July 1, 1963
Today in 1963, the Zone Improvement Plan went into effect in Baton Rouge and across the country. You
probably know it better as the zip code. Blue-suited, orange-faced Mr. Zip was everywhere, reminding you to
attach your own special code to your letters. In one particularly sad episode, he paid a visit to Baton Rouge
Postmaster Alton Lea to tell him that using a zip code eliminates six of the ten basic routing steps used in the
process of mail sorting. Anybody with a question was advised to write to the Hon. J. Edward Day, The
Postmaster General, Washington, DC 20260.
July 2, 1939
Today in 1939, former LSU President James Monroe Smith was extradited to Louisiana while on vacation in
Brockville, Ontario. He had turned himself in to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the day before, stating
that he’d been unaware that he’d been indicted the week before by a Baton Rouge grand jury looking into
embezzlement charges at LSU. In 1940, Smith pleaded guilty to three charges of forgery and one of
embezzlement. Governor Jimmie Davis commuted his sentence of eight-to-twenty-four years at Angola, but
he did serve ten of his thirty month sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, on charges
of mail fraud and tax evasion.
July 3, 1998
Tonight in 1998, the old McKinley High School destroyed by fire. As horrified alumni and friends watched the
blaze on television, they said that watching it burn on television was like having their heart ripped out of their
chest. Thomas H. Delpit Drive was choked the next morning as motorists drove by to see if it could really be
true. Three teen-aged boys later confessed to setting the fire. The building school had been built in 1926
and closed in 1960. After the fire, it was purchased by the McKinley Alumni Association, and after a $5
million restoration completed in 2006, it would be reopened as the McKinley Alumni Center.
July 4, 1995
The Fourth of July fireworks over the Mississippi River were especially brilliant tonight in 1995 when the 114
175-watt metal halide lights outlining the superstructure of the Horace Wilkinson Bridge were flipped on for
the first time at the end of the show. At the end of the twenty-minute fireworks show, the bridge lights
gradually brightened for another twenty minutes. Funding for the bridge lighting project had been conducted
by Forum 35, an organization of young professional men and women raised more than $275,000 for the
project. As the Forum 35 members had hoped, the lights came to be something of a symbol of Baton Rouge.
July 5, 1940
America would not enter World War II for another sixteen months, but wartime suspicion was in the air tonight
in 1940. An anonymous man who claimed to be frog hunting at the time, telephoned the police to report two
men tunneling into the Dupont Ethyl chemical plant in North Baton Rouge. The plant produced one-third of
the tetracthyl fluid used in the country for aviation and other high-performance fuels. No perpetrators were
nabbed. In In the aftermath, additional guards were added at nearby plants, causing the sheriff to suggest
that maybe the perpetrator who’d made the call might have planted the dynamite in order to boost job
opportunities for watchmen.
July 6, 1817
The Louisiana Legislature made it official today in 1817. After offering some nebulous guidelines for
establishing the city in January of 1817, the legislature finished the paperwork and issued a charter to the
city. Baton Rouge receives first charter of incorporation. There were all of 1463 people in Baton Rouge in
1817, 266 of whom were slaves. Work was about to begin on the U. S. garrison. Spanish Town was starting to
grow to the north, and Beauregard Village was sprouting in the south. In between, the town was beginning to
expand into the unoccupied land to the east of Third Street.
July 7, 1972
Louisiana got its second female U. S. Senator today in 1972 as Governor Edwin Edwards announced that he
would appoint his wife Elaine Schwartzenburg Edwards to fill the unexpired term of Allen Ellender, who had
died in office. Mrs. Edwards was sworn into office on August 1, 1972, and served until November 13th of that
year when J. Bennett Johnston was sworn in. Senator Edwards would prove to be nobody’s puppet. Although
she was a Democrat, she endorsed Republican Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter in 1976, while her husband
first endorsed California governor Jerry Brown, and later endorsed Carter after Brown failed to obtain the
July 8, 1945
In 1945, Vince Distefano was running a card game called Georgia Skin on Florida Boulevard. The men
played for horses and Vince's wife, Stephanie, made good tips cooking for the crowd—that is until the
morning that the sheriff show up and hauled the Distefanos off to jail. The sheriff was sympathetic and urged
the couple to get out of town - at least outside the city limits. They bought a lot on Airline Highway and built a
new place. It became so popular that travelers sometimes mistook the building for a restaurant. The
Distefanos decided they might as well feed all those hungry motorists and The Village was born.
July 9, 1863
The Civil War Battle of Baton Rouge was fought in 1862, but a much more important battle was fought on the
border of East Baton Rouge and East Feliciana Parishes the following year. While Union General Ulysses
Grant was besieging Vicksburg upriver, General Nathaniel Banks was ordered to capture the Confederate
stronghold of Port Hudson. When his assault failed, Banks settled into a 48-day siege, the longest in US
military history. A second attack also failed, and it was only after the fall of Vicksburg that the Confederate
commander, General Franklin Gardner surrendered today in 1863, giving the Union complete control of
July 10, 1941
Today in 1941, a 7.9 mile bypass was opened to traffic to connect the Huey P. Long Mississippi River Bridge
in North Baton Rouge to the Nesser Overpass at Jefferson Highway, opening to traffic in July 1941, This
bypass was part of Airline Highway, but it was not connected to the rest of the highway until 1953. A further
extension of Airline Highway continued west to the Atchafalaya Bridge at Krotz Springs. The remainder of the
highway widened during the 1940’s and the 1950’s. For a short time, it was the longest toll-free four-lane
highway in the nation ran 124 miles from the Atchafalaya River to New Orleans.
July 11, 1928
Today in 1928, East Baton Rouge’s first female sheriff was running for re-election to the post. Robert B. Day
had been elected in 1916, and was fatally shot while breaking up a Scenic Highway ambling den in 1924. He
was the first and only parish sheriff to die on duty. The next day, Eudora S. Day, the sheriff’s widow, was
literally, “the next Day”, as she was appointed to fill his unexpired term, becoming the first and only female
sheriff in the history of the parish. When she ran for election in her own right, newly-enfranchised women
rushed to her cause and swept her to victory.
July 12, 1983
Tonight in 1983, sixty thousand flocked to Tiger Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies of the Sixth
International Special Olympics. More than 4,000 parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of Special
Olympians from all fifty states and five continents were housed free by sponsor families. 21,000 volunteers
devoted more than two million hours to raise funds and develop hospitality services in preparation for the
games, and then served as games officials, timekeepers and supporters during that week. More than 500
families in Baton Rouge opened their hearts and homes to the largest gathering of family members ever to
participate in an international Special Olympics. The games ran through July 18th.
July 13, 1923
Today in 1923, C. E. Woolman moved to Baton Rouge to join the extension department of Louisiana State
University at Baton Rouge as an agricultural sciences instructor who travelled out to farmers to pass on the
latest techniques. He lived in a house described as an “airplane bungalow” on North Sixth Street, three blocks
from the LSU Experimental Farm, which was, at the time, located at the site of Arsenal Museum. Woolman
would later move to Monroe and start a crop dusting service that would eventually become Delta Air Lines.
Today, C. E. Woolman Drive, better known as the drop off lane at Metropolitan Airport is named in his honor.
July 14, 1861
Today in 1861, a week before the first Battle of Bull Run, Union forces attempted to cross Potomac River at
Seneca Falls, Virginia. They were repulsed by Confederate forces that include the "Louisiana Tigers" rifle
company, which was fighting in its first action of the war after arrived in Northern Virginia. Originally, the
Tigers wore red cloth fezzes, blue-striped pants, and dark blue jackets with red lacing, but they quickly
changed to the Confederates’ standard gray uniforms. Originally applied to a specific company, the Louisiana
Tigers nickname expanded to a battalion, then to a brigade, and eventually to all Bayou State troops in the
Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
July 15, 2000
The newly-completed Mormon Temple on Highland Road was dedicated this week in 2000. Four separate
dedicatory services were held to accommodate all the members who wanted to attend. The church had
announced plans for the Baton Rouge Temple on October 14, 1998, and construction for the 10,700-square-
foot building began after a groundbreaking ceremony on May 8, 1999. President Gordon B. Hinckley
dedicated the temple on July 16, 2000, making it the Church’s 94th temple and the first in Louisiana. The
temple serves 24,000 LDS Church members from throughout the state, as well as members in Gulfport,
Hattiesburg, and Jackson, Mississippi.