HAMMOND — The Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University recently announced the opening of a new exhibit titled “Pioneers in Politics: Examining Influential Political Figures as Revealed in the Holdings of the Center.”
Sam Hyde, center director and Southeastern history professor, said the exhibit is designed to educate the campus community and wider public about the vast holdings highlighting regional and statewide political history that are housed in the archives of the center. Completing research and construction of the exhibit were the center’s graduate research assistants, Amelia Haag, of Slidell; Abigail Simmons, of Kentwood; and Bailey Hall Sones, of Hammond.
“The exhibit spans the Colonial period to the present day and includes details revealing the political careers of some well-known figures, as well as some the public has likely never heard of before,” Hyde said. “With the exception of a few editorial suggestions from assistant director Keith Finley and myself, the students put the project together completely on their own.”
The exhibit includes information on nationally recognized figures such as Huey Long and longtime Congressman James H. “Jimmie” Morrison, as well as local leaders such as former Hammond Mayors Tom Anderson and Debbie Saik Pope. Special segments are devoted to the contributions of women, African Americans, and long-term families from the Florida Parishes.
“Preparing this exhibit, showcasing Southern and Louisiana politicians gave us a chance to closely explore the original artifacts and materials within the center’s holdings,” said Simmons, who led the effort. “We did our best to reveal the positive aspects of each individual's career.”
“Many people are drawn to stories of corruption and other negative aspects often associated with political figures,” added Sones. “We instead focused more on their constructive policies that helped shape Louisiana communities.”
Haag summed up the project by saying, “It was a lot of work, but it allowed us to take a deep dive into the center’s holdings. We found a lot of extraordinary three-dimensional artifacts, such as Huey Long’s signed autobiography, campaign materials, Civil War-era swords and even Jimmie Davis’ cowboy hat and boots.”
The exhibit opened Nov. 20 and will remain available for viewing by the public until March 10. It will be housed in the exhibition area of the center on the third floor of Sims Library on Southeastern’s campus. Interested individuals are invited to visit, but masks are required and social distancing will be maintained.