|January 16, 1933
Award winning author Ernest Gaines was born in Ponte Coupee Parish this week in
1933. He was among the fifth generation of his sharecropper family to be born on a
plantation that later became the setting and premise for many of his later works.
Gaines then spent three years at St. Augustine School, a Catholic school for African
Americans in New Roads. At the age of 15, his family left Louisiana in 1948, and in
1956, he published his first short story, The Turtles. Gaines’s works have been taught
in college classrooms, translated into dozens of languages and filmed as television
and feature films.
January 17, 2015
Louisiana’s last known living Orphan Train Rider in Louisiana, Alice Kearns Geoffory
Bernard, died in Lafayette today in 2015. She was 98 years old and had lived her
entire life in Louisiana after being brought to the state in 1919. Between 1854 and
1929, The Children’s Aid Society of New York and The New York Foundling Hospital
started collecting resources to help the ever-increasing 250,000 homeless or
abandoned children in the city. Believing the children would have a better opportunity
to thrive in rural areas, The Orphan Trains brought more than 2,000 children to New
Orleans, Morgan City, Lafayette, Opelousas and Mansura.
January 18, 1823
Today in 1823, Louisiana’s smallest parish was created by the legislature when it
separated Lafayette Parish from St. Martin Parish. In 1821, Jean Mouton, an early
settler in the area, donated land for the construction of a Catholic church, which would
become the church parish of St. John the Evangelist of Vermilion. After the creation of
the parish in 1823, Mouton made a second land donation to the new community, this
time for a courthouse. The settlement of Vermilionville became the new parish's seat
and was renamed Lafayette in 1844 in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette.
January 19, 1676
Nicolas Chauvin de La Freniere, who established the Opelousas Post in 1720, was
born in Montreal today in 1676. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the region
between the Mississippi and Sabine rivers was called Opelousas. In 1719, the French
Captain Renauld d’Hauterive sent a military exploration team headed by de la
Frénière to patrol the area and establish a French presence in the area. “Opelousas
Post” became a major trading post and a midway stopping point for travelers between
Natchitoches and New Orleans. Claiming 1720 as its year of founding, Opelousas is
Louisiana’s third oldest European settlement, after Natchitoches in 1714 and New
Orleans in 1718.
January 20, 1980
Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena today in 1980, Shreveport native Terry
Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP for the second year in a row. Bradshaw was
born in Shreveport, where he attended Woodlawn High School and led the Knights to
the 1965 AAA High School Championship game. After graduation, he attended
Louisiana Tech, where most professional scouts considered him to be the most
outstanding college football player in the nation. He graduated owning virtually all
Louisiana Tech passing records at the time and was drafted by the Steelers. In 1988,
he was inducted into the state of Louisiana's sports hall of fame.
January 21, 1971
Today in 1971, Dr. Edgar Galloway, Director of the Confederate Memorial Medical
Center, finally stopped tilting at windmills and issued a directive to department heads
and all hospital personnel permitting female employees to wear pants on the job. His
memo set forth standards and policies governing the wearing of pants and specified
details of color, style, and fabric. The issue had emerged in the Shreveport Times
when it was noted that the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Medical School
had officially sanctioned the wearing of pantsuits. The writer cited an instance when,
“Two brave nurses [at CMMC] wore them, were reprimanded and told ‘never again
January 22, 1812
Louisiana’s first constitution was enacted by the legislature of the Territory of Orleans
today in 1812. W. C. C. Claiborne, governor of the Territory of Orleans in 1811, had
called the convention. Based on his earlier experience with developing a constitution
for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, he oversaw the development of the document that
closely tracked the Kentucky document but differed from it in several areas. The 1812
Constitution was a creature of its time, permitting only wealthy white men who paid
taxes could vote. Additionally, candidates for governor would be voted upon, but the
legislature would choose from the two who received the most votes.
January 23, 1849
“Old Rough and Ready,” President Zachary Taylor, had spent his early life in Virginia,
Kentucky and Indiana, but as an adult, he considered Baton Rouge to be his home
until his election in 1848. While he had been leading an American army in the
Mexican-American War, his wife Margaret had helped to establish an Episcopal chapel
that would become the city’s St. James Episcopal Church. Today in 1849, his Baton
Rouge neighbors gathered at his home to wish him well before leaving for Washington
the next day to assume his duties as President. He would die in office the following
year and never return to Louisiana.
January 24, 1805
This week in 1805, Louisiana's first recorded divorce was granted to Captain James
and Lydia Stille shortly after he had been posted to New Orleans as captain of artillery
on January 1, 1805. Later that year, he was sent by territorial governor C.C.
Claiborne on "a secret mission to the Westward." The act of the territorial legislature
and signed by Governor Claiborne stipulated that the marriage was fully dissolved
and each spouse was “fully authorized’ to “contract in matrimony again” whenever to
either “it may seem right.” Divorce would continue to rare in Louisiana as the
legislature would approve only twenty-four divorces between 1805 and 1827.
January 25, 1962
Federal judges in New Orleans issued a ruling today prohibiting Louisiana officials
from enforcing state laws mandating the segregation of bus terminals in Alexandria,
Monroe and Shreveport. A similar case concerning Baton Rouge bus and train
depots was still in litigation. The judges ruled that segregated facilities violated the
14th amendment to the Constitution and enjoined officials of the Continental Southern
Bus Line from taking any measures to segregate facilities. Louisiana Attorney General
Jack Gremillion stated afterward that signs segregating the waiting rooms were still
posted and that the state would take its case to the United States Supreme Court, but
that court refused to hear the case.
January 26, 1861
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, a convention of representatives
met in Baton Rouge voted 113 to 17 to adopt the Ordinance of Secession, taking
Louisiana out of the union. Judge James G. Taliaferro of Catahoula Parish was the
most outspoken opponent, warning that secession would bring war, ruin, and decline.
Baton Rougeans rushed to the abandoned U. S. Army Garrison on Third Street to run
up the Lone Star Flag and the governor called for homes and businesses to put lights
in their windows to show their support. On February 4, 1861, the State of Louisiana
joined the Confederate States of America.
January 27, 1730
Today in 1730, French provincial Governor Etienne Perier charged Sieur Jean-Paul
LeSeur with the task of tracking down the Natchez Indians who had conducted the
Fort Rosalie Massacre in Natchez, Mississippi, on November 28, 1729. The Natchez
had destroyed the French settlement, killing nearly all the men and taking hundreds of
women and children captive. The Natchez slipped away in the dark of night to the
Sicily Island area in present-day Catahoula Parish. In 1731, the French attacked once
again, and members of the tribe went to the Natchitoches area, where many of them
were captured in the fall of 1731 and sold into slavery in Saint-Domingue.
January 28, 1954
Suspicious husbands in Kentwood were watching their wives for signs of waning love
this week in 1954, when an ad appeared in the weekly Kentwood News advertising:
“For Sale: One husband. Assets: Thirtyish, personable, intelligent, linguist, well-read,
ambitious, wonderful father, extremely affectionate. Liabilities: Poor provider. Terms:
$75,000 cash.” Newspaper editor Ted Hussar said that there had been no observable
fights since the ad was published, but that a lot of husbands weren’t too happy,
although the figured it was a joke. “The wife who put it in said she was doing it as a
joke,” said Hussar. “But I kinda doubt it. You never know about women.”
January 29, 1964
Today in 1964, Grand Avenue High School in DeRidder was the site of the highest
scoring boys high school basketball game in history, when Grand Avenue beat
Cameron Parish's Audrey Memorial High School by a score of 211 to 29. There is very
little available information about the game, but perhaps the score tells you everything
you need to know. The game still stands on the list of the biggest blow-outs in sports
as the most lopsided high school basketball game. In 2016, Grand Avenue High
School alumni and friends gathered at the 'Match Box' in DeQuincy to celebrate the
52nd anniversary of the game.
January 30, 1817
St. Martinville was incorporated as Louisiana’s sixth oldest city today in 1817. In the
mid-1700’s, Fr. Jean Louis Civrey accompanied Acadian settlers to the Attakapas
district and became the first resident curate. In his records, he referred to is new
home as "la Nouvelle Acadie", and his new parish was named "l'Église des Attakapas
(Attakapas Church)" and later, "lÉglise St-Martin de Tours (St. Martin de Tours
Church)." This is said to be the source of the name St. Martinville. St. Martinville is the
parish seat of St. Martin Parish and the home of the world-famous Evangeline Oak.
January 31, 1988
Zachary native Doug Williams was named MVP of Super Bowl XXII today in 1988.
Williams attended Cheneyville High School and Grambling State University, where he
played for legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. He guided the Tigers to a 36-7
record as a four-year starter and was named Black College Player of the Year twice.
He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and led the Bucs to the playoffs three
times in four years. Williams was the only starting African-American quarterback in the
NFL at that time. Playing for the Washington Redskins in 1988, he led the team to a
42–10 win over the Denver Broncos.