Recent news accounts of a move to rename the Middleton Library caused me to think back to my earliest administrative days at LSU.
In June 1971, I left the faculty to work as an administrative assistant to James W. Reddoch, then dean of student affairs and subsequently the vice chancellor for student affairs.
One of my earliest assignments was to read through the old office files to get a sense of its interests and history. Among these materials was what Reddoch called Middleton’s “21 questions.” These questions he had addressed to the LSU Board of Supervisors during the 1960s regarding racial segregation and LSU.
Fifty years later, I cannot recall specific questions but I do recall that they appeared calculated to demonstrate to the LSU board the time for segregation had passed.
Reddoch had served as an assistant to then Middleton and knew him quite well. He used the “21 Questions” as an example of how Middleton had been able to deal with an LSU board which at that time was strongly segregationist.
It was only by living through the era of the 1950s and 1960s that one can appreciate the social and economic pressures against integration experienced by those who were involved in higher education administration in the South. My impression then was that although Middleton opposed segregation, he realized that he had to deal with an LSU Board favoring segregation.
And for an Army general, this was not surprising to me as I also note that the U.S. military was being integrated during WWII. Then, through President Harry Truman’s 1948 Executive Order, the military was integrated during the Korean War.
Some years later I came to know Middleton in more depth when I was involved in reading and reviewing the manuscript for his biography written by Dr. James Price, director of the LSU School of Journalism when I taught there.
Today, Reddoch, Price and Middleton have passed on and I am one of the few who may be able to comment knowledgeably on this long-ago topic.
Although renaming the LSU Middleton Library would be a disservice, it would be an even graver disservice to tar a heroic WWII leader and distinguished educator with the brush of racism using today’s standards applied to the then historical climate of more than 50 years ago.
retired vice chancellor