Williamson's Notes: Wayne's Simple Acts of Kindness


I was taken aback by the news of J. Wayne Leonard’s passing. He maintained his drive and vision for a more equitable Southeast Louisiana into his last days. That’s not the least bit surprising to those close to Wayne.

It was an honor to partner with him in our shared fight to eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana. During his career with Entergy Corporation, his corporate strategies afforded the ability to make enormous strides in the outcomes for our neighbors.

As the longest-serving head of Entergy, Wayne facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations to move people out of poverty and improve early-childhood education. He helped to lift up the most vulnerable in our community from his position for more than 14 years.

United Way commemorated Mr. Leonard’s poverty eradication work with the dedication of the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center. The one-stop center offers financial capability services designed to move low-income individuals and families out of poverty and into financial stability. Through the Prosperity Center, he will continue to lift them up for years to come.

Further still, his extraordinary personal pledge to our fight continues to move the needle on poverty in our community.

Mr. Leonard sits forever at the sixth seat of our Million-Dollar Roundtable, comprised of individuals who chose to contribute to United Way at the highest level of personal giving. He demonstrated a remarkable commitment to the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

I encourage you to take a moment to watch Wayne’s remarks from the 2017 Tocqueville Gala. I hope his words will inspire you in the same way they renewed a fire in our organization and me.

Wayne said, “real humanitarian acts are not done for any kind of recognition, but are most often simple acts of caring and kindness that are done every day by each one of you – when no one is watching, for no other reason than basic human goodness.”

Yes, we recognized Wayne on a grand scale, but he’ll be remembered every day through the simple acts of kindness carried out by the expert, compassionate staff of the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center. Those acts will eradicate poverty, just as he wished, one household at a time.

For that, we are eternally grateful.

On behalf of our entire staff and board at United Way, we thank you, Wayne.

Living United,


  Michael Williamson
  President and CEO
  United Way of Southeast Louisiana