Engster: LSU forced to examine its complicated history


By JIM ENGSTER | President, Tiger Rag Magazine

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has completed removal of statues of four Confederate era icons in New Orleans. Gone in an eventful month are Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and the Liberty Monument.

The statues were painful reminders of Louisiana’s involvement in the War Between the States, a time so divisive that President Abraham Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Alexander Todd, was killed in the Battle of Baton Rouge while fighting for the South on Aug. 5, 1862.

Mayor Landrieu was born in New Orleans in 1960 and attended college in Washington D.C. at the Catholic University of America. Confederate reminders also line the landscape in the Nation’s Capital.

General Albert Pike, a Confederate legend, is on display at 3rd and D Streets NW in Washington D.C. The Pike Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Mayor Landrieu’s sister Mary attended LSU and was a proud member of Delta Gamma. The D.G. Sorority House is as segregated today as it was in the 1970s when Mary Landrieu, a future three-term U.S. Senator, was a proud member of the sorority.

The end of the Civil War has lingered for decades in Louisiana, and the LSU campus, which moved in 1926 to its present location, is a living tribute to the Confederacy.

The tallest building on campus is Edmund Kirby Smith Hall, where this writer resided in Room 1108 from 1978-80.

When I bunked there, we were more concerned about the unreliability of the air conditioning units than we were about the name on the dormitory. Students used lights in our rooms to spell out “TOO HOT” from the windows during a notable steamy semester in 1979.

Smith was one of only seven officers to reach the rank of Full General with the Confederates. He surrendered his army at Galveston, then fled abroad to avoid arrest for treason.

LSU is planning sometime in the next several years to blow up Kirby Smith Hall, which was built and named in 1965 when the Civil Rights struggle was embroiling the South 100 years after Smith surrendered to the Union on May 26, 1885.

The street intersecting Highland Road by the Union and the Faculty Club is Raphael Semmes Road. Semmes was an Admiral in the Navy for the South. A street is also named in his honor in Richmond, and a life-sized monument of Semmes dominates the scenery of Mobile where he died in 1877.

LSU President King Alexander reports for duty in a building that bears the name of Thomas Boyd, the president of LSU from 1896 to 1926.

Boyd enrolled the first women at LSU in 1904, but his rule is synonymous with affinity for the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, and LSU did not integrate its student body until three decades after Boyd’s death.

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If President Alexander were to follow Mayor Landrieu’s strategy, the names of Kirby Smith, Raphael Semmes and David Boyd would be immediately banned on campus. And the LSU Tigers would be changing their nickname.

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Boyd’s older brother, David, was a Confederate officer and served as president of the University before Thomas.

David Boyd was a member of the faculty at Pineville where LSU began under the leadership of Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman. David Boyd Hall sits prominently as the site for the LSU Graduate School.

Most significantly, the LSU Tigers were named to memorialize the Louisiana Tigers, the ferocious Confederate infantry troops, who were praised for their fearless never say die fighting spirit.

If President Alexander were to follow Mayor Landrieu’s strategy, the names of Kirby Smith, Raphael Semmes and David Boyd would be immediately banned on campus. And the LSU Tigers would be changing their nickname.

The chances of a Confederate purging anytime soon at LSU are about as long as the odds of Fraternity and Sorority Row opening doors this fall to people of all ethnic backgrounds sleeping under the same roofs.

It is curious that a succession of streets north of campus includes roads named in honor of American presidents, including the 15th U.S. President James Buchanan and the 17th President Andrew Johnson, but there is no street on which to drive in Baton Rouge named after No. 16, Abraham Lincoln.

Somehow Raphael Semmes got a street name a stone’s throw from the Parade Grounds while Honest Abe did not reach the same level of reverence more than six decades after his assassination.

If Mitch Landrieu were calling the shots, the Tigers might become the Lincolns. With so much monetary power in corporate naming rights, LSU might be tantalized to offer its nickname to the highest bidder.

The money that would be available for a company to be connected to Louisiana’s most treasured entity, the LSU football program, would be staggering. LSU could fully fund the TOPS program and repair its crumbling infrastructure in the guise of scrapping vestiges of being on the wrong side of history in the Civil War.

It is too early to tell how our country will react to New Orleans leading the charge to obliterate its stained past. The removal of General Lee was front page news Saturday in both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

The discussion about Confederate monuments and related memorials did not end with the 7,000 pound sculpture of the general coming off his pedestal at Lee Circle.

This debate has just begun. And LSU will be a focal point in the conversation.

18 Comments

  1. First off the statues needed to go. They were offensive and should’ve been taken down. They are an after thought and really shouldn’t be saluted. People in the world are ready to go in a different direction but the hatred and bigot feelings of a few under-cover demons are clinging onto a past that will turn them into stones because they keep looking back to their Sodom and Gomorrah. Now while saying that I think this article is trying to poke fun at a very serious situation. LSU is not the only school that had confederate ties. bama did, Texas did, Arkansas did, South Carolina did, and many others. But hey I’d be fine to see all the HBCU’S rise back up in college sports. Because if y’all EVIL DEMONS keep up this hatred then it will consume you. All the high profiled student athletes that really mean something will go to the HBCU’S. Then where is y’all’s money gonna come from. When USC and Michigan start to dominate the college world of sports again. Good white folk and good people in general in the south better step up in the face of the bad demons and get rid of them. The money will leave the SEC and go elsewhere again. Don’t let the hateful evil of a few stop progress that many have died for. And yes many whites have died for the progress that we now see. And Robert E. Lee and Beauregard and who ever else had any hand in what was the confederate south was what we’ve triumphed over. So if your feeling some type of way about these demonic statues being removed then maybe you should be removed as well.

    • Usc and Michigan dominate again? They can’t even win their conferences anymore. Thise evil devil statues bother you that much? Dont look, or at the very least spend a few minutes and look up the WHOLE history of these men and what they did besides serve a few year supporting their family, friends and relatives from the aggressive attack from a foreign country.

    • You are a complete idiot and simple minded fool! You seem to know little to nothing about history! You are ate up with hate and unwarranted bias! Please do some time educating yourself because someone has filled your head with bs!

    • They may have been offensive to some people, but were established by some whose loved ones had served with Lee, Beauregard, and against post-war reconstruction corruption and abuse. You assume the War was about whether to have slaves or not, when that was only one of a dozen issues, most of which were economic issues such as tariffs, taxes on goods, refusal to give the less-populated areas in the south a fair role in government for the sake of their families and businesses. Slavery existed first in Africa, as well as enslavement of the Jews. Hundreds of years later the Incas and Aztecs, and others from central America either enslaved their competing tribes or simply beheaded them. Many years later, slavery spread into the northern states by ships from New Jersey and New York, brought to the South.

  2. These above comments and other rhetoric surrounding the monuments and their removal are absolute revisionist history and are based on a misinterpretation of the history of the south, LSU and Louisiana. I am a Virginian and within miles of my home I can show you the graves of Louisianians who died for the cause on the field of honor. I attended LSU and am proud of my adopted La heritage. All that being said, the idea of the south fighting to defend slavery is bull….: my ancestors owned no slaves but served in all branches of service, and lost everything as a result of the damn yankees who torched and destroyed wantonly here in the Shenandoah Valley. Our people fought for liberty from the oppressive northern government, the idea that the northerners knew better how we should run ourselves than we did. New Orleans and much of the south has been invaded and gentrified by yankees who are continuing to do the same as their ancestors did, that is change the south to fit their own image, and turn it into the generic fast food government subsidized state. Removal of the honored Christian gentlemen Lee, Davis and Beauregard are ways for this US version of ISIS to promote their own agenda. Look closer at the character and underpinnings of these gentlemen and realize that they were honorable men who subscribed to the basic precepts of the original constitution. They and the south at no time threatened the existence of the north to govern itself, but desired to separate and address the economic and social issues of slavery and other problems unfettered by the taxation and limits imposed by the federal government. Secession was never illegal. It is still not. The war didn’t decide that issue. It simply made it possible for the north to continue to mine the south for economic gain. Modern organizations such as the NAACP, SPLC and others have an agenda that fits the goal of their fund raising needs – to vilify the heroes of the short life of the Confederacy and sell the lie that they were in some way harbangers of racial hate. Nonsense. Lee in particular was a man of sterling morals and character, and any serious student of his life knows the true man he was. How will the removal of Confederate history affect the economy of New Orleans asks the above editorial? Well let me tell you from afar…it is a signal of a win for liberal agendas that helps transit the city from that of a community with an eye to diverse history that singles our and destroys one point of view in deference to another. It makes the city more like the rest of generic America and cuts out one part of its uniqueness. I for one and many of the people here in my part of the world take a serious view of this situation as saying those of us who care about our southern heritage are no longer welcome in that town. That being said, I shall spend no more of my dollars in relief like I did for Katrina and I shall spend no more of my dollars in visiting and tourism in that city as I have done in the past. I am hoping that instead of reviling the Confederate past, LSU and the rest of Louisiana will once again celebrate this part of our past to recognize what it truly was – the basic American tenant of self government unfettered by oppression from a central monarchy, which is which the north was working toward. Slavery can be properly addressed for what it was in this total view and its overall context as an American problem not just of the south.

  3. I think the distinction that needs to be made in the South regarding erecting monuments and naming buildings and streets isn’t terribly complicated. Those who wish to complicate the matter do so, in my opinion, out of the desire to stem the rising tide of Confederate delegitimization.

    The standard is this for figures such as the Boyd brothers and the name of LSU’s sports teams: Is there a legitimate reason for the name, or the honor, apart from service to the Confederate States of America, the cult of the Lost Cause or white supremacy.

    David Boyd and Thomas Boyd both were consequential presidents of the University. David Boyd was a founding faculty member.

    Raphael Semmes? Not so much. Kirby Smith? Nuh-uh. The LSU Tigers? Frankly, regardless of the original inspiration for the nickname, it’s only as Confederate as you make it — it’s not like Mike the Tiger wears a Zouave uniform and opens the football season by firing on Fort Sumter.

    You know who did fire on Fort Sumter? P.G.T. Beauregard. Two of the cannon he used are in front of the Military Science building — gifts to LSU from Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, its founding superintendent.

    So, if you want to make things straight, rename those things that have no significance to LSU apart from the Lost Cause. Leave the Tigers be. Rename the LSU Union for W.T. Sherman — who I think would appreciate the wit of that, as well as the tribute to political union of the states — and erect a big statue of him inside (where it will be harder for “proud Southerners” to vandalize).

    It’s not complicated . . . or, rather, it’s only as complicated as you make it.

    • You made a good point-against your own argument. Political correctness is a 20th and 21st century revision of 19th century history, so let’s take a look at W.T. Sherman: by today’s standards, ole W.T. would correctly be prosecuted as a “War Criminal” who allowed his troops to rape, steal, plunder and burn CIVILIAN PROPERTY while occupying Alabama and points east to South Carolina. Read history before you bark. The southern Generals and their armies were much, much more civil in treatment of civilians in enemy territories, as well as honorable in obeying the rules of war under flags of truce. Generals Lee and Jackson were patriots of their states, fighting mostly in Virginia where Fort Sumpter is 2 states distant from where the Union invasion began. The southern soldiers did not even want to invade the north, and did not do so until September, 1862-in response to northern aggression.

  4. Sherman’s name should NEVER be placed on anything associated with LSU. He led a group that raped, murdered, and burned their way to Atlanta. He had no honor and deserves none

  5. Anthony Joseph your comment was nonsense, and by that I mean most of it made no sense, and was plain hate filled blubbering.
    I’m gonna dumb this down a little bit.
    I went to LSU 1991-1994, and until this article didn’t know half of the stories behind why what building was named what or why what street was named what or how the tigers got their name! Maybe I didn’t pay attention in history class, or maybe it’s just that 150 years after slavery I just don’t dwell on it! And I truly don’t think that the vast majority of students walk around campus today thinking ‘I can’t bear to walk past that building bc it was named after a slave owner’!
    The fact is, the statues, buildings and streets weren’t named to honor men because they were slave owners, they are many legitimate reasons for honoring them, not the least of which were courage, tenacity and leadership. And tearing down the past doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. History is exactly that, history. It’s over, gone, time to let it go and celebrate where we are today. For the rest of eternity the generations long separated from the era of slavery cannot continue to pay reparations for sins they did not commit.
    So, Build some new buildings, pave some more roads, and name them after more commonly palatable people! And for god sakes, stop looking for reasons to be angry and divisive.

    And to the writer of the article, don’t bash on sorority and fraternity row. There are black sororities and fraternities that don’t have any whites, muslims, hispanics or other ethnicities. So it goes both ways. But I am an advisor for a sorority in Texas and I can proudly say that we have a diverse membership….are we majority white, yes, but we’re not exclusive.

  6. I’m going to pipe in on this I’m going to clear the air I am not a LSU fan but I do follow LSU sports. That being said I am a veteran of the Louisiana national guard brigade . I already knew that we are and have always been called the Louisiana Tiger Brigade because of our history fighting for the state and the United States. We are on par with active duty Infantry units. One of the best in the army national guard. All soldiers no matter what race or creed own our name , That being said all the African American soldiers that have served love the idea of being called tigers. You say southern heritage is offensive well what I find offensive is the fact that these liberal snowflakes want to erase history. Well too bad it happened drop it everyone living in the United States and Louisiana have the same opportunity in life I can’t help it if they are to lazy to take advantage of it . People say white privileged that is a crock of BS more African Americans get drafted into pro sports than white people so who is privileged news flash it isn’t white people. How about you pick up a history book and learn more about these honorable men that you like to trash and while you are at it be sure to learn where slavery truly started hint it was in Africa.

  7. The original LA Tigers were “Wheat’s Tigers” who were organized as an infantry battalion in 1861 in New Orleans. The Washington Artillery was also formed in New Orleans as an elite artillery battalion who served in multiple theaters of the War Between The States. COL. Roberdeau Wheat was approximately 6’5″ and was a veteran of the Italian campaign with Gerabaldi, as were some of his Tigers. He was the only man who could discipline and control the Tigers, who were fearless and violent combatants. Not long after the war began, the Tigers’ reputation spread to all Louisiana troops, who also became known as “Tigers”. Their reputation was based on their courage and because they attacked when ordered to do so, held their ground when ordered to do so, and only after loudly protesting did they retreat when ordered to do so. At First Manassas (Bull Run to yankees), 500 of Wheat’s Tigers held off 10,000 union troops by ATTACKING them! Though they were greatly outnumbered, they held on long enough to permit an obscure Confederate named Thomas J. Jackson to form a formidable line and defeat the Union army and earn his nom de guerre, “Stonewall”.
    In the early years of the term of Louisiana Governor Huey Long, he suggested to the coach that the L.S.U. football team should be named after the Tigers, and that is how they became the Tigers, like it or NOT. Only in recent history have the Tigers been called “the Bayou Bengals”, the “Fighting Tigers” and so forth. Their history is from Wheat’s Tigers, and I am proud to have served in the Louisiana National Guard and The U.S. Army Reserve, retiring as a Lt. Col. (LTC). I will never disgrace my heritage as a descent of multiple Confederate grandparents by repudiating them like the “politically correct” politicians such as little Mitch Landrieu, who cares more for his political ambitions than for those who gave their lives and fortunes to obtain Freedom from a northern-controlled Federal Congress and President. God bless the South and the USA!

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