Title: Book review: Images of America: Baton Rouge
Author: Jeff Roedel
Publication: 225 Extra
LSU’s Associate Dean of Libraries Faye Phillips and author Sylvia Frank Rodrigue follow up their acclaimed Baton Rouge: An Illustrated History with an entry in the popular Images of America series for Baton Rouge. With its roving lens capturing the character of the city from 1850 to 2005, the photography book is an archivist’s dream. This is the stuff of delinquents and debutantes, of butchers, bricklayers and cadetsall the dirtied, bloodied and stalwart giants on whose shoulders our city stands.
Not quite a coffee table volume, the book is more field guide and condensed history of Baton Rouge with anecdotes accompanying insightful images from acclaimed photographers Andrew Lytle and Fonville Winans among others.
See William Tecumseh Sherman’s superintendent portrait taken at what was to become LSU four years before the general’s infamous and bloody “March to the Sea.” Witness a train full of doughboys pulling out of the local station to serve in the trenches of WWI and Boy Scouts delivering King Bee tobacco to weary tent city dwellers after the great Mississippi River flood in 1927. Spy the State Capitol, Tiger Stadium and Southern University and sculptor Frank Hayden hammering out another masterpiece. Watch legendary actor Clark Gable schmooze with Gov. Earl Long’s wife, Blanche, and observe LSU students protesting the Vietnam War.
The collection shows Baton Rouge not as a city defined by beige shopping developments or endless gated communities, but as one filled with the flaws and triumphs of a city of the South; one born during a war, reared by an oil refinery and wooed by politics and pigskin. Fortunately, many of the historic buildings and structures herein still stand as healthy reminders of where we’ve been and where we need to go.