Remembering Louis Kincannon

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Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

It is with sadness that I share the news of the passing of Charles Louis Kincannon, our former director. As we mourn the loss of Louis, we share the knowledge that while Louis often spoke softly, his career and life were tributes to values such as dedication, honor, and friendship.

Louis believed in public service and began his career as a statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau in 1963, and held positions of increasing responsibility in the economic, demographic, and administrative areas. In 1974, he became chief of the program review staff in the Commerce Department’s Social and Economic Statistics Administration.

In September 1975, during the Ford administration, he joined the staff of the Office of Management and Budget and served as the statistical liaison to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s office.  Louis returned to the Census Bureau and was appointed deputy director and chief operating officer in January 1982. He continued in the post until September 1992. Louis was then appointed as the first chief statistician in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where he served until June 2000.

President George W. Bush nominated Louis for director of the Census Bureau in November 2001, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously on March 13, 2002. He served as our director until the end of 2007.

Throughout his career, Louis received many honors, such as the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive and the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, and he shared his experience and wisdom with many. Even in retirement, Louis continued in public service, as he was a member of his neighborhood board and continued to share the importance and utility of Census Bureau programs, such as the American Community Survey, with many audiences.

We will mourn the loss of this faithful friend to the Census Bureau and share our sorrow at his passing with his family, including his wife, Claire, and his daughters, Indya and Alexandra, and the five grandchildren. The family would like you to share your thoughts and memories about Louis, and we encourage you to do so in the comments below.

Please find below details about the memorial service:

Memorial Service for Louis Kincannon
11:30 a.m.
Monday, January 7th, 2013
Christ Church of Capitol Hill
620 G Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
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35 Responses to Remembering Louis Kincannon

  1. Steve Jost says:

    Louis was a gentle giant. His leadership was rare and long lasting. He will be missed but not forgotten.

    • Mary Jo Hoeksema says:

      When I started my job with the PAA, as a former NIH employee, I knew the least about the Census Bureau and its programs. Louis was one of the first Census Bureau officials that I met. He was very tolerant of my many questions and always treated me very kindly. I appreciated his patience and eagerness to teach and mentor me. Louis was also one of the first people to send me a note after the birth of my twins. I was really touched that such a busy man would take the time to send me such a thoughtful message. He was a wonderful person and will be missed.

  2. Nuru Parkar says:

    Mr. Charles Louis Kincannon was truly a “down to earth” person and believed in public transportation too. I saw him riding Green Line several times. Always said “hi” to me and asked where I work, how does it relate to Census Bureau mission etc. It is so sad to see him retired in last Economic Census and passed away during next Economic Census.
    He will be in our thoughts and prayers.

  3. Jacqueline Greenwell says:

    Mr. Kincannon was always such a kind man. He truly cared about his employees and wanted the best for them. Mr. Kincannon will be greatly missed!

  4. Louise Harley says:

    Mr. Kincannon helped me at the beginning of my career here at the Census Bureau as I came to work on his Correspondence Quality Assurance staff. He was truly a great man, loved by all he came in contact with, and truly a man of meaning and purpose. He lived a purpose-driven life and will be sorely missed.

  5. Patty Becker says:

    I think I knew Louis for 30 years, from the time he came to the Census Bureau in 1982 and perhaps before that when he was at OMB. I am greatly saddened to learn of his death. He always supported the cause of what the Census Bureau is all about, which is to provide good data for planning and decision-making across the nation.

  6. Colleen Holzbach says:

    I got to know Louis through his Senate confirmation process and found him to be such a warm and intelligent man with a loving family. I will never forget that he sent me a personal note of condolence after my mother passed away and wrote that one truly never gets over the loss of their mother and that he thought of his every day. What a touching and kind thing to say and so very true. My sincere condolences to the Kincannon family.

  7. Ann Tozzi says:

    Mr. Kincannon was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. Louis was intelligent, hard working, dedicated, loyal, kind, fairminded, trustworthy and compassionate. I feel very fortunate to have known him. I know that I will always miss him. I will always remember his gentle nature, calm demeanor and subtle advice. Additionally, I will replay in my mind and heart his soothing and soft spoken voice.

  8. Paul Cheung says:

    I have known Louis when he became the Director of Statistics at OECD when I was the Chief Statistician of Singapore. Since then, we met in many meetings and conferences and shared many panel discussions together. Louis spent a major part of his career laying the foundation of a global statistical system. He had great foresight of what a global system should build on: the statisticians around the world. He was truly a friend to all statisticians, always willing to listen, always gentle, always have something new to share. I am greatly saddened by his passing, and I hope at the coming Statistical Commission, the global statistical community could spare a moment to remember Louis’s immense contribution.

  9. Jim Tozzi says:

    Louis and I worked together at OMB. In my twenty years of government service I never heard him speak ill of anyone nor did I ever hear anyone speak ill of him.
    He was always a steady anchor in stormy seas and will never be forgotten.

  10. Cathy McCully says:

    My memories of Louis are long and wonderful. He was worldly in his knowledge, talking books and new music as well understanding the Census Bureau and its employees. He always showed his appreciation and respect to folks with many kind words. His voice created a calm. He will be missed by all who knew him. My condolences go his family.

  11. Christa D Jones says:

    Louis will forever be held in my memory as one of the most honorable and gracious people I have ever known. He understood that in dealings with people that real power was demonstrated by simple kindness and respect. He had a light sense of humor and fun. And most of all Louis simply knew how to talk to people because he cared about people, and not just people as a category, but as individuals. Whether it was recipes from corn meal, relations, or even troubles, Louis had a story to share that let you know he understood. I will miss his stories and his gentle presence.

  12. Cheryl Lynne Geter says:

    My deepest sympathies to Mrs. Kincannon and family. Mr. Kincannon was a humble, gracious man. I chuckled to myself each time I saw him eat in the cafeteria, waiting his turn like everyone else. He would hand out cups and trays to people. I guess some people didn’t know who he was but a nice man who eats in the cafe. He also rode the Metro chatting with people as commuters do. I was impressed and fascinated by his accomplishments. However, his love of all things French prompted me to chat with him about my Francophile passion. Au revoir monsieur! Un travail bien fait!

  13. Arnold A . Jackson says:

    C. Louis Kincannon was a great boss and an even greater man. Louis is the one person most responsible for my 2 careers at the Census Bureau . Over the nearly 30 years of my association with him I was touched immeasurably by his wisdom his wit , and his clear moral compass of the correct way to behave as an executive and a public servant.
    As a leader my memories of Louis still bring me moments of pride and some chuckles.
    As a friend and role model I will cherish the time I spent in his company.

  14. Linda Baker says:

    Mr. Kincannon truly understood the value of the work done by the Census Bureau. He appreciated equally the dedication of the people who gather the data and those who analyze and illuminate American life. Louis Kincannon was one of us.

  15. Michael C. Cook says:

    I came to really appreciate the calming presence that Louis was during our interactions. He had a self-assured quality that really made it a pleasure to talk to and exchange stories about life. He is missed but will never be forgotten and my heartfelt condolences go out to his family.

  16. Megan Kindelan says:

    Louis was the Census Bureau Director when I started my career there right after college. I worked in PIO and did special events and advance and traveled many times with Louis. I will always remember how kind he was to me during those trips. In particular for our first trip together, I was new to the professional world and also new to advancing people and was a bit intimidated to be traveling with the Director of the Census Bureau. Louis was so incredibly gracious and approachable that I quickly forgot my nervousness. He was also very funny and never let me live down my poor driving skills during a trip to South Dakota. Throughout my career, I have always strived to be as kind to those around me as he was. I know he will be missed by many. My condolences to the Kincannon family.

  17. Ken Meyer says:

    During my 33 years at the Census Bureau I met many wonderful people, and Louis was one of the best. I worked closely with Louis on many difficult and challenging communications efforts in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. He always made time to listen and offer sound advise. I have missed him since he left Census, and am saddened that he has passed on. My sincere condolences to his family.

  18. Bob Scardamalia says:

    I was fortunate to have known Louis and saddened by his passing. As an outsider from the Census Bureau I knew him by my involvement in the State Data Center program – one which he faithfully supported. He always gave of his time to meet with us, share concerns and offer help. One of the most gracious men I’ve know, a good hearty laugh and wonderful stories. To his family – know that there are many who hold you in their thoughts and with the greatest respect for your loved one.

  19. Tom Webster says:

    I really enjoyed my time working with Director Kincannon while at Census, and was sad to read about his passing. We did a lot of video shoots & interviews with Director Kincannon in Suitland and on the road, and he was always so easy to work with. Whether a quick sound-bite or a hour-long interview under hot lights (in English & Spanish), he was always professional, polite and provided excellent sound-bites. Also, no matter how long the video shoot was, he would always be sure to thank me and the crew for our time. My prayers and condolences to the entire Kincannon family.

  20. Joe Bellomo says:

    I was Louis’ Budget Officer when he was Deputy Director during the early 1980’s It was a time of continuous budget constraints. Many times Louis had to say no to budget requests by Census managers. Although Louis did not like to say no, he would do so when necessary. But he always diffused tense situations in a non-confrontational, straightforward way, usually by telling a story. I recall a meeting with a very a upset program manager who was claiming the need for an emergency supplemental budget request to Congress for his program because he had not identified his entire budget needs during the usual, annual budget process. But the answer had to be no; there were other alternatives and a supplemental request would only undermine the Bureau’s credibility. Louis, in his usual calm and patient way, told a story to explain the realities of the budget process to the manager. He explained that the budget process was like a bus on its’ route. The bus stopped at specific places and at specific times and if you didn’t get on the bus at the right time and place, you missed the bus and you would have to wait until it came back next year. I couldn’t have had a better boss.

  21. Barbara Tozzi says:

    Claire, My deepest sympathy to you and your family during this very difficult time. Louis was such an enjoyable man. “Spouse” will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

  22. Shelley Temchin and Tom Parker says:

    To Claire and the family,
    10th Street will miss the kindness, modesty and humor of this gentle neighbor who, along with you, contributed so generously to our community.
    Many thanks and sincere condolences.

  23. Frank Vitrano says:

    Many, many years ago, the Census Bureau had a training program called the Professional Skills Development Program (PSDP). I was inPSDP-8 and Louis spoke at our “graduation”. His speech was a defining moment in my true understanding of what an honor and privilege it is to be a public servant. I believe he is part of the reason I’m still at the Census Bureau 28 years later. We will all miss him.

  24. Doug Bond says:

    When I started at the Census Bureau in 1991, Louis invited several of us new employees to his office for coffee. I was surprised that this very busy man truly acted as though nothing was more important than chatting with us, learning about us, and making us feel welcome. My sympathies to the family of this wonderful and gracious man.

  25. Nora says:

    Dr. Kincannon was the Census Bureau director when I started there in 2007, and I remember him as being such a friendly, down-to-earth person — especially to a new employee. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw him eating in the cafeteria! He will be missed, and I appreciate his public service.

  26. Bruce Chapman says:

    Louis Kincannon and I enjoyed a superb working relationship at the Census Bureau, one that developed into a lasting friendship. When I became Director, I was fortunate to persuade Louis to become Deputy. Later, of course, he became an acting Director, and then Director in his own right—and one who has left a distinguished legacy of sound management and visionary planning.

    In many ways, Louis helped mentor me in the ways of the federal bureaucracy, to my benefit and I think to the benefit of the Bureau and the nation’s statistical system. His insights into the mindsets typical of various departments and agencies were priceless in their humor and wisdom. Already in the early 80s Louis had accumulated a treasure chest of stories that invariably illustrated and re-enforced his points.

    Louis was diligent in keeping the ship in shape and the staff working smoothly and harmoniously. He was deeply committed to recognizing talent and promoting the careers of others. He also was farsighted, eager to seize opportunities to make the world more aware of how useful Census data are to business, social policy and every other reach of life. The programs of outreach that he helped pioneer gained the attention of the media and of the general policy organs of government, reaching even into the White House, as probably never before.

    Prudence and a spirit of balance also characterized Louis. For example, he helped assure a policy that the White House had notice of forthcoming statistical reports so that it could respond in a timely way to media inquiries, while also providing that the notice was close enough to the public release time to allay any fears that the reports could be leaked or otherwise used for political purposes.

    I left the Bureau with deep respect for the dedicated professionalism of people like Louis Kincannon and the eagerness of Bureau staff to assist the public. I also left with a life-long friend in Louis, with whom I have stayed in touch ever since.

    I suspect that Louis and I did not often vote the same way in political races, but there was no disagreement over the importance of the independence of the Bureau and other statistical agencies. To his credit, in early 2009 he successfully helped resist the idea of bringing the 2010 Census into the White House for management. The decision against that option was good for the Bureau, good for the country and probably even good for the Obama Administration.

    When I talked last with Louis in November he knew his medical condition was not promising—he knew the statistics! But he retained a fighting spirit and his timeless wit. He also made it clear again that his retirement years and the illness itself had brought him even closer to the family that was always closest to his heart.

  27. Bill Butz says:

    Louis’ grace and skill cooled many a tense situation. Reporting a particularly grim late 1980s Congressional budget action to the assembled Census Bureau division chiefs, Louis recounted the story of two traveling evangelists who, following their messages, passed a hat among the crowd. Peering into it, one exclaimed, “Praise the Lord!” The other, looking in, counted two hairpins, a nickle, three pennies, a paper clip, and a button. “What are you praising the Lord for?” he asked. “We got our hat back!”

    Darned if Louis wasn’t right: There was something to be grateful for. We moved forward.

  28. D. Donovan says:

    I am saddened to her the passing of Mr. Kincannon. I was fortunate to meet him in Texas and prior to my career at the Census Bureau. I am at a loss of words, but can say that I truly appreciated his kindness and sense of humor. Mr. Kincannon, I thank you for the words of encouragement you gave me and for all you did to make the Census Bureau a better place to work. BTW, You rocked your round glasses.
    My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

  29. Nailin Feng says:

    The news of Mr. Kincannon’s passing came as a great shock! I knew Mr. Kincannon in 1984 when he came to Beijing to attend an International Seminar on China’s population census. Since then we met at various meetings in Washington D.C., in Beijing, and in Paris. He made great efforts in developing and promoting international cooperation in statistics, both as the senior management of the Census Bureau and as the Chief Statistician of OECD. I will always remember him as a great friend. My deepest condolences to Mrs. Kincannon and the family.

  30. Indya Kincannon says:

    Many thanks for posting your comments, memories and anecdotes on this site. It gives me greater insight and appreciation of my Dad’s career in public service. Our entire family has enjoyed reading these comments.

    Gratefully,

    Indya Kincannon

  31. Alice L. Norris says:

    The loss of Louis Kincannon saddens the heart of everyone who knew him. He was a wise and gentle man and was much loved in the neighborhood. He worked on the board of Capitol Hill VIllage in retirement where he made a great contribution. He was a wonderful story teller, a fine host and a totally delightful neighbor. My sympathies
    are with his family.

  32. bill raiford says:

    The consistency with which the friends and colleagues of Louis note his abiding friendship, fairness, professionalism, wisdom and humor, among other things, is both remarkable and justified. We might add another important characteristic: joy. I feel that Louis received real joy from nearly everyone he met, and that that infused the deep wisdom in the amusing observations and stories he shared with us and bound us together in human community. May the great spirits bless this kind and good soul.

  33. A Mark Neuman says:

    Excerpts from a Eulogy
    Given by
    A. Mark Neuman
    in Memory of
    The Honorable Charles Louis Kincannon

    Monday, Morning January 7th, 2012

    Christ Church of Capitol Hill
    Washington, DC

    The Western Union telegram, addressed to Charles Louis Kincannon at 1910 Rio Grande Austin, Texas arrived on December 23, 1963. Louis was still a student at UT Austin, but the telegram inquired, “are you interested in a position in Washington, DC at $5440 per annum involving economic statistics or computer programming. If so reply collect wire for more information indicating type of work in which interested.” The recipient, of course, had never been to Washington or visited the Census Bureau.
    This is not a page from a novel. It is the beginning of a real-life story of a distinguished career of public service and high achievement spanning over the course of four decades.

    Louis Kincannon is the only person in over two hundred years of Census history who started his first job at the Bureau and then, many years later, would serve as Director of the Census, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate – a position from which he would retire. I think it unlikely that circumstances in the future would permit another feat such as this one, where a person holds their first and last job are at one agency – after having ascended the ladder from bottom to top – and all the while mentoring, assisting and promoting so many grateful individuals on the way up.

    Louis Kincannon was an honorable man – a fine public servant. When you are confirmed by the US Senate, you retain that title of “The Honorable” always, but that Louis earned that title of The Honorable in our estimation in so many other ways – Louis will be remembered with great fondness and esteem and by the broadest spectrum of Bureau staff – old and young, entry level to SES, career and non-career, liberal and conservative, modern and traditional.

    –Louis was respected by all because he respected all – especially those different than him – in language, in looks, and in creed,
    — Louis was not prejudiced, rather, he was predisposed to accept, accommodate and admire people whose beliefs, practices, appearances were both familiar and unfamiliar to him. Louis lived by INCLUSION because he knew that including others meant that you would gain insights and skills that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Louis showed us that inclusion wasn’t just right, it was essential to succeeding in our tasks.
    –Louis was learned, but always willing to learn.
    –Louis was himself wise, but always sought wisdom from others.
    –Louis was serious about his responsibilities and but always had a sense of good cheer and humor.
    –Louis was traditional, yet thoroughly modern. (He was the first person that I know who was fully committed to the use of email – way back in 1989 he would send e-mail on Dialcom mostly to people who couldn’t respond, some would ask his loyal secretary Shelby if she could print out a copy of what he had sent to them. Kincannon was also known for showing Secretaries how to use the online calendars, and he was, I believe, the first on the Executive Staff to adopt the Blackberry and become proficient in its use.)
    –Louis was thoroughly cultured – he learned to appreciate good wines, a range of cuisines and fine chocolates, but he remained down to earth: taking Metro’s Green Line to work as director and eating in the Census cafeteria. He kept quite a bit of the folksy Corpus Christi attitudes throughout his career in Washington.
    –Louis was always kind, courtly, and always a consummate gentleman.
    –Louis’ good friend and colleague Herman Haberman observed that Louis could disagree without being disagreeable – trust me, we need more of this in Government.
    And above of all – Louis was a man of integrity, guided by principles of fairness, humility and humanity – in the finest sense of the word.

    Louis Kincannon’s commitment to inclusion and diversity was groundbreaking. This commitment led him to find amazingly talented people from all walks of life – not in symbolic roles, but throughout the agency – from Printing, to Processing, from Congressional Affairs to Field Division, from Policy to Decennial Planning. You could tick off firsts for women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders and other groups at the Bureau and so many of those “firsts” would be attributed to Louis. I worked in many Government agencies, but the diversity of the Bureau’s management was unparalleled in the Federal Government when I arrived in Suitland in 1989. The diversity of that team showed all of us how much more we could understand and accomplish when we made the extra effort to INCLUDE and REACH OUT. Louis may have been a White Male Protestant from the Southern part of the country, but he strove to have a Census Bureau that looked and sounded like the whole American family.

    Louis was honorable not because of a Senate Confirmation, but because he was honorable – honorable in how he treated each of you, and honorable in the way he represented the Agencies where he worked. I believe that Louis was the most honored patriarch of a giant family called the Bureau of the Census. He mentored so many, many of whom are here today — people like Pat Kelly, Anne Billups, Marillia Matos, Arnold Jackson, Christa Jones, just to name a few). Louis steered a ship of Census with confidence and competence. This is why he is honored AND honorable.

    Louis Kincannon earned his coveted post as Director. He was the most qualified director appointed to the Census in a century and went on to become the longest continually serving Director since the Eisenhower Administration. Louis always put the interests of the Agency he loved, far above his own interests. And it was an example of another Kincannon trait – accepting responsibility for mistakes as a leader, rather than assigning blame to others. –Louis was self-less rather than selfish.

    You all know that Louis Kincannon was a generous person — generous with interests and with his time and with his attention to details. He was unfailingly interested in the perspectives of others, always willing to invest the time it takes to listen. Louis believed in sharing. Listening and sharing are two other practices that are often overlooked in this city. And yes, Louis knew what he didn’t know, and surrounded himself with people who knew more about their subject matter expertise.

    One of Louis’ closest advisors shared with me a few things that everyone could learn from Louis: set a steady pace, take in the sights along the way, don’t trample anyone, and help people along the way. That is, after all, the core of who Louis Kincannon was in his professional life: A man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of manners, a wise man who respected others and was uncommonly familiar with the common people. He believed that public service meant accountability to the public. The Secretary of Commerce who chose Louis as his Director, Don Evans, wrote that Louis was “A man whose life is above all about his love for America. I am blessed that my life and trail through the years met your trail and I am a better person for it”.

    I concur in that statement. And would add some additional points:

    As your colleague Jay Waite observed upon your retirement, “The Census Bureau was losing you — but the contributions that you made remain” – not just at the Bureau — but the way you behaved, the way you led, the way you set an example.

    Claire, Alexandra and Indya, we thank you for sharing your beloved husband and father with us and, in so doing, enriching all of our lives.

    May the example of the life, career and practices of Louis Kincannon – a life of public service — of honor and integrity –and yes, of enduring kindness and concern for the well-being of others live on and so, may the memory of Louis Kincannon endure as blessing in all of our lives.

  34. Chuck Nicholls says:

    I fondly remember Louis as a neighbor on Capitol Hill.
    He was a member of our 3 person carpool to The Census Bureau every day.
    He will be missed.
    Chuck Nicholls, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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