May 1, 1992
Today in 1992, the General Health Foundation purchased 66 acres on Bluebonnet Lane to establish the new
campus of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center that opened on the site in 1994. The General traces its
history to 1900, when railroad surgeon Dr. T.P. Singletary, brought two severely injured patients to a large
frame building on the corner of Florida and Church streets for treatment after a train wreck. As he treated the
men, he realized that doctors could treat patients more effectively if they were all in one location. In 1908, he
built a three-story brick building next to his office to care for patients who needed hospitalization.
May 2, 1970
Thomas Harry Williams was born in Illinois in 1909, received his degree in history for the University of
Wisconsin, and taught at the University of Nebraska before coming to LSU in 1941. After receiving critical and
popular acclaim for Lincoln and His Generals in 1952, he became fascinated with Louisiana icon Huey P.
Long. Williams interviewed dozens of Long’s advocates and enemies, and Huey Long, the book that would be
one of the first biographies employ the techniques of oral history as a key source material was published in
1969. The book received the Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography today in 1970, and also won the National Book
Award the same year.
May 3, 1888
Today in 1888, the U. S. Post Office at Cottonville, Louisiana, was relocated from Bayou Sara Road and
redesignated as Baker. Prior to his death in 1851, Josephus Smith Baker had established the Baker
Plantation on Baker Lane (now Groom Road) in the area around the town of Cottonville. By 1888, the town
had died out, and the area began to take on the name of the largest landowner in the area. With the coming
of the railroad, Baker would start to grow again and by the middle of the twentieth century, it would
incorporated as the Town of Baker in December 1944.
May 4, 1823
Abraham Lincoln paddled his flatboat past Baton Rouge on his first visit to Louisiana. Sixty years later, LSU
President David French Boyd would claim to discover an old guest book from the Baton Rouge Garrison
signed by "A. Lincoln" on this day. If so, it would be the only written confirmation that Lincoln did anything
other than admire the creamy white columns of the Pentagon Barracks as he passed through town.
Historians doubt Boyd's claim, stating that it's highly unlikely that a comparative nobody from Illinois would
leave his possessions on a flatboat to go to a high-security military installation where he would register as a
May 5, 1978
Before this day in 1978, I-10 ended at Gonzales, and travelers driving to New Orleans were compelled to get
off interstate, drive past the Norwegian Seaman’s Center and the rest of downtown Gonzales to get back to
the highway at Airline Highway. The original contractor for the completion of I-10 project had defaulted and
construction fallen almost two years behind schedule. Today in 1978, Governor Edwin Edwards cut the ribbon
at the LA 44 interchange in Gonzales and the last 5.2 segment was opened. Ten years after the Horace
Wilkinson Bridge at Baton Rouge had been completed, Louisiana would become the third state to complete
its section of the highway.
May 6, 1949
Today in 1949, a box car from the Merci Train was dedicated to veterans of WWII at the Old State Capitol.
The Merci Train, also called the French Gratitude Train, was given to the people of the United States by the
people of France as a gesture of thanks for the Friendship Train, a WWII relief effort organized by columnist
Drew Pearson in World War II. The Merci Train was comprised of 49 cars, including one for each of the 48
states. In Baton Rouge, Fred C. Dent Sr. led a drive to build a monument to friendship and a shelter for
Louisiana's box car at the Old Capitol.
May 7, 1931
“We Live for Those We Love” is a charming sentiment, but on this day in 1931, it was inscribed on the
cornerstone that was laid at the New State Capitol. There was no ceremony at the setting of the stone on the
west side of the building. Set into the cornerstone was a copper box containing copies of official acts and
other documents pertaining to the building’s construction. The box also contains the answer to one of Baton
Rouge’s greatest secrets—the location of caskets of the original settlers of Spanish Town whose cemetery
was dug up while the Capitol was being built and later re-interred in a secret location.
May 8, 1882
Today in 1882, the Louisiana Legislature met at the Old State Capitol for the first time in twenty year. In April,
1862, with the Union Navy at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the governor and legislature removed the
capital to Opelousas. In December of 1862, the old building was gutted by fire. In the late 1870’s, civic
leaders in Baton Rouge began to advocate for the return of the capital, and in 1879, the legislature meeting
in New Orleans voted to renovate the capitol. One of the demands of the legislature was that the City of
Baton Rouge pay $35,000 of the cost of renovation.
May 9, 1972
Today in 1972, Edwin Washington Edwards was sworn in for the first of four terms as Governor of Louisiana.
He would become the state’s longest serving governor and the sixth longest serving governor in the history of
the United States. He was born in Marksville in 1927, attended LSU and served four terms in Congress before
being elected to his first term as governor. Coincidentally, it would be twenty-eight years to the day and
almost to the hour when he would be convicted in a New Orleans courtroom in 2000 on 17 counts of
wrongdoings and sentenced to federal prison.
May 10, 1960
This week in 1960, Jimmie Davis was inaugurated as governor of Louisiana for the second time. The popular
singer turned businessman had been elected to his first term in 1944, and he became the fifth person to be
elected to the job a second time. Davis was born on a tenant farm in Jackson Parish in 1899 and had become
a nationally popular country music and gospel singer in the 1930’s. At the sparsely attended event on the
steps of the Capitol, Davis took the oath and promised to “remedy the state’s fiscal headache” and to
continue segregation without either compromise or violence.
May 11, 2000
Tonight in 2000, Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela visited Baton Rouge and was feted by 1300 guests at a
banquet at a fundraiser for the Nelson Mandela Foundation at the Radisson Hotel. At the banquet, Mandela
was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from both Southern University and LSU. Mandela said that upon
his release from prison in 1990, he didn’t want to talk to white politicians, but “our brains told us that if we didn’
t talk to those people, our country would go up in flames.” LSU System President William Jenkins, a native of
South Africa said in his remarks, “You walked free, and with you a nation walked toward freedom.”
May 12, 1890
Today in 1890, Louisiana became the first state to legalize prize fighting in the United States. The act, which
was described as one of the shortest ever enacted by the legislature offered very few restrictions, except that
the Marquis of Queensbury rules were to be followed at fights. Bare-knuckle fighting was still against the laws,
so when a match between legendary fighter John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain was promoted in New Orleans,
Governor Francis T. Nicholls forbade the illegal fight and called out the national guard. On May 6, 1895, the
Louisiana Supreme Court declared voided the “glove rule”, thereby making all forms of prizefighting illegal in
May 13, 1843
Since it had been founded in the 1830's, the Baton Rouge Gazette (pictured) had been p an anti-Whig, pro-
Democrat periodical established in 1842rinted in both French and English. In early 1843, facing competition
from the Democratic Advocate, an anti-Whig, pro-Democrat periodical established in 1842, the publishers of
the Gazette stated that the fifty or so subscribers who preferred to read their news in French could all read
English, whereas practically none of the English readers could decipher French. As a result, the French
pages of the paper were suspended today in 1843. Another newspaper, the Louisiana Capitolian, was
established in 1868 and later merged with the Advocate.
May 14, 1940
Today in 1940, reform governor Sam Houston Jones was sworn in as Louisiana’s forty-ninth governor before
60,000 cheering guests at Tiger Stadium. In his inaugural address, he sounded the death knell for Long-style
politics which had dominated the state for the past twelve years. “I said I intended to destroy the state
machine—and I mean it,” he said in his address. Outgoing Governor Earl K. Long refused to attend the
ceremony, for fear of embarrassment to him or the new governor. The ceremony was followed by a massive
barbecue on the LSU campus and an estimated crowd of 100,000 watched the inaugural parade to the
Heidelberg Hotel downtown.
May 15, 1927
Today in 1927, the Mississippi River crested at 47.28 feet at Baton Rouge during greatest flood in American
history. At the time, it was expected that the river would eventually rise to 49 feet, but a levee break upriver
that would spread the flooding to parishes across the river stymied the rise at Baton Rouge. Refugees from
the flood were received in Baton Rouge, where the Red Cross had established shelters for whites at
dormitories on the former campus of LSU, and for blacks at a tented city on Jackson Road. At one time, more
than 27,000 square miles were under water up to depth of thirty feet.