Cultural Icons

Information about the background of the parish is found on the St. Tammany Parish Government's website, on its history page. To view the original webpage, CLICK HERE.

A ‘Cultural Icon’ is someone who has made a major contribution to the arts (visual arts, literature, dance, music, culinary arts, sports) both within St. Tammany Parish and nationally. 

The goal of the Cultural Icon recognition program is to eventually recognize all the culturally significant individuals who are from this area, or have lived a significant portion of their lives here.  The first five St. Tammany Cultural Icons are author Dr. Walker Percy, basketball great ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, musician Louis Prima, boxer Tony Canzoneri, and musician Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown. Each Icon has a permanent piece of art and memorabilia hanging in the parish administrative offices in Mandeville.

We invite you to view the bios of our Icons, and visit the display at 21490 Koop Drive. These individuals are cultural treasures, and we hope you enjoy learning about their vital connection to the cultural fabric of St. Tammany Parish. Supported by a grant from the Louisiana State Arts Council through the Louisiana Division of the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Musician, April 18, 1925, to Sept. 10, 2005

Musician Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown was born April 18, 1924 in Vinton, Louisiana.  He was introduced to music at an early age by his father, who was a railroad man and an aspiring musician, playing fiddle and guitar.  Gatemouth learned to play the fiddle and guitar at a young age.  This created a unique and eclectic style which defied convention.
He recorded in a number of different styles, from traditional blues, to country, Cajun and zydeco to ‘American Music-Texas Style’, which was his own version of guitar driven blues.  Brown received a Grammy Award in 1982 for his album Alright Again!  Over the course of his musical career, Gatemouth played the guitar, mandolin, drums, viola, fiddle, harmonica, and sang vocals.

Gatemouth moved to St. Tammany in the 1980s, and lived in Slidell.  Unfortunately, his house was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and he died while living with his brother in Orange, Texas.  Clarence died on September 10, 2005, at the age of 81.  Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown is definitely a St. Tammany Parish Cultural Icon.

Tony Canzoneri, Boxer, Nov. 6, 1908, to Dec. 9, 1959

Tony Canzoneri was born in Slidell, Louisiana on November 6, 1908.  He became a professional boxer at the age of sixteen, and before the age of twenty had accomplished more in the ring than many boxers accomplish in a lifetime. 

Canzoneri was impressive as a boxer because of his relentless match schedule.  He would regularly fight up to four times in one month, translating to approximately 25 fights per year.  This pace is rarely matched by current boxers. 

Canzoneri managed to win two world championships before the age of twenty.  By twenty three, he was considered pound for pound the best fighter in the world.  He fought in a total of 175 bouts, and won 144.  Tony was also the third boxer ever to win championships in three different divisions.

Due to his overall success as a fighter, Tony Canzoneri was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Tony Canzoneri is a St. Tammany Parish Cultural Icon.

"Pistol Pete" Maravich, Basketball Player, June 27, 1947, to Jan. 5, 1988

Pete Maravich was born June 22, 1947 in Aliquippa, PA.  As a boy, Pete was known to dribble 2 ½ miles to the playground and back, rain or shine. 

Maravich played basketball at LSU from 1966-1970.  During his three years with the varsity team at LSU, Maravich scored 3,667 points in 83 games, for an average of 44.2 points per game, and the all time NCAA record in both categories.  As of 2010, he still held 9 NCAA records.

Pete was the third player drafted into the NBA in 1970.  During his NBA career, Pete was a five time NBA All-Star, and averaged 24.2 points per game.  He moved to St. Tammany Parish after being drafted into the NBA, and remained here with his family.

Perhaps the biggest contribution Pete Maravich made came after his departure from professional sports, when he started a ministry talking to groups of athletes at basketball camps and churches around the country. 

Pete Maravich died on January 5, 1988 at the age of 40, while playing a game of pickup basketball.  ‘Pistol’ Pete is truly a St. Tammany Cultural Icon.

Dr. Walker Percy, Author, May 28, 1916, to May 10, 1990

Author Dr. Walker Percy was born May 28, 1916, in Birmingham, Alabama.  After the death of both his father and mother during his teen years, he moved to Mississippi with his two brothers to live with his uncle.

Percy was trained as a medical doctor, and was not until he contracted tuberculosis from performing an autopsy that he began an intense study of writings by Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky.

In 1946, Percy married Mary Townsend, and they moved to Covington in St. Tammany Parish, where they raised their children.  His first novel, The Moviegoer, received the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962.  He wrote five other novels and several non-fiction essays, all dealing in some way with man’s search for significance in the world.

Walker Percy’s influence in the literary world has extended far beyond the borders of St. Tammany Parish.  He is very highly regarded as both a Southern writer, and a philosophical writer.  Percy truly is a St. Tammany Parish Cultural Icon.

Louis PrimaMusician, December 7, 1910 - August 24, 1978

Louis Prima was born December 7, 1910 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Prima was one of  the most influential figures in American music, with a career spanning from 1930 through 1975.  He wrote “Sing, Sing, Sing” in 1936, the song that defined the swing era.

Prima’s early Italian hits were instrumental in giving rise to singers like Perry Como and Tony Bennett.  He formed his group The Witnesses in 1954 and ushered in a new sound to the Las Vegas stage with his hits “Just a Gigolo”, “Jump, Jive and Wail”, “That Old Black Magic” and many more.  His influence extended to Elvis Presley, who gave Prima credit as the source for his famous hip wiggle.

Louis Prima performed in Las Vegas with Keely Smith and later Gia Maione.  Louis and Gia were married and lived in Covington, LA and Las Vegas, NV.  Louis built Pretty Acres, a golf course in Covington, which Gia maintained after his death.  Louis Prima is a St. Tammany Parish Cultural Icon.