Students walk through the quad in front of Middleton Library on LSU's campus in 2014.

I was dismayed to read the recent commentary by Asher Price, a Texas journalist, in which he condescended to deliver his opinion, based upon a newly discovered letter written in 1961, that my great-grandfather, General Troy H. Middleton Sr., instead of being “a war hero who dutifully enforced desegregation” while president of LSU, actually was nothing but an “out-and-out racist,” full stop.

My dismay came not from Price’s discovery of the letter — the views Middleton expressed reflected those of a majority of white Southerners of his time — but from the realization that this great Louisianan of the 20th century now may well join the ever-growing list of Americans alive before 1965 who have been cast into the outer darkness for having held unfashionable racial views. That list includes, of course, nearly every great American from George Washington forward, so if Price’s hit-job is successful, Middleton will be in good company.

Price’s smear piece is full of the self-righteous indignation we’ve come to expect from “journalists” today, but the coup-de-grace comes when, after listing several appointments and awards Middleton received in recognition of “racial peace-keeping” following the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Price opines that it’s “[i]mpossible to say” whether Middleton had “really changed his personal views” from when he wrote the letter. So, according to Price, a letter by a university president regarding the university’s integration policy written in response to an inquiry from another university president means he’s an “out-and-out racist,” while several appointments and awards for “racial peace-keeping” after the letter was written means . . . precisely nothing. Got that?

Middleton’s impressive accomplishments over his 89-year lifetime are publicly available and need not be recounted here. In any case, Price did not think it appropriate to consider any of them in delivering his judgment upon Middleton. And why should he have? You see, Price has a new book to promote. In 2019, what better way for the “Texas journalist” to do that than to race from his cozy cubicle in Austin to alert the Baton Rouge newspaper of the explosive discovery of a letter which confirms the shocking fact that a Southern university president who cannot now defend himself held racial views that differ from those of the present day? Never mind that Price “can’t speak to the long history of integration at LSU” — he’s got books to sell!

Price surely will disregard this response as nothing more than a descendant’s quixotic defense of his ancestor’s good name. So be it. However, the utterly unremarkable “discovery” that Americans who came before us did not share our enlightened views on race relations grows less impressive by the day. May Louisianans not reward Price for his cheap attack on General Middleton.

T. Houston Middleton IV


Lake Charles