About Judge Michael G. Bagneris
I am a native New Orleanian, born at Charity Hospital on January 28, 1950. My parents took me home to a shotgun room they rented in Treme. Five years later, we moved to the Desire Housing Project in the City’s 9th Ward – where I grew up.
My mother Veronica DeSalle Bagneris cooked and cleaned for other families. My father, Emile Bagneris, was a day worker, which means every day he went out looking for odd jobs. He was good at it. Later, my mother worked as a cook at Carver High School; she got him a job in the school system too as a janitor.
My mom deeply believed—and reminded all her children, that “education was the transportation that would lead one to any destination” because knowledge was something no one could ever take away from you. She pushed all her children to graduate from high school, and my brother Judge Dennis Bagneris and I were blessed to get much more.
I attended St. Peter Claver elementary school and finished first in my 8th Grade graduating class. My brother, Dennis, and I cleaned the corridors and other public areas of the school building every day after school. We also cleaned the yard and washed the porch of the nuns’ convent every Saturday. This paid for our tuition, and that of our three siblings, who also attended St. Peter Claver.
I considered my Mom to be more Catholic than the Pope. I knew my next educational stop would be the all boys Catholic school – St. Augustine High School. I loved St. Aug. It provided me with the foundation for all of my educational pursuits. I flourished in the school’s academic and social environment. I loved the studies and I enthusiastically participated in the many extra-curricular activities: debate club, speech club, glee club, science club, newspaper staff, intramural football. Escaping the bricks of the housing projects and finding the halls of St. Aug was like going to heaven each day.
I finished 4th in my graduating class at St. Aug and received the Purple Knight Award presented to the most all-around student. My mom wanted me to join my brother Dennis at Xavier University but I wanted to learn about the world “out there”. I wanted to compete with the best and so thankfully the Priests at St. Aug, particularly Father Wilbur Atwood, convince my Mother that Yale University was the place for me. I got two undergraduate degrees there before entering law school at Tulane.
I’m telling you this because when anyone born and raised in this city comes to me and says they can’t do better, I have compassion but I also have the ability to look them straight in the eye and tell them: If this child from Desire can go to and graduate from Yale, so can you. There will always be challenges, but there will also always be solutions too.