December 16, 1944
Today in 1944, the Battle of the Bulge began in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and France. The key to the
Ardennes was Bastogne, a town of five thousand in eastern Belgium where seven major roads in the region
converged and commanded the communications network in the area. Major General Troy Middleton
(pictured), commander of the VIII Corps, had established his headquarters in Bastogne in November 1944
and, understanding the town’s importance, ordered that it be held. And it was—in heroic fashion. After the
war, Middleton would be named president of LSU in 1948 and retire in 1962.  Historian Mark Carleton would
call him the "First Citizen of Baton Rouge."

December 17, 1957
Lucille May Grace, Louisiana's first woman elected official died at the age of 57 this week in 1957.  She was
born in Plaquemine and grew up in Baton Rouge. "Miss Grace” would become the first woman ever to be
elected to a state-wide political office in Louisiana. Huey Long had appointed her to become the Register of
the State Land Office in 1931, at the death of her father who had held the position. She was then elected
register in her own right in 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948. In 1952, she ran for governor, lost and was
elected register again in 1956.

December 18, 1961
Starting today in 1961, classes were called off for the rest of the semester at Southern Univeristy, following
unrest on the campus which had begun on December 15th, when two thousand Southern University students
marched to downtown Baton Rouge to support fellow students jailed for picketing. Bond for the jailed students
had been posted at $1500 per person, but many preferred to remain in jail in protest. In calling off classes,
Southern President F. G. Clark promised that—in violation of state law—no protesting students would be
expelled. A new wave of protest kicked off when school resumed in January and seven of the protesters were

December 19, 1830
Today in 1831, St. Joseph's Church on Main Street was dedicated. It was the third church to be built in that
location, and the Catholic community wanted to be sure it would last so a fundraising campaign was
undertaken to subscribe donors for the project. It soon became apparent that the Catholic community of
Baton Rouge was not going to be able to fund the church on its own, so the congregation turned to generous
Protestant neighbors for help. The Protestants, many of whom had no church of their own in the young town
responded. In gratitude, Father Antoine Blanc began offering Mass in English on Sunday afternoons for non-

December 20, 2002
City Park Golf Course was added to National Register of Historic Places today in 2002. It is one of only twenty
golf courses listed on the Register. City Park was originally part of the 1786 land grant from the Spanish
crown that also included Magnolia Mound Plantation. The land was acquired by the city in the 1800’s and
loaned to LSU as an experimental farm. LSU moved to its new campus in the 1920’s and grudgingly returned
the property. Construction on the golf course began in 1924, and when the course officially opened on
August 3, 1928, it was the first and only public golf course in the city.

December 21, 1938
This week in 1938, Istrouma High School of Baton Rouge defeated Haynesville at Tiger Stadium to win its first
state championship in any sport. Istrouma High School had started in 1917 as a two-room frame building with
a faculty of two. In 1921 the school moved to a larger brick building at the corner of Erie and Wenonah
Street. The first high school graduation ceremony was held in 1924, and in 1931, another building was added
at the corner of Erie Street and Tecumseh Street. In 1935, the school first fielded a football team and band
only three years before it would win its first championship.

December 23, 1925
The city commission approved retirement pensions for firemen for the first time this month in 1925. When
engineers from the National Underwriters Association would come to town 1926 to inspect progress the city
had made in fire protection, they’d be told that in the past ten years, not only had pensions been approved,
the fire department budget had risen from $3000 to over $50,000; the number of paid firefighters had risen
from eight to thirty-six; all of the city’s streets had been paved, and Baton Rouge had some of the finest
firehouses in the South. It worked. The city received a first class rating it has not relinquished to this day.

December 24, 1989
Today in 1989, an explosion at the Exxon Refinery in North Baton Rouge killed two men. frigid eight-degree
temperatures on Christmas Eve caused a pipe rupture, causing one man to be killed when the concussion
and fireball crushed his truck and another to die of smoke inhalation later. The blast at 1:30 on Sunday
afternoon blew paint off of pipes a mile away. It was felt in Hammond and the smoke cloud that was hundreds
of feet high could be seen in LaPlace. Most of giant refinery had already been shut down due to cold
weather, but several tanks, pipelines, buildings and other facilities were burned or destroyed.

December 25, 1858
Today in 1858, former U. S. Secretary of State James Gadsden died at the age of 70. While best known as
the author of the Gadsden Purchase, he is remembered in Baton Rouge as the man credited with the design
of the Pentagon Barracks. While serving under Andrew Jackson after the Battle of New Orleans, he assisted
in the establishment of the United States Garrison and Ordinance Depot in Baton Rouge. Construction was
begun in 1817 and completed in 1823. Originally, there was a building on the fifth side to house a kitchen
and warehouse, but it was torn down within two years.

December 26, 2004
Lacumba II, Southern University’s last live mascot died today in 2004. Southern had had the distinction of
owning the only live mascot at a Historic Black College and University in the nation. Lacumba, whose name
means “Heart of Africa” was the  offspring of a black female jaguar and a black male jaguar and born on May
12, 1991. She could often be seen eating her specially prepared diet, roaming her cage and resting in her
water pool on Harding Boulevard. The 15-year-old 200-pound Lacumba died of kidney failure, a result of old
age. Animal rights advocates and others persuaded administration to abandon policy of keeping a live

December 27, 1956
Today in 1944, Governor Jimmie Davis issued proclamation establishing the Town of Baker. Twelve years to
the day later, the Baker High School Band boarded the train that would take them to Pasadena, California, to
march in the 68th Tournament of Roses Parade.  Before the train departed, students and boosters paraded
in decorated cars up Third Street and down Fourth Street with banners proudly flapping in the breeze, and
carrying the announcement, “We Are On Our Way to the Rose Bowl!” Asked what they looked forward to in
California, the girls seemed intent on seeing the home of Rock Hudson. The boys were more interested in the
Rose Bowl itself.

December 28, 1862
The Old State Capitol burned tonight in 1862. The Old State Capitol had been shelled by Union gunboats in
May, 1862, but it was still usable as a camp for soldiers and sailors. Soldiers quartered in the old state capitol
carelessly but unintentionally set the building on fire. As the ten-year-old structure burned, its flames lit up
the waterfront. In the morning, the blackened walls of the proud structure were still standing, but the interior
had been gutted. The dilapidated building would sit empty until 1879, when the legislature voted to return to
Baton Rouge and appropriated funds to begin the process of restoring the building.

December 29, 1967
New Orleans contractor Dalton Smith waived extradition and was returned to Baton Rouge from Los Angeles
today. Smith had been charged with offering a $25,000 bribe to Aubrey Young, an aide to Governor John
McKeithen and a Baton Rouge Teamster official  in connection with what the state alleged was a scheme to
buy Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa's way out of prison. The money was allegedly offered to Young
to arrange a meeting with Edward Grady Partin, business agent for the Teamsters, who had been a key
witness in the trial in which Hoffa had been convicted.  After a three-day trial in April of 1969, Smith was

December 30, 1967
Today in 1967, Fire Chief W. T. Miller announced that no one would be admitted to the department's annual
Fireman's Ball at the Capitol House without a date. The annual Fireman’s Ball had been a long-standing fund-
raising event for the department, but according to the pun-riddled announcement in the Morning Advocate,
there would be “no smoking stags around to cut in on happy couples."  The article went on to say that "the
chief's fiery ruling may backfire on the chief.  Mrs. Miller has the flu and could be buring with fever. Which
means the chief will either stay home or obeys his own rule and gets a date."

December 31, 1938
The first National Championship for High School football was played at Tiger Stadium this afternoon in 1939.
Governor Richard Leche had expressed a desire to see a championship game played in Louisiana, and the
Louisiana Sports Association sponsored contest. DuPont Manual High School of Louisville, Kentucky,
defeated New Britain High School of Connecticut, 28-20. Clarence Sidebottom of Manual was the star of the
game, scoring three touchdowns, including one in the last minute to win the game as a disappointing crowd of
10,000 watched. There would be another national championship played the following year, won by Pine Bluff,
Arkansas, over an undefeated Baton Rouge High, before the game was abandoned.