Fifth District Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, died Tuesday while receiving treatment for COVID-19 at an intensive care unit in a hospital in Shreveport.
Letlow, a Republican of Start, is survived by his wife, Julia, and two children.
“We lost a great man tonight,” said Congressman Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, whose term is coming to a close. “He was a personal friend and really a part of the family. This is a devastating loss. He's leaving a wonderful family behind.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Abraham added.
Letlow managed Abraham's 2014 campaign for the 5th District seat and served as his chief of staff from 2015 until earlier this year. Letlow resigned to campaign to succeed Abraham as the 5th District's representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this month, Letlow defeated state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, with 62 percent of the vote.
Over the weekend, Letlow's wife, Julia, said her husband was continuing to receive treatment for COVID-19 and that the “road to recovery and the length of time is hard to predict and different for everyone.”
Letlow was transferred from St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe to Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center in Shreveport on Dec. 23. Dr. Ghali Ghali, chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport, said Letlow was receiving Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, and steroids as part of his treatment.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, for whom Letlow worked for a number of years, described Letlow as “a good friend.” Jindal said he and Letlow spoke recently about Letlow's opportunity to serve people as the congressman for the 5th District.
“Supriya and I are heartbroken to learn of Luke Letlow's passing,” Jindal said. “Luke has been a good friend for so many years, and we are saddened he was taken from us at such a young age.”
“We had talked in recent days about his excitement about the opportunity to serve the people of the 5th congressional district and his love and devotion for Julia and their kids,” Jindal continued. “I first met Luke when he was still a college student and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana. His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life. He truly enjoyed meeting people, learning about them and helping them.”
“We will keep Luke, his family and especially his young children in our prayers,” Jindal added.
Letlow got his start in politics while he was a student at La. Tech University. He interned one summer for then-Congressman John Cooksey, a Republican from Monroe, who served three terms in the House. In 2002, Letlow worked for Cooksey's unsuccessful campaign to unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu as well as Lee Fletcher's campaign for the House that year to succeed his former boss, Cooksey.
Not long thereafter Letlow got acquainted with a rising star in Louisiana politics, Jindal, who at the age of 23 was named by Gov. Mike Foster to serve as the secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals. Letlow worked for Jindal in his 2003 gubernatorial campaign, which Jindal narrowly lost to Kathleen Blanco. One year later, Letlow was part of the campaign team that helped elect Jindal to the U.S. House representing the First District of Louisiana, anchored in Jefferson Parish.
Following the 2004 campaign cycle in which Jindal was elected to the U.S. House, Jindal tapped Letlow to serve as his district director for his congressional office.
In 2007 when Jindal was elected governor, Letlow was closest to him, joining Jindal on the campaign trail, driving from one campaign appearance to the next, from one end of Louisiana to the other. Jindal won that 2007 campaign in the primary and once he took office, Letlow was put in charge of appointments to boards and commissions for the Jindal administration.
Letlow took a break from public service for a spell for a brief stint in government relations, but by 2014, Letlow was fixture again in northeastern Louisiana. This time, he was on hand managing Abraham's campaign for the 5th District seat, which he easily won in a run-off with then-Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.
Sam Hanna Jr., publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, contributed to this news report.