February 16, 1932
96,000 Americans entered the "Why I Like to Buy Groceries at the Piggly-Wiggly" letter-writing contest, but
today in 1932, Mr. and Mrs. F. C. Stoops of Park Boulevard in Baton Rouge brought home the bacon and a
gift certificate for free groceries with the winning entry. The Stoopses had been residents of Baton Rouge for
three years after Mr. Stoops had come to town to take a position at Standard Oil. After opening its first store
in 1916, 1932 would be the company’s best year ever, operating 2,660 stores. Five of those stores were in
Baton Rouge, including the 1209 North Blvd. location favored by Mr. and Mrs. Stoops.
February 17, 1921
Today in 1921, G. W. Sitman, chairman of the Baton Rouge Board of Health announced that due to
overcrowding and lack of maintenance, burials would be discontinued at Sweet Oliver Cemetery on 22nd
Street. Sweet Olive Cemetery is Baton Rouge's oldest African American cemetery, and the only one in the
city until the Greenwell Springs Cemetery opened in 1925. There would continue to be above-ground burials
in vaults at Sweet Olive well into the 21st century, but it was clear that the cemetery was in dire need of repair
and maintenance. To address this need, the Sweet Olive Association was formed in the 1970's and
incorporated in 1998.
February 18, 1944
Today in 1944, the Baton Rouge Lions Club announced the kick-off of its big rat-extermination campaign in
the city. Campaign leaders said that a lot of poisoned horsemeat would be needed to rid the city of its rat
population, and that they were raising $16,000 to pay for the campaign. B. L. Dodwell, the chairman of the
drive, noted that the poison would not be lethal to cats and dogs. David E. Brown, the state health officer,
said that ten to twelve state inspectors would be assigned to Baton Rouge to supervise the forty Lions Club
volunteers. The Lion’s Club would continue to sponsor eradication campaigns over the next decade.
February 19, 1986
Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal was an American smuggler of drugs and arms, aircraft pilot, dealer, and money
launderer who flew flights for the Medellín Cartel. Seal was employed by the Medellín Cartel as a pilot and
drug smuggler and transported numerous shipments of cocaine from Colombia and Panama to the United
States. He was eventually arrested and after he was sentence in 1984 and offered to cooperate with the
government as an informant. Seal was sentenced to work in public service at the Salvation Army facility on
Airline Highway and in revenge for turning on the cartel, he gunned down by a Medellin drug cartel hit squad
today in 1986.
February 20, 1811
It’s hard to believe today, but Baton Rouge almost wasn’t part of Louisiana. Today in 1811, President
Madison signed an enabling act to authorize a constitutional convention for Territory of Orleans, which would
include land secured in the Louisiana Purchase and would become the State of Louisiana. As Baton Rouge
was not part of the Purchase and therefore not yet part of the United States, but outraged Baton Rougeans
protested the oversight and demanded that the Republic of West Florida be included in the new state. When
the constitution was completed in 1812, it included a request that the new state should include West Florida.
February 21, 1988
Today in 1988, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart gave his now-infamous "I have sinned" speech. He tearfully spoke
to his family, congregation, TV audience, and finally said "I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would
ask that Your Precious Blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's
forgetfulness, not to be remembered against me anymore." The Louisiana presbytery of the Assemblies of
God had initially suspended Swaggart for three months, but the hierarchy of the Assemblies of God national
presbytery did not believe that he was genuinely repentant in submitting to their authority and defrocked him,
removing his credentials and ministerial license.
February 22, 1932
As part of the George Washington Bicentennial Tree Planting Program this week in 1932, Baton Rouge
school children and students of forestry and horticulture began planting a thousand trees along Dalrymple
Drive between City Park and Highland Road, and along Plank Road in North Baton Rouge. The program also
inaugurated the state highway beautification program. The work was supervised by J. R. Wendt,
maintenance superintendant of the Louisiana Highway Commission. The trees were furnished by the LSU
Forestry nursery at Woodworth. Planted as part of the same program were the "George Washington Oak"
and the "Martha Washington Oak" near the Arsenal Museum on the grounds of the State Capitol.
February 23, 1971
The Cotton Club had been a feature of the 2300 block of Tigertown since the 1930's, so when Mardi Gras
was observed today in 1971, the ten or twelve patrons watching the festivities in New Orleans on television
and asked themselves why they weren't having more fun. "They decided to have their own Mardi Gras," said
owner Glenn Constantino. "They put my brother Frank in a wagon and stuck a meatball and a crawfish on a
cooking fork for scepter." The Krewe of Grease had been born. By the mid-1980's, it had become an annual
ritual attracting hundreds to the bar until it closed in the early 2000's.
February 24, 1875
Today was Mardi Gras in 1875, and Governor Henry C. Warmoth (pictured) signed the Mardi Gras Act,
making Fat Tuesday an official state holiday. But Carnival was slow to come to Baton Rouge. The first parade
in the city was sponsored by two African American clubs, the Purple Circle Social Club and the “Esso
Boosters.” It took place in 1941, and the King and his parade followers rolled down South Blvd., on to East
Blvd., North Blvd. and ending on Government Street where the revelers attended a ball at the Club’s
headquarters. An estimated 20,000 people showed up to watch the festivities.
February 25, 1963
The department store on the southwest corner of Third and Main that was originally called the S. I. Reymond
Co., Ltd., or Reymond's Department Store, was the showplace of the city. In 1929, it was sold and became
Dalton's, and in 1955, it was sold once again and became a branch of the D. H. Holmes Department Store of
New Orleans. But downtown retail was dying, and "Holmes's" closed this week in 1963. The store was torn
down and was the site of a paved parking lot until recently, when it was sold once again as the site of a new
February 26, 1953
“Million Dollar Mermaid” with Esther Williams and Walter Pigeon was the first feature shown at the newly
remodeled 300-seat Ann Theater at 6704 Scenic Highway at Airline which re-opened today in 1953. It was
originally built in the 1940’s, and was one of the several movie houses that thrived in North Baton Rouge in
the years after World War II. Others included the Gem on Main Street, the Regina on Scenic Highway, and
the Rex on Plank Road. In the 1970’s, The Ann was the one of the prime showcases for African-American
films. The theater closed in the early 1980’s.
February 27, 1859
Today in 1859, the Steamboat “Princess”, one of the great floating palaces of its day, blew up moments after
pulling away from dock at Baton Rouge. A large crowd that had gathered on the levee to watch the boat’s
departure witnessed the explosion in horror. Seventy of the Princess’s 250 passengers, including several
prominent Baton Rouge attorneys on their way to a meeting in New Orleans, were blown to bits. Passengers
with third degree burns who could get to shore were treated at Cottage Plantation. Slaves wrapped the
injured in sheets and spread flour over them, which was the conventional treatment for burns at the time.
February 28, 1981
On the Saturday before Fat Tuesday in 1981, the Mystic Krewe for the Preservation of Lagniappe was on the
move as the first Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade began to roll down Spanish Town Road. The few people
who actually saw it reported that fewer than ten people lined the streets. Children were the marchers, and
they banged on fruit cartons and threw a few beads. Then, the spectators would run to the next corner and
throw the beads back to the marchers, so that the parade could continue. Over the years, the parade would
outgrow Spanish Town and sprawl over all of downtown.
February 29, 2016
On this Leap Day in 2016, a statue of LSU basketball great Bob Pettit was unveiled at the university’s
basketball facility. Pettit's basketball career had humble beginnings. At Baton Rouge High School, he was cut
from the varsity basketball team as both a freshman and sophomore, but he would go on to stardom, and in
1954, his number 50 was retired at LSU--the first Tiger athlete in any sport to receive this distinction. At the
end of his remarkable NBA career in 1965, he was the league's all-time leading scorer and second leading
rebounder with career averages of 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds.