In Memoriam: Deborah "Big Red" Cotton

Published on: May 2nd, 2017

Deborah "Big Red" Cotton

Deborah "Big Red" Cotton

Updated May 22 with memorial service information (see bottom):


Deborah "Big Red" Cotton passed away at age 52 on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, finally succumbing to injuries suffered during the Mother's Day mass shooting that occurred at a second line parade in 2013. Cotton was the worst injured of the 19 people shot that day and underwent multiple surgeries and treatments in the months and years following the incident. 

Cotton was born and raised in Oklahoma and Texas. She moved to New Orleans in early 2005 and quickly became entrenched with the Social Aid & Pleasure Club and second line communities. The Gambit began to run her weekly culture blog in 2009 and it quickly became one of the most popular features on the publication's website.

Cotton was a person who expressed her beliefs passionately and with gusto. After being shot, she refused to cooperate with prosecutors and repeatedly expressed forgiveness and love for the shooter as another victim of circumstances beyond his control, a decision and viewpoint that has since been highlighted in a New York Times op-ed

In federal court, she told gunmen during sentencing that they "weren't born to shoot up a parade. You still have the capacity to do good, to make a difference, to change the world - even behind bars, and I'm going to be here to support you, to cheer you on when it's so dark you can't think straight. I'm going to be praying for you."

Brass bands hit the streets of Treme to celebrate Cotton's life and legacy shortly after her death on Tuesday. TBC Brass Band's regular Wednesday night performance at Da Autocrat will also be dedicated to her on May 3 and May 10.

Look back at her beat archive on The Gambit's website.


Action Jackson & Ed Buckner of Original Big 7 remember Deb Cotton:


The passing of our Deb Cotton has left a huge hole in our hearts, but we will celebrate her in true New Orleans style and ensure that her legacy endures. 

A fund has been set up to help with memorial costs and to set up a permanent archive for Deb's writings and videos:  The Deb Cotton Donor-Advised Fund at the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation (NOMAF).

There is a prompt asking whether the gift is made in honor of anyone - that is where you would fill in Deb Cotton. The donation will then be attributed to Deb’s donor advised fund. (You do not automatically get a receipt on the site, but you do receive an email confirmation.)

You can also send a check with Deb Cotton written in the memo line.  Checks may be made out to NOMAF and sent to NOMAF; 1525 Louisiana Avenue; New Orleans, LA 70115.

Please do not only support the fund, and DO plan to come to this amazing celebration!!!

WHEN:             Saturday, June 10, 2017

WHERE:           Memorial Service at the Carver Theater from 11a-1p

Second line with a horse and glass carriage carrying Deb’s Urn down Orleans Ave, Left onto Claiborne, Right onto St. Philip and through the Heart of the Tremé

End by the Candelight Lounge with a Block Party with special music performances at the Tuba Fats Square.

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