Diana E. Bajoie (1948– )

Diana Bajoie as State Representative Elect, May 1, 1976
Courtesy The Louisiana Weekly

Diana Bajoie is known as a pioneer of African American politics in the state of Louisiana.  She is a former member of the Louisiana legislature and the first African American woman elected to serve in the Louisiana state senate.  She is also the first woman selected to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore. Diana was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 8, 1948 to Julia V. Roudeze Bajoie, a retired educator, and Olander P. Bajoie Sr., a retired military serviceman and businessman who owned three firms, Dixie Shoring Company and W.D. Walker Construction and Shoring Contractors.

Bajoie’s parents’ active engagement in the community, personally and professionally was motivated and inspired her desire to also be of service. Bajoie pursued an academic career that prepared her for public service. Bajoie graduated from Southern University and A&M in Baton Rouge with a Bachelor’s degree in political science and later attended Southern University School of Law.

Bajoie entered politics and was elected to represent Louisiana House of Representative District 91 in 1976. While in the House she championed women and children’s rights, a greater allocation of state resources to help families, and became a voice for members of the communities she represented that were often underserved or ignored. Bajoie supported the Equal Rights Amendment and reintroduced it in the legislature in 1979.  She also promoted measures that supported health and wellness for all Louisianans .

Bajoie standing and speaking while Jones and Jackson sit at a desk
Senator Diana Bajoie with Charles R. Jones, left, and Rep Alphonse Jackson, during a Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus meeting, August 31, 1991 Photograph by Brad Kemp, courtesy The Daily Advertiser

In 1991 Bajoie ran for Louisiana State Senator for District 5 becoming the first African American woman elected to serve the Louisiana Senate. As a senator Bajoie continued to support progressive legislation including school-based health clinics and  healthy snack options in school vending machines.  She also supported along with other Senators an effort to establish the first  Minority Health Care Commission in Louisiana and sought to expand health care coverage for citizens with mental disorders. She also served as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and ranking member of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee,

While in the Legislature she sponsored the bills that created the Louisiana Cancer Research Center in New Orleans, established the Louisiana State Museum of Civil Rights, expanded the New Orleans Convention Center to be renamed to honor Ernest Nathan Morial, New Orleans’ first African American mayor, and was a founder and former chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus, and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women.

Senator Bajoie retired from the Louisiana Senate in 2008 due to term limits. In 2012 Bajoie was temporarily appointed to serve in the New Orleans City Council by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

In 2013 Bajoie joined LSU Health Sciences Center team as the director of community relations, as well as a liaison to the center’s deans. While at LSU Health Sciences Center Bajoie has facilitated health fairs and Breast Cancer Awareness events at local beauty salons and barber shops.  She continues to provide invaluable resources that promote health awareness and cultural diversity.

Former Senator Bajoie accolades include induction into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Southern University (2018),  and trustee for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.  She is a member of the WYES-TV Board of Directors, Xavier University of Louisiana Board of Visitors, and the Dillard University Advisory Board.