Troy Middleton, William Shaw, William Rainach

Lousiana State University President Troy Middleton, center, answers questions as LSU administrators appeared before a special committee of ten state legislators in open hearing after 66 members of the LSU faculty were reported to have signed a petition protesting pending legislation closing schools should integration be forced, in Baton Rouge, June 11, 1958. William Shaw, right, legal counsel for segregation committee, asks questions while Sen. William Rainach, chairman of the special committee and a state segregation leader is at left.

(The Center Square) – The LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday voted without objection to strip the name of a former school president and segregationist from the main campus library.

Troy H. Middleton was a senior Army officer best known for his role in World War II’s “Battle of the Bulge.” He was LSU’s president from 1951 until 1962.

Black student leaders launched the effort to rename Middleton Library, citing its namesake’s staunch opposition to integration during his years leading the school. A new name has not been selected.

“LSU students shouldn’t be asked to study in a library bearing the name of someone who didn’t want them to be LSU students,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during the board’s online meeting. “The fact that he was a great military leader doesn’t erase the fact that as president of LSU he held well-documented segregationist beliefs and he conformed his actions to those beliefs.”

Woody Jenkins, a former Louisiana legislator and friend of the Middleton family, argued against the decision. He said Middleton chaired a 1965 commission that worked to implement the federal Civil Rights Act in Louisiana.

“To pull out one or two comments from the 1950s or early 60s does not tell the story of Troy Middleton,” Jenkins said. “He wanted to implement the civil rights law of the United States.”

Katrina Dunn, president of the LSU A.P. Tureaud Sr. Black Alumni Chapter, said Middleton failed to protect the university’s first black undergraduate student, who faced persistent harassment and left campus after one semester.

“This is not an erasure of history,” she said. “This is a reckoning.”

Board member James Williams said Middleton’s segregationist views amount to more than “just a few stray comments." He quoted a 1956 letter in which Middleton said, “I do not want negro students at LSU, I believe in segregation of the races, and no matter what may come, I shall not associate with negroes.”

Williams also cited Board of Supervisor minutes in which Middleton claimed LSU “has done more than any institution, organization or individual to preserve segregation in Louisiana.”

“I gagged when I read that,” Williams said.

Diversity training will be mandated for faculty across the system’s campuses and for the supervisors, and assuming the full board approves, the supervisors will establish a new standing committee focused on social justice and inclusion, board Chairwoman Mary Werner said.

“We join our students to say that black lives do matter,” interim university President Tom Galligan said. “We all know there’s more work to be done.”

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.