The official position of LSU is that the renaming of streets has nothing to do with the debate over Confederate memorials, even if the street in question is the one in front of the much-used Student Union building.
If you believe that, I have some Confederate bonds I want to sell you, at an attractive discount.
The university management — in this case, “leadership” is a stretch — proposed and the Board of Supervisors rubber-stamped a list of street names to be changed.
While the most prominent of them to be renamed is Raphael Semmes Road, named for the Confederate warship captain and one-time LSU teacher, there are others on the list that are problematic for anyone concerned with historic preservation.
Gov. Claiborne Drive, between West Roosevelt and Aster, is being renamed Spruce Lane. The first governor of Louisiana, an appointee of Thomas Jefferson, is dissed.
Dorothy Dix Drive, named after a newspaper columnist of national reputation from the old Picayune in 19th century New Orleans, is to be ditched for a parking lot. It is kind of a sad fate for the Ann Landers and “Dear Abby” of her day.
A street named after Etienne de Boré will become Field House Drive. De Boré first granulated sugar on his plantation in what is now Audubon Park in New Orleans and became the first mayor of New Orleans under U.S. rule. The sugar industry flourishes in Louisiana to this day.
Thus goes the 19th century, apparently of no account to the modern-day university.
University spokesmen said that there was no underlying rationale for this other than rationalizing street names, no “formal” discussions. The list certainly suggests that no thought was given to some of the new names, with such ringing new designations as “Athletic Service Lane” and “Spruce Lane” giving little impression of deliberation.
If there is no thought given to these names, why is Semmes Road to become Veterans Drive? That suggests that at least somebody involved in the carefully submerged bureaucratic process understood who Semmes was, a warrior, although perhaps in an unfortunate cause.
Perhaps in the discussions that did not occur formally Claiborne’s slaveholding came up, informally.
Are there no prominent Louisianians who could be honored with new street names, even if the anti-Confederate jihad erases Semmes? For that matter, why not name a street after William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union general who was the first president of what became LSU? LSU teacher James Carville, who knows a thing or two about branding, suggests such a move would be good for the university’s national reputation.
Alas, the courage of convictions has faded from LSU’s management since the days of Major Sherman, USA, and his protégé Captain David Boyd, CSA — later president of LSU, and for whom an administration building is still named.
Say what you will about New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council, who consigned to warehouses several prominent Confederate monuments, they fought that battle in the light of day, by a democratic process. This action by LSU does not rise to the level of plausible deniability.
Email Lanny Keller at [email protected].