The Middleton Dilemma
Updated: Jul 23, 2022
On June 19th, 2020, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to change the name of the Middleton Library. The library was named after Troy H. Middleton, a decorated veteran of World War I and II and president of LSU. As Lieutenant General during World War II, Middleton fought in both the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Normandy, recording more days in combat than any other American officer.
His success and bravery in battle resulted in praise from both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George Patton. Under Middleton’s leadership, LSU procured a variety of low-cost housing units for the influx of soldiers returning to school after the war. Middleton also oversaw construction of a new library, football stadium, auditorium, and an addition to the LSU Medical School in New Orleans.
Middleton was deemed a racist when he was disavowed by LSU, citing segregationist views and repulsive comments towards newly admitted Black students in a 1961 letter, which was written to University of Texas Chancellor Henry Ransom. Though the letter is a horrible stain on LSU and Middleton’s legacy, the resulting accusations are not entirely factual.
In 1965, four years after the letter was written, Middleton was appointed to lead the Governor’s Biracial Commission on Human Relations, Rights, and Responsibilities. The board’s goal was to enforce the Civil Rights Act; as chair of the board, Middleton fought a segregationist senator’s vicious opposition to the appointment of Black attorneys and helped to ensure the enforcement of civil rights laws after a Black-owned gas station was burned in Alexandria. Middleton explained the commission’s work by saying,
“The world is changing. The commission helped make the necessary change a bit smoother." -Troy H. Middleton
According to an article published by The Advocate, for his work on the board, Middleton received various awards, including the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters’ Louisianan of the Year Award for “his accomplishment in racial peace-keeping.” Middleton also received the praise of Dr. Albert Dent, President of Dillard University, who said, “If ever a man changed, that man was Troy Middleton.” There are many testimonies to Middleton’s character from some of the most distinguished people of all races.
Proponents of Middleton’s removal from the LSU history books claim that Middleton’s name is a source of frustration and stress for students at LSU, citing a petition circled by social justice groups on campus. However, as current LSU President William Tate puts it, “When you come and tell me you have people who are frustrated, I say to you,
'Have you actually gone out and asked people do they really even know what these names are?'
Because most don't, including Middleton, which I was very surprised, given all the things that have been related to that.” Tate’s observation, obvious to any student involved in campus life at LSU, is that the names of buildings do not generally affect student’s happiness or education. With this information and the knowledge of Middleton’s achievements and redemptive work, one puzzling question that may come to mind is that of the true intention of the erasure of LSU history.
To answer this question, it is best to take a broader look around the world. It can be said that Middleton’s removal is an example of a larger issue that has plagued the entire United States in recent years: the destruction of history. Though it began as toppling Confederate monuments, the movement has led to statues of American heroes like Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant being removed, defaced, or destroyed. Just last November, a century old statue of Thomas Jefferson was removed from New York City Hall in another example of this destruction. The destruction of history, and furthermore identity, is a tactic often used by forces looking to institute fundamental change, such as proponents of Marxism. This fact does not exclude the Marxist organizations on campus at LSU.
The organization "Cooperation Rouge” is a self-proclaimed Communist group who seeks to “analyze Capitalism critically as a systematic problem.” Cooperation Rouge, under their previous name of “Democracy at Work,” was partly responsible for the removal of Middleton’s memorials. On the Communist organization’s social media, there is a pinned post called “Renaming LSU,” which advocates for the renaming of twelve other buildings on campus, citing incomplete information much like that used to defame Middleton. To quote the Marxists’ statement,
"There are more problematic buildings on campus and we cannot create a culture that catalyzes systemic change if we do not address them"
Cooperation Rouge is openly saying that they seek not to improve the culture of learning or students’ mental health at LSU, but to drastically change LSU and the country by implementing their radical ideology. Groups like this are infamous for destroying history because the very history they seek to destroy gives people a sense of pride, tradition, and most importantly, identity. To put it simply, a person without identity or principles is vulnerable to indoctrination.
Regardless of the validity of Middleton’s removal from LSU’s history books, it is essential that we call out the removal of history whenever we see it. As long as we hold true to our values and both remember and learn from our history, we will never fall victim to the malevolent intentions of organizations such as Cooperation Rouge. As Ben Franklin said, our founding fathers fought to give us “A Republic, if you can keep it.” It is our duty as Americans to uphold the principles our country was founded on to fulfill the second part of Franklin’s statement, as generations before us have. This means exposing the plague of historical eradication to preserve the values of America:
freedom of thought, speech, religion, assembly, and, of course, market.