[devMode] Our 2019 Legends | Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Main Menu
CLOSE close
passport_logo SHOP LPB (0) Back to LPB

​2019 Louisiana Legends Honorees

Todd Graves

American entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

Todd Graves

It began as a college dream. A vision of a restaurant that served the highest quality, freshest chicken finger meals – and nothing else. From this vision, Todd Graves created a business plan, which, ironically, earned the lowest grade in the class.

Undaunted, the young entrepreneur put on a cheap suit, carried a briefcase adorned with brass combination locks and presented his business plan to any banker that would see him. Each time, Graves received the same negative response about his concept. At that point, Graves knew he would need to raise his own capital to achieve his dream. Graves eventually moved on to Alaska, where he raised his own seed money in the risky trade of commercial salmon fishing. Upon returning to Baton Rouge, Graves reconstructed an old building with his own hands into the first Raising Cane’s restaurant.

The fun surroundings, friendly crew and rather offbeat managerial style are all part of the Cane’s culture and experience. Combined with an uncompromising dedication to quality, Graves and his company have earned countless industry awards and accolades. As a result of the passion and commitment of Graves and his team, Raising Cane’s has been recognized numerous times by industry leaders and pace setters. Graves and Raising Cane’s are most proud of the “Best Places to Work” recognition in Chain Leader magazine in 2007. Most recently, Raising Cane’s has ranked in the top five in customer satisfaction in Sandelman and Associates’ Quick-Track Customer Satisfaction study two years in a row.

In addition to Cane’s quality, Graves refuses to compromise his dedication to the community and his commitment to give back to the people who have given so much to him. As an active community partner, Graves and Raising Cane’s have given more than 25 percent of their profits back to the communities where Raising Cane’s restaurants operate.

Roy O. Martin III

CEO, President and CFO of RoyOMartin

Roy O Martin

Roy is President, CEO and CFO of Martin Sustainable Resources, L.L.C. He is a director and cofounder of Indigo Minerals, LLC, a Houston-based oil and natural gas exploration company.

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Mr. Martin is a 1978 graduate of Bolton High School. He graduated from Louisiana State University in 1982 after receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Tau Beta Pi). He continued his education at LSU, obtaining his MBA in 1985. In 2008, Mr. Martin was named to LSU’s Alumni Hall of Distinction and the LSU School of Business Hall of Distinction. In 2011, Mr. Martin was inducted into the LSU College of Engineering Hall of Distinction, Tiger Athletic Foundation Hall of Distinction, and Society for Engineering Excellence. He currently is serving as the Treasurer for the Tiger Athletic Association.

Throughout the years, Mr. Martin has volunteered his time and served in various board and chair capacities for companies and organizations. Mr. Martin also served on the Louisiana Recovery Authority, Greater Alexandria Economic Development Authority (GAEDA), LSU Health Sciences Foundation, Louisiana Commission on Streamlining Government, and Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council. He and Jonathan Martin were presented with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southern District in 2004.

Mr. Martin was selected by Governor Bobby Jindal to fill the member-at-large position on the Louisiana Board of Regents in January of 2012 and was elected chair in 2015. He is on organizational boards with the Salvation Army, Orchard Foundation for Education, Dean’s Advisory Council of LSU’s E. J. Ourso School of Business, Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council, and the American Panel Association Board of Directors. Roy is chair of Deacons at Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria, Louisiana, and former chair of the Calvary Building Committee.

Denise Lewis Patrick

Writer and editor of children's books

Denise Lewis Patrick

Denise is a native of Natchitoches. As a child she wrote on anything, anywhere, any time—napkins at the table, newspapers, brown paper grocery bags. She filled notebooks with the stories, poems and comic characters that she created. Her first writing success was receiving third place in a Southern University poetry contest for high school students.

After receiving an undergraduate degree in Journalism from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, she headed to New York. Her career in the publishing industry began with an internship at Essence Magazine. Later she worked at Scholastic Publishing as both an Assistant and Associate Editor of elementary magazines. Upon leaving Scholastic, she worked as an editor and free-lance writer for various publishing companies, including Children’s Television Workshop, Macmillan, and Golden.

Over the past thirty years her published work of over 30 titles has included board books, picture books, biographies, middle grade historical fiction and young adult fiction, in addition to poetry. In 2015, Denise received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Her first adult short story, “Mr. Bird,” was published in the UNO Creative Writing Workshop anthology, Monday Night Lights.

Away from her laptop, Denise has volunteered as a mentor to young writers in a local after-school program and served on the advisory board for the Books For Kids Foundation. In 2017 she was named to the NSU Long Purple Line, a special recognition for NSU alumni, and presently serves on the New Media/Journalism Advisory Board for NSU. Currently she is an adjunct professor in the First Year Writing Program at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

Last but not least, Denise is the daughter of Mrs. Edwina M. Lewis and the late G. Stanley Lewis of Natchitoches; wife to Austin Patrick, mother of grown sons and grandmother to Olympia Leigh.

Newton Thomas

Founder of the Newtron Group, leader in industrial electric and instrumentation

Newton Thomas

Newton was born in Baton Rouge on June 11, 1944. Thomas attended the LSU Lab School and graduated in 1962. He then attended LSU on a baseball scholarship, graduating in electrical engineering in 1967.

Upon graduating, Thomas began his career with Southern Instruments, Inc. in Baton Rouge as an estimating engineer and went on to become President of the company. Thomas left Southern Instruments, Inc. in 1973 to form Newtron, Inc. When initially incorporated, Newtron, Inc. was an industrial instrumentation construction company serving the same clientele as Southern Instruments, but was pursuing work all over the United States. In 2018, The Newtron Group was ranked by ENR Magazine as the 15th largest Electrical contractor in the country.

Newton Thomas’ vision for the Company has always been that the employees be rewarded for their efforts. “Long term committed employees are the key to our success” is the Company’s motto. The Company’s Core Values and Beliefs (which are posted in all offices and job sites) serve as a Thomas’ blueprint for how to conduct business.

One of the unique aspects of Thomas’ business model is the financial compensation plan in which he shares a percentage of the profits with the employees of The Newtron Group and its subsidiary companies. Each year, the Company shares approximately 60% of the pre-tax profits with the employees in the form of annual bonuses.

Thomas has an equally unique succession plan for his Company. At the time of his death or at another time of his choosing, the Company will be turned over to a Charitable Remainder Trust with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation so that the Company will be managed in the same manner as it has in the past.

Newton Thomas has received numerous awards and recognitions in his career. Thomas has also been extremely philanthropic and generously supports many charities in Baton Rouge and South Louisiana. He is also extremely active with AMIkids, locally and nationally.

Rebecca Watson Vizard

Internationally renowned textile artist

Rebecca Vizard

Rebecca grew up in the small delta town of St. Joseph, Louisiana. She graduated from Newcomb College of Tulane University in Art and Communications. After marrying Michael Vizard, they apprehensively returned to Rebecca’s tiny hometown to help with the family business.

“Business by the seat of your pants,” Vizard recalls, as her first entrepreneurial endeavor involved painting socks and baby clothes. Splatter painting socks was easy, fast, and very popular at the time. Stores such as JC Penny, Talbots, and Mervyns sold her painted socks.

Throughout her interior design work, the time spent looking for pillows and the cost of new fabrics and labor to make ordinary pillows was exorbitant. After several trips to the big apple, she found a tattered priest robe with a beautifully patinaed, gold, metallic ribbon at a local flea market. Her mind immediately constructed a minimalist design for an extraordinary pillow. Hence the beginning of a new line of understated, elegant, one-of-a kind antique textile pillows.

With a stroke of luck, Vizard sold to twenty-two of the Neiman Marcus stores. Steadily, her designs began appearing in many national magazines, such as House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Décor, Traditional Home, Southern Accents and Architectural Digest.

Vizard continues to experience the rare opportunity of keeping one foot in a high-end cosmopolitan world and one foot in the rural northeast Louisiana delta. Her entrepreneurial spirit has led to other projects, benefitting those in the community.