvement Association and the Friends of City Park. The first edition was published in 1982 and the second in 2000. In this beautifully written and illustrated book, you will find exactly what you are looking for and more.