Former President Bill Clinton spent last night in Alexandria, Louisiana. The local media had no idea.

Last night, on the eve of Good Friday, former President Bill Clinton made an extended and unannounced visit to Alexandria, where he attended a performance of the Pentecostals of Alexandria’s (or, as it’s known in the community, the PoA) passion play “Above All.” His visit was completely unknown by the local media in Alexandria, who, as of the time of publication, have yet to report the story and were not present before or after yesterday’s event.

With the exception of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who lived in Alexandria for a few weeks during World War II while he oversaw the Louisiana Maneuvers exercises, no other American president has spent as much time in the city of approximately 49,000, and no president has visited Alexandria on more occasions than Clinton has.

This was at least Clinton’s sixth trip to Alexandria and at least the fourth time he has attended the PoA’s passion play, which, in an earlier iteration, was known as “Messiah.” (The national press often misreported that Clinton attended performances of Handel’s “Messiah;” the PoA’s version, however, was entirely their own creation).

It is not an ordinary church play. “Messiah” and now “Above All” feature a cast and crew of nearly 500 people; there are live animals, pyrotechnics, and elaborate sets. It’s an enormously expensive production, and tickets sell out faster than almost any other concert or play in the state. Between 15,000 to 20,000 attend the show each year.

Although former President Clinton counts several people in the Alexandria area as friends, most of whom have known him since he was governor of neighboring Arkansas, he continues to return to Central Louisiana because of his close relationship with Anthony and Mickey Mangun, the husband and wife duo who have presided over the Pentecostals of Alexandria for more than three decades.

President Clinton arrives with Rev. Anthony Mangun at the Pentecostals of Alexandria. March 29, 2018 (Source: Facebook)

Rev. Anthony Mangun is the church’s senior pastor, after taking over from his father G.A., who had turned a small church into one of the nation’s largest and who remained an active presence until his death in 2010. He first met Clinton in 1977 at a Christian camp meeting in Arkansas. Mangun’s wife Mickey sang at both of Clinton’s inaugurations and at the dedication of his library in Little Rock, and like her husband, her connection to the former president was also forged in the so-called Natural State. For many years, her father, Rev. James Lumpkin, was Arkansas’ most prominent Pentecostal leader.

As president, Clinton attended two performances of “Messiah,” in 1996, during a visit in which he officially handed over the former England Air Force Base to the newly-created and locally-controlled England Authority, and in 2000, where he surprised the traveling press pool by taking the church’s stage and confessing, for the very first time in public and in emotional, impromptu remarks, that he had feared he could have been removed from office during the Lewinsky scandal. During the scandal, Anthony Mangun was widely reported to have been one of the president’s closest “spiritual advisers” and to have visited the White House on at least one occasion to counsel Clinton.

(Clinton also attended a performance of “Messiah” during his final term as governor of Arkansas, along with his wife, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea).

Yesterday, incidentally, was not the only time the media in Central Louisiana failed to report on a visit by Clinton. On a summer weekend during his second term, the president somehow managed to play an entire round of golf at the Alexandria Golf and Country Club without being noticed by the local press (if there was a traveling press pool with him, no one thought that particular round of golf merited national reporting). He was noticed by at least one person in town, my late father, who happened to be playing golf that same afternoon and who met the Commander-in-Chief at the turn.

Rev. Anthony Mangun and former President Bill Clinton in Alexandria, Louisiana. March 29, 2018. (Source: Facebook)
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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar White, Jr. is an award-winning writer and the publisher and founder of the Bayou Brief, Louisiana’s only statewide news and culture publication. Born and raised on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria, he is a proud product of the Louisiana public education system and a graduate of Rice University in Houston and SMU’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas. Lamar has been writing about politics and public policy in Louisiana for twenty years, beginning as a weekly youth columnist for his hometown paper, the Town Talk. After earning his undergraduate degree in English and Religious Studies, Lamar moved back to Alexandria, where he launched a popular blogsite, CenLamar, and worked for five years as the Special Assistant to the Mayor. He exposed significant problems with Louisiana’s school voucher program, which resulted in a series of other investigations and ultimately in the removal of several schools from the program. He was the last person to argue online with Andrew Breitbart. He investigated and then broke the report that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise had once attended a white supremacist conference. He was the first to share a photograph of Bobby Jindal’s portrait in the state Capitol. He exposed U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s incomplete timesheets while the then-representative moonlighted as a physician. He earned headlines in Texas after the gubernatorial campaign of Greg Abbott falsely claimed he had been exploited as a “campaign prop” by Abbott’s opponent, Wendy Davis, and after exposing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign for relying on online “bot farms” to counter Beto O’Rourke, and he earned headlines in Mississippi after publishing videos of U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith making bizarre comments about public hangings and voter suppression tactics which were both perceived as racist. Lamar was the recipient of the 2011 Ashley Morris Award, given to the writer who best exemplifies the spirit of New Orleans, and in 2019, he was honored as one of Gambit’s Top 40 Under 40 and as the year’s Outstanding Millennial in Journalism at the annual Millennial Awards. He has been the subject of profiles in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Above the Law, and the Advocate and has appeared multiple times as a guest on CNN and MSNBC. Lamar currently lives in New Orleans with his two golden retrievers, Lucy Ana and Ruby Dog.