July 1, 1862
More than two months after the Union Army took New Orleans in April 1862, this
morning’s Times-Picayune featured a long front-page open letter from Confederate
Governor Thomas O. Moore to the people of the occupied city. His letter attacked the
occupiers of the city and entreated residents to hold them at arms’ length, offering no
trade, assistance or other interaction. “There cannot be a war for arms and a peace
for trade between two peoples at the same time. We cannot exchange our corn, cotton
and cattle for their gold.” Bold words, but they would be increasingly disregarded as
the war wore on.
July 2, 1941
Miss Margaret Reed, head librarian for East Baton Rouge Public Library announced
the plans of libraries around the state to assist the war effort today in 1941. In Baton
Rouge, the parish library would open a branch at the Baton Rouge air base at Harding
Field to serve the soldiers. In Natchitoches Parish, the library would open the library on
Sunday afternoons to serve soldiers visiting the town from four nearby camps. The
Bossier Parish library provided assistance to soldiers at the Barksdale air base who
were setting up the base library. Libraries across the state would order additional
books about blueprint reading, electrical wiring and automotive mechanics.
July 3, 1898
When Daniel Henry Holmes died today in 1898, the department store he'd founded in
New Orleans a half century earlier was the largest store in the South. D. H. Holmes was
born in Ohio in 1816. Orphaned at age two, he was raised by his brother Sam in
Cincinnati and clerked in dry goods store owned by Eugene Levassor, learning
business methods and the French language. In 1841, he opened his own store on
Canal Street in New Orleans. In 1989, the chain of department stores he built would be
sold to Dillards. His original Canal Street store would eventually become a hotel.
July 4, 1843
The namesake of McNeese State University was born on the Fourth of July today in
1843. John McNeese was born in New York and came south to attend Tulane
University. After the Civil War and a recuperation in Texas, he returned to Louisiana in
1873, opening a singing and writing school in Calcasieu Parish. In 1888, he was
elected secretary of parish School Board and parish superintendent where he
inaugurated night school for adults and a central high school for the parish. The Lake
Charles Junior College was established in 1939, and renamed for McNeese when it
became a four-year institution in 1970.
July 5, 2003
Act 607 was signed by Governor Kathleen Blanco this week in 2003, establishing the
Natchitoches Meat Pie as Louisiana's Official State Food. In a food state like
Louisiana, that's saying something, but the meat pie is up to the challenge. It is similar
to a Spanish picadillo beef empanada, but the use of wheat flour as an ingredient is
significant. While corn is grown locally and is a staple of both Spanish and Native
American food, wheat was probably brought in on the annual supply convoy over El
Camino Real de los Tejas (the Old San Antonio Road) or sourced from Europe along
the Red River.
July 6, 1965
This week in 1965, Miss Louisiana was crowned in Monroe for the first time. Maud
Allison Price had represented Louisiana at the 1922 Miss America Pageant as Miss
New Orleans. There would be no "Miss Louisiana" until 1933, and no Miss Louisiana
pageant until 1947. In 1965, the Monroe Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsored the
pageant, where Lynda Ferguson of Shreveport, representing Centenary College, took
the prize and would go on to finish in the Top Ten in Atlantic City. Over the years,
Louisiana has provided four first runner-ups in the MIss America Pageant, but it is the
only southern state never to have a Miss America.
July 7, 1898
This week in 1898, New England investor F. T.Roth spoke to the New Orleans
business community at the Cosmopolitan Hotel about the city's role in the aftermath of
the war that was ongoing with Spain in Cuba. “Why the war, it is a moral certainty that
Spain will be driven from the islands. It is just as certain that the United States, even if
we do not occupy the islands with our standing army, will have something to say in the
ruling of them.” He encouraged businessmen to be ready to supply whatever an
occupying army might need in Cuba and to establish regular, if not daily steamship
service to Havana.
July 8, 1994
Louisiana;s first astronaut Jim Halsell, Jr., was launched into space aboard the shuttle
Columbia today in 1994. Halsell was born in 1956 in West Monroe, attended West
Monroe High School and the Air Force Academy, and received masters degrees in
management from Troy University and in space operations from the Air Force Institute
of Technology. Selected by NASA in January 1990, Halsell became an astronaut in
July 1991. In 1994, STS-6 flew the second International Microgravity Laboratory and
conducted more than 80 experiments focusing on life sciences research in
microgravity. In 2017, Halsell would be charged with reckless murder in the traffic
deaths of two Alabama teenage girls.
July 9, 1982
Kenner witnessed what was at the time the second most deadly crash in U. S. aviation
history today in 1982. Pan Am Flight 759 had just lifted off from New Orleans
International Airport in a thunderstorm when it crashed into the Roosevelt subdivision
adjacent to the airport. All 145 souls on the flight and three local residents were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the
accident was a microburst-induced wind shear during the liftoff. Seven of the dead
were members of the Baton Rouge family of cemetery owner Percy Hood who were on
their way to a family funeral in Las Vegas.
July 10, 1964
Today in 1964, a group of African American men in Jonesboro founded the group
known as The Deacons for Defense and Justice to protect members of the Congress
of Racial Equality (CORE) against Ku Klux Klan violence. Most of the “Deacons” , led
by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick, were veterans of
World War II and the Korean War. The Jonesboro chapter organized its first affiliate
chapter in Bogalusa, led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. The national
attention that the Deacons garnered also persuaded state and national officials to
initiate efforts to neutralize the Klan in that area of the Deep South.
July 11, 1943
In World War II, the first prisoners of war from Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps began
arriving at Fort Polk near Alexandria this week in 1943. While primarily a training
facility, Fort Polk would also house prisoners in a large fenced-in compound in the
area now encompassing Honor Field, Fort Polk’s parade ground. The POWs picked
cotton, cut rice, and cut lumber, and they would also help to sandbag the raging Red
River in the summer of 1944. Prisoners were not forced to work, and some refused.
Those who worked earned scrip for their labor, with which they could buy such
necessities as toothpaste or snacks at their own Post Exchange.
July 12, 1934
Piano sensation Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr. was born in Shreveport today in 1934.
At age three, he began taking piano lessons from his mother, who had studied under
Arthur Friedheim, a pupil of Franz Liszt. When he was six, his family moved the family
to Kilgore, Texas. At the age of 23, he won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in
Moscow in 1958. Prior to announcing the winner, the judges asked permission of the
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. "Is he the best?"
Khrushchev asked. "Then give him the prize!" Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape
parade in New York City.
July 13, 1983
This week in 1983, Governor Dave Treen signed legislation designating the crawfish
as the state crustacean. Crawfish have been consumed for centuries by Native
Americans and in many parts of Europe, but commercial sale of crawfish in Louisiana
only began in the late 1800s. At that time, supplies were harvested from natural waters
throughout the southern region of the state. The first record of a commercial crawfish
harvest in the United States was in 1880 from the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana. In
1950, the Louisiana Legislature gave $10,000 to the Wildlife and Fisheries
Commission to fund studies of the life history of crawfish in small ponds.
July 14, 1913
On this 124th anniversary of Bastille Day in 1913, no community in America had more
reason to be grateful to the French than Monroe. Six sisters of the Franciscan
Missionaries of Our Lady, a Franciscan order headquartered in Calais, had come to
Louisiana to minister to the healthcare needs of the state. On July 14, 1913, the order
opened St. Francis Sanitarium in Monroe. In 1923, the order would open Our Lady of
the Lake Sanitarium in Baton Rouge; in 1949, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in
Lafayette would open; and in 2000, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Gonzales would open its
July 15, 1897
Louisiana's 46th governor, Sam Houston Jones, was born today in 1897. After earning
his degree from the LSU law school, Jones served in the Army in WWI and was
discharged in 1919. He would serve at the constitutional convention of 1921 and be
appointed assistant district attorney in 1925. He ran for governor in 1940 as an “Anti-
Long” and was elected in the wake of the Louisiana Hayride scandals. During his term,
he established the state civil service and benefited from growth of industry and
increased revenues during World War II. In 1948, he would run for governor again and
lose to Earl K. Long.