July 16, 1930
Louisiana’s fifty-third governor, Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., grandson of 31st governor
Murphy Foster, was born this week in Franklin. After serving two terms in the state
senate, he was elected governor in in 1995, defeating Cleo Fields, Mary Landrieu and
Buddy Roemer. His inauguration ceremony on January 8, 1996, would take place at
the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, just as his grandfather's had been a century
earlier. During his administration, Foster would oversee the development of a
comprehensive plan for preserving the Atchafalaya Basin and consolidate state offices
at Capitol Park in downtown Baton Rouge, sparking the downtown area's dynamic
July 17, 1964
Today in 1964, the NAACP and the Council on Racial Equality (CORE) promised
demonstrations, pickets and lawsuits against the state and the City of Baton Rouge if
their list of ten demands of state and city government were not met within one week.
State demands included: hiring African Americans at the capitol “above the broom and
mop level; desegregating the Capitol barber shop; appointing blacks to 22 state
boards and commissions; convening a meeting of large employers in the state to
discuss the implementation of Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that dealt with large
employers; and investigating “poverty mockery” of community action groups in the
July 18, 1543
Today in 1543, the survivors of Hernando De Soto’s expedition finally reached the
mouth of the Mississippi River, where they would construct crude ships to sail for
Mexico. DeSoto had died on May 21, 1542, near the site of Ferriday, and Luis de
Moscoso Alvarado would be tasked in guiding the remnants of the expedition to the
Gulf. The first part of the journey had been a nightmare of Indian harassment and
foundering boats and rafts. One fortuitous legacy of DeSoto’s adventure would be the
fierce Spanish hunting dogs that would be left behind the expedition to become the
ancestors of Louisiana’s beloved State Dog, the Catahoula Cur.
July 19, 1925
Today in 1925, in the waning days before numbered federal highways, officials
announced plans to complete the Old Spanish Trail, a system of free highways,
bridges and ferries between Florida and California. Governor Fuqua announced that
negotiations were underway for a bridge over the Sabine River between Louisiana and
Texas. The last part of the trail would be the bridges over the Rigolets, the channel
between Lake Pontchartrain and Chandeleur Sound between New Orleans and the
Mississippi state line. The federal highway system that would also be established in
1925 would eventually incorporate the trail into its system, and the portion of the trail in
Louisiana would become US 90.
July 20, 1968
Governor John McKeithen signed legislation today in 1968 to create the Council for the
Developmentof French in Louisiana (CODOFIL). Bureaucrats and schoolteachers had
long sought to stamp out the French language in the name of Americanization. Cajuns
and others who spoke the language were told it was shameful and a sign of ignorance.
Students were punished for speaking the language after the state board of education
decided in 1915 to suppress French, a move strengthened six years later when the
Louisiana Constitution forbade the use of any language other than English in the
public-school system. In 1968, there were a million French speakers in Louisiana. That
number today is 200,000.
July 21, 2011
Today in 2011, former Govenor Charles R. “Buddy” Roemer announced his candidacy
for the Republican nomination for President of the United States at Dartmouth College
in Hanover, New Hampshire. Roemer had served as Louisiana’s 52nd governor, and
stated that his campaign would stress campaign finance reform. He was not invited to
any of the Republican debates and was perhaps ahead of his time when he tweeted
responses to debates in which he could not participate. Meeting little success, he
announced later in 2011 that he would seek the nomination of “Americans Elect”. In
early 2012, he stated that he would seek the nomination of the Reform Party.
July 22, 1912
Today in 1912, U. S. Congressman Albert Estopinal, Sr., announced that the navy
would station four submarines at the Algiers Navy Yard to guard the mouth of the
Mississippi River. The naval facility at Algiers was built on land that had been granted
to Bienville, founder of New Orleans, in719. The government purchased it in 1849 as
the site for a proposed navy yard that would not be built until 1901, when the dry dock
arrived at the yard and the US Naval Station was formally established. Over time, the
base would become the largest military base in the New Orleans area. It closed
permanently in September 2011.
July 23, 1900
An altercation involving Robert Charles, his roommate, and several New Orleans police
officers today in 1900 sparked three days of rioting that would be called the Robert
Charles Riot. After Charles, an African American laborer, fatally shot a white New
Orleans police officer and escaped arrest, a large manhunt ensued. A white mob
rioted, attacking blacks throughout the city. Twenty-eight people were killed in the riots,
including Charles, shot by a special police volunteer. Other white men in the mob shot
hundreds of bullets into his body and beat him beyond recognition. More than fifty
people, mostly African Americans, were wounded, included eleven who needed to be
July 24, 1969
Gators got your granny (Chomp! Chomp!) this week in 1969 when Poke Salad Annie
by Oak Grove native Tony Joe White peaked at Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100
countdown. White was also born this week in 1943, one of seven children and raised
on a cotton farm. When he was sixteen, his oldest brother brought home a Lightnin'
Hopkins album and started teaching blues guitar to his younger brothers. Tony Joe
was also influenced by local bluesmen, country singers and Cajun music, melding it all
into a concoction called Swamp Pop. White also wrote hits like Rainy Night in Georgia
for more than sixty other artists.
July 25, 1843
Abbeville was first called La Chapelle, and the land it stands on was purchased by
founding father Père Antoine Désiré Mégret, a Capuchin missionary, today in 1843 for
$900. Father Megret named the town after his home in France, Abbéville. There were
two people living on the land at that time, Joseph LeBlanc and his wife Isabelle
Broussard, whose former home Father Megret had converted into the first Catholic
church. Father Megret modeled his original plan for the village after a French
Provincial village. The original church, first named in honor of St. Ann, burned in 1854.
St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church now stands at the same location.
July 26, 1943
Today in 1943, the State of Louisiana leased mineral rights at the Rockefeller Wildlife
Refuge in Cameron and Vermilion Parishes during World War II. The Rockefeller family
had donated the 86,000-acre site in 1920, with restrictions on mineral production, but
war had convinced them to amend the terms of the gift. In July 1943, the State Mineral
Board auctioned some Cameron Parish rights for $558,000 to the Magnolia Oil
Company and Humble Oil Company. Governor Sam Houston Jones said that profits
from the sale would be used to expand facilities for birds and game at the refuge and
that the "surplus" would fund a salary increases for state school teachers.
July 27, 1963
Garbage was on the move in Baton Rouge today in 1963. Work on the I-10 through the
city had necessitated the removal of a 50,000-square yard garbage dump between
Acadian Thruway and College Drive. In response to questions from residents, Thomas
Sellers, superintendent for the construction company, said that the "whole problem"
had been exaggerated. "It wouldn't turn your stomach on the site. And when it's on the
trucks and the trucks are covered, it will be no worse than a garbage truck passing."
The dump would be moved to a site adjacent to Lee High School, which had been
chosen over "Devil's Swamp" in North Baton Rouge.
July 28, 1978
Today in 1978, Shreveport’s Confederate Memorial Medical Center (CMMC) was
renamed as the Louisiana State University Hospital in Shreveport The 1976 merger of
CMMC and the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport had resulted in the medical
school being the first in the state to have its own teaching hospital, and the name
change was made to better reflect this mission. Six years earlier, State Representative
Alphonse Jackson, Jr., had questioned the appropriateness of the hospital’s name in
1972, stating that ’Confederate’ might not be the best name for a hospital whose
patient population was 90 percent African American. Other names suggested were
Northwest Louisiana Medical Complex and University Hospital.
July 29, 1948
The Julius Rosenwald Fund was dissolved this week in 1948 after twenty-five years of
helping to fund more than 5300 schools, homes and shops for African Americans in the
South. “Rosenwald schools” were built across the South beginning in 1912 with
support from the Rosenwald Fund which was officially established in 1917. Julius
Rosenwald was a multimillionaire merchant and one of the founders of Sears,
Roebuck, and Company. Rosenwald was a friend of Booker T. Washington, who had
inspired him to take an interest in education for African Americans. The first of more
than four hundred Rosenwald schools in Louisiana (like this one in DeSoto Parish)
would be completed in 1916.
July 30, 1984
Today in 1984, at 12:36 in the afternoon, the tank vessel Alvenus broke apart off of
Cameron Parish and spilled 2.8 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. The Alvenus
grounded with catastrophic structural failure in the Calcasieu River Bar Channel about
eleven miles south-southeast of Cameron, creating the largest oil spill from a ship ever
encountered in the Gulf of Mexico. Attempts to contain and recover the oil at sea were
rendered ineffective by rough seas and the magnitude of the spill. A well-defined 75-
mile slick of oil traveled over 100 miles west, arriving on Texas beaches on August 3rd
July 31 1969
Governor John McKeithen declared a state of emergency and called out 250 State
Police and 700 National Guardsmen to patrol the streets of Baton Rouge today in in
1969. On July 26th, a Baton Rouge policeman had shot and killed 17-year-old African
American James Olinney, Jr., the second fatal shooting of a black teenager by police in
a week. Earlier on the 31st, the NAACP had led a peaceful march from the site of the
shooting in South Baton Rouge to the Municipal Building. No incidents were recorded
at the march, but in the aftermath, white-owned businesses, including Snyder’s
Department Store on East Boulevard and Ferrara’s Grocery on South 16th Street.