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Baton Rouge Civil Rights: Baton Rouge Civil Rights Leaders

Dr. Leo S. Butler


Dr. Leo Stanley Butler was born Aug. 12, 1899 in Burtville, a small community just south of Baton Rouge. He graduated from Baton Rouge Colored School in 1918. He was the first male to receive a diploma from what became McKinley. He completed both undergraduate and medical studies at Howard University in Washington D.C. In 1926 he began a lifelong practice of medicine and community service. He was known as the “Dean of Black Physicians.” He was named “General Practitioner of the Year” by the National Medical Association in 1962. Both the East Baton Rouge Medical Society and the East Baton Rouge Medical Association honored him for outstanding community service. For years, Dr. Butler gave countless hours of his time and talents to the Blundon Home. He later served as Chairman of the Board. He served as director of student health services for years at Southern University.

Dr. Butler served on numerous boards and commissions. He supported the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, the Red Cross and others including Blundon Home. He was one of the founders of First Federal Savings and Loan Association and served as First Vice President.

After over a half century of service in the community, Dr. Butler retired from active practice in 1977." He died in Sept. 1978.

Source: “The First Annual South Baton Rouge Black History Recognition Program”- Author – Ms. Helen Turner Rutledge,February 27, 1993

Valerian Smith

Dr. Valerian E. Smith was born in Charleston, West Virginia. He attended public schools in his home town and earned both his undergraduate and professional degrees at Howard University, Washington, D.C. He located and opened his dental practice in South Baton Rouge more than four decades ago. Typically, for him, he provided low cost and no cost services to many indigent persons in the community. He acquired the love of music from his parents and his avocation as a musician and playwright played a significant role in his life. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and toured with a musical group both overseas and in the U.S. He authored countless musical compositions, wrote, directed and produced stage productions and musicals. Notable among these are Changes, Supper, Awake, Black Vuai, Tribulations (a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and a musical fable for children’s theater, A Cat’s Tale. He founded the musical, theatrical performing group, the Baton Rouge Community Chorus. It was a rare season when he was not presenting one of his lively productions somewhere in the community, if not in Washington or some place else in the country. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Dr. Valerian Smith died Nov. 19, 1992 in Baton Rouge. He is survived by three daughters, Lynn Smith Whitfield, Kimberlegh Butler-Smith, and Shawne Smith Langston; a son, Valerian Butler-Smith II; and former wife, Valeria Jean Butler."

Source: “The First Annual South Baton Rouge Black History Recognition Program”- Author – Ms. Helen Turner Rutledge, February 27, 1993 and The Advocate Newspaper - Obituary November 24, 1992

Gus Young

Brother Gus Young Tells His Own Story

“No! Brother Gus Young, Jr. never let anyone speak for him; he was always a fearless spokesman for his organization, community and his people. Among political circles, he was known to be a man with his words on the tip of his tongue and his cigar in his hand.

To the Union of the late Mr. & Mrs. Gus Young, Sr. and Mrs. Sarah Davis Young, in Deerford, LA, was born on March 10, 1909, a son, Gus Young, Jr.

The heritage of pride and strength would be an asset to Gus Young in his later years but caused the loss of his father during his infancy.

At the age of nine months old, he was adopted and reared by his uncle and aunt, the late Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Carter of this parish.

He accepted Christ at an early age and became a longtime member of the New St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He served well as a layman and on the Deacon Board and the Brotherhood.

In the early forties, he moved to the Eden Park Community, his bride of a few years, Miss Victoria Louding Young. To this union no children were born.

Brother Gus Young continued his education throughout his adult life. While working at Humble Oil (now Exxon), he received his G.E.D. or High School equivalency diploma in the Adult Education Program. He retired in 1966 with thirty years service at Exxon.

Service to his community was exemplified by his affiliations: Ward Leader, First Ward Voters’ League, Parish Council Bi-Racial Committee, local NAACP Chapter, and James A. Taylor Lodge #78. It is fitting that his plaque bears the words of 11 Timothy 4:6-7.”

Joe Delpit

Joseph A. Delpit was born on January 9, 1940 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the son of Edmae Butler and the late Thomas H. Delpit. He is married to the former Precious Robinson and has five children: Joseph Jr., Thomas, Deidre, Desiree, and Derrick. He also has eleven grandchildren.

He attended elementary school at St. Francis Xavier and graduated from McKinley Senior High School. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge where he received credits in business administration and foods and nutrition. He also received certificates for participation in numerous business and community development seminars around the nation.

Since 1959, Mr. Delpit has owned and operated the Chicken Shack, a restaurant started by his father in 1935, with only thirty-four cents capital. He, along with his wife, Precious, has expanded and added many new locations. Mr. Delpit is now president of Chicken Shack Systems, Inc., a fast growing food chain. He is President of D & W Health Services, Inc., a nursing home doing business as The Oaks of Mid City. Mr. Delpit is also Secretary-Treasurer and C.F.O. of W.T.B., Inc., a corporation that is operating a new 80-bed nursing home facility in Shreveport, LA and Booker T. Washington Nursing Center.

Mr. Delpit’s memberships include: St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church Finance Board; member of the Baranco-Clark YMCA, Board of Management; a life member and former President of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP; former member of the Board of Directors of the Capital City Kids Baseball Clinic and former President; City-Parish Bi-Racial Committee; Mental Health Society Board of Management; and Capitol Region Planning Commission. He is a charter and life member of McKinley High School Alumni Association, Inc. and the Project Management Chairman for the restoration of the Old McKinley Building Project.

Honors received include: Honorary member of the James M. Frazier Honor Society; Honorary member of the Board of Directors of the Baton Rouge Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation; Outstanding Services in Southern University’s Alumni Federation and Southern University’s Center for Business and Economic Development: Business Man of the Year, 1973; listed in Outstanding Young Men of America; Louisiana Education Association Award in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of political and social action; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Award in recognition of outstanding leadership in business and civic community services; NAACP National Freedom Award for outstanding contributions to the cause of civil rights; McKinley High Alumni Award in recognition of outstanding school and community service; the office of Economic Opportunity Sergeant Shriver Award for dedicated service to the problems of the poor in America; Baton Rouge Business Man of the Year Award presented by the News Leader and Outstanding Service Award from the Baranco-Clark Branch, YMCA.

He is the first Black councilman to serve the City of Baton Rouge. He also served briefly as Mayor Pro Tempore. He was re-elected to a second term on the council with a first primary victory. While on the Council, he was elected chairman of the Executive Committee, and was appointed by the Governor to the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission. He was appointed by Governor Kathleen Blanco to serve again on the Port Commission in 2004.

In November 1975, he was elected State Representative of District 67 in the first primary and served on the Municipal and Parochial Affairs Committee, the Agriculture Committee and the Appropriations Committee. In April, 1980, Representative Delpit was sworn in for a second term as the Representative from District 67, East Baton Rouge Parish, after a first primary victory in the October, 1979 Primary Election. In 1983, Representative Delpit was unopposed for an unprecedented third term as the State Representative for District 67. On March 12, 1984, he was elected Speaker Pro Tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, making him the highest-ranking Black elected official in the state of Louisiana since Reconstruction and the first Black to hold this office. Mr. Delpit was re-elected to his fourth term as the Representative of District 67 in 1987. Also notable, Mr. Delpit served as Master of Ceremonies at the 1972, 1976, and the 1984 Inaugurations of Governor Edwin W. Edwards.

Representative Delpit was a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and has served on the following Legislative Committees: House Appropriations, Labor and Industrial Relations Education, House Arts Advisory, and House Legislative Services Council. He was chairman of the Municipal and Parochial Affairs Committee which has jurisdiction over the affairs of New Orleans and other municipalities.

In January of 1992, Mr. Delpit retired from the State Legislature in order that he could devote more time to his business ventures. He now takes great pride in working in the businesses with his children and grandchildren and training them for future proprietorship; however, he is still actively engaged in state and local related activities and organizations.

Dr. Delores Spikes

The road which Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes chose to travel on her journey to becoming president of the Southern University System was not unusual for the times. Like her younger sisters, Ann Marie (Mrs. Robert Fenelon) and Elizabeth Cecelia (Mrs. Henry Bellaire), she was reared by her parents, Margaret Mae Patterson Richard, a full-time homemaker, and Lawrence Granville Richard, a laborer. Her mother instilled in her the values of family and the importance of serving people; her father preached the need to always do her best. He emphasized the importance of protecting the integrity of his most precious gift to her—his good name.

Ms. Dolores Richard attended St. Francis Xavier School and McKinley High School, from which she graduated as class salutatorian. This self-described “shy and quiet person” also proved to be a star basketball player, captain of the team, and a multi-talented softball player. She entered SUBR and later graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Liberal Arts (major in mathematics; minor in the sciences). She earned a Master of Science Degree at the University of Illinois and a doctorate degree in mathematics from Louisiana State University. Before beginning her career as a teacher at Mossville School, she married Hermon Spikes of Bancroft, Louisiana. The couple has one daughter, Rhonda Kathleen (Mrs. Chris Pete), and two grandchildren, Bianca Christina and Bronson.

Dr. Spikes joined the mathematics faculty at the Baton Rouge campus in 1964 and worked to challenge students to pursue excellence in education. She was a principal organizer of the Faculty Senate for SUBR, serving first as vice president and then as president. In recognition of her outstanding leadership, she was named president emeritus of the SUBR Faculty Senate in 1978. She has served in numerous positions at Southern University, including professor of mathematics, coordinator of developmental education, mathematics executive vice chancellor, vice chancellor for academic affairs, and coordinator of SUBR’s Consent Decree academic programs. The Honors College, the Office of Grants, Sponsored Research, and Faculty Development, and the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies were established under her administration. She also served as chancellor of Southern University in New Orleans where she initiated the proposal for the Center for African and African-American Studies, the computer-assisted laboratories and the tutorial and child-care services for the children of students in the Evening and Weekend Division.

Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes was named President of the Southern University System and Chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus on October 29, 1988. She immediately acted to help solve the University’s financial problems by implementing new fiscal management practices and policies. She successfully reactivated the Southern University System Foundation; improved the computer and technology infrastructure; established the Office of Planning, Assessment, and Institutional Research at SUBR; developed the University’s first Five-Year Plan; established a mentoring program to assist and to nurture students; initiated the community service requirement for graduation; established system-wide goals and activities to improve instruction, retention, and graduation rates; increased involvement of the University in consortia; and developed the SU Board of Supervisors’ System-wide Strategic Plan. During the higher education desegregation litigation, Dr. Spikes proved to be a fierce protector of the rights of all persons to have access to higher education. Her tenacity and resolve as the System’s negotiator led to more funding for new graduate programs and completion of capital projects for SUBR, SUNO, and Grambling State University.

On June 29, 1996, Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes announced that she would be leaving the Presidency of the Southern University System on December 31, 1996. President Spikes’ departing message to the young people for whom she has dedicated her efforts is, ‘Keep preparing spiritually and intellectually so that you will be able to cope when the problems come…and they will come. I love you.’ ”

Source: “Celebrating the Legacy, Dolores Richard Spikes, Ph.D, President, Southern University System and President-Elect, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore” Program – Wednesday, November 13, 1996 – provided by the McKinley High School Alumni Association

A.P. Tureaud

Alexander Pierre Tureaud was born in 1899, just three years after the landmark Supreme Court Case Plessy v. Ferguson which established “separate but equal” as the racial norm in the United States. Born in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans he was the fifth son of Marie Dejan and Louis Trudeau.  His father was a descendant of sugar planters and manumitted slaves from St. James Parish.  During his early life in New Orleans, he was surrounded by a large extended family of Creole Catholics.  Early on he recognized the indignity of legalized racial segregation experiencing its effects in all aspects of his life from where he could sit in church to which physicians he and his family could visit.

After graduating from Howard Law School in Washington D.C. in 1926 Turuead returned to New Orleans and “entered a community of like-minded men” who embraced legal strategy to fight the injustices experienced by the African American community. He was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1927 and became one of only four practicing African American attorneys in New Orleans. He was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1935.

From the 1940’s to the 1960’s he worked using the law to gain social justices. In the 1941 case Mckelpin v. Board of Education he won a ruling forcing the Orleans Parish School Board to give equal pay to black teachers and would litigate various aspects of this ruling for over a decade. He served as legal counsel for the Louisiana Colored Teachers Association (later the Louisiana Education Association) from 1942 to 1971. Starting in the mid 1940’s he filed numerous law suits aimed to open Louisiana’s higher educational facilities to African Americans and eventually helped to succeeded in desegregating all of Louisiana’s educational institutions.

In the 1960’s he began to defend the new generation of activists as they were arrested during civil disobedience. Tureaud took a leading role in the defense of the Southern University students arrested during a sit-in attempt in Downtown Baton Rouge. The case Garner v. Louisiana eventually became U.S. Supreme Court’s first decision concerning lunch counter sit-ins and was significant in dismantling Jim Crow laws. During this time he also nurtured the careers of many young black attorneys including future New Orleans mayor Ernest Morial.

During his four and a half decade career, Tureaud helped change the racial paradigm in Louisiana. He retired in 1971, intending to turn his efforts to writing his autobiography and collecting documents and artifacts to found a museum on Louisiana African American history. He died of cancer on January 22, 1972 at the age of seventy two. He is buried in St. Louis cemetery in New Orleans.

Huel D. Perkins Ph. D

Huel Davis Perkins is a native of Baton Rouge, a graduate of Southern University (Class of 1947 with highest honors), and holds Master and Doctoral degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He has served on a number of local, state, and national committees—including a six year appointment to the Board of Advisors of the J.W. Fulbright foreign scholarship program by President Williams Clinton.

Perkins' long academic career has been very distinguished. He worked at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri; at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities; and at Louisiana State University where he has served as Professor of Humanities; Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs; Executive Assistant to the Chancellor; and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. He retired from LSU as Professor Emeritus of Humanities but has returned to the institution several times in various positions.

Prior to joining LSU in 1978, he served as Deputy Director of Education Programs with the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. He has been honored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (Humanist of the Year); the National Conference of Christians and Jews (Brotherhood Award); the LSU Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa (Outstanding educator); the Baton Rouge Human Relations Council (Brotherhood Award); ;the Istrouma Area Council of Boy Scouts of America (Citizen of the Year); the Louisiana Chapter of NAACP (A. P. Turead Award); the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Award of Merit) and received the Centennial Award given by Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He is listed in 57th edition of Who’s Who In America.

In May 2005 Perkins was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Louisiana State University for his service to education and to LSU. A Doctoral Fellowship Program as Louisiana State University has been named in his honor.