This is a corrected version of a story posted Feb. 20, 2013. The correction appears at the end of the story.
During the last three decades, William Hines ’78 has been deeply involved in New Orleans civic life, heading local boards for the United Way, Teach for America, and public television, to name a few. But nothing could have prepared him for his most recent leadership role — as Rex, King of Carnival, at last week’s Mardi Gras celebration.
“It probably was the most surreal day of my life,” Hines told PAW.
From Monday’s Lundi Gras ceremony through Tuesday’s Mardi Gras festivities, Hines donned custom-tailored royal garb to greet local dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of revelers in a series of events, including a four-and-a-half-hour parade through the city. He met with reporters and made nerve-racking toasts, without the benefit of written notes. But the whirlwind celebration, he says, actually was a relief compared to the buildup, when he had to keep his status a secret from friends and family for nearly three months.
Hines, a New Orleans native, is well acquainted with the history of the Rex organization, which crowns the annual king and queen. He knows, for instance, that the last Princetonian to wear the crown was Frank Strachan ’27, in 1976. Hines was an undergraduate at the time, majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School. After completing law school at the University of Virginia and spending one year in Washington, D.C., he returned home in 1982, beginning a successful law career. He now serves as managing partner of Jones Walker.
Along the way, Hines took a deep interest in New Orleans’ future, from education to economic development. After Hurricane Katrina decimated the city in 2005, he continued his civic activities, and today, he proudly rattles off signs of a promising outlook —Forbes ranked New Orleans as the nation’s top “brain magnet,” he notes, while Inc. called it “America’s coolest start-up city.”
But for Hines, the city’s pull goes well beyond economics. “When you’re from New Orleans, it is truly a sense of place,” he says. “We have our own unique music, our own unique architecture, our own unique food, our own unique art. … It is a culture, a way of life.”
For the record
In an earlier version of this post, Hines was erroneously identified as Rex in an Associated Press file photo from 2011. Herschel Lee Abbott Jr. was the Rex featured in that image.
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