2019 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Spring Meeting
The Southeast Louisiana Historical Association remains an important component of the Center’s public outreach initiatives. The town and gown group enables all of those interested in our region’s peculiar history the chance to fraternize and exchange ideas. The most recent meeting took place during the exciting events associated with Tangipahoa Parish’s commemoration of its sesquicentennial. This year’s annual meeting occurred on April 17, 2019 at the Regional Arts Center in the Levy Building in downtown Hammond. As always, the event began with cocktails and scrumptious pulled-pork sandwiches provided by association member John Jordan. Thanks John! We might need to call on you again. Once the guests gathered at their tables, the evening’s program commenced with association president Clark Forrest serving as emcee. Center director Samuel Hyde and Turtle Cove director Robert Moreau headlined the event which focused on continuity and change over Tangipahoa Parish’s history. Hyde lightened the mood with a Tangipahoa trivia contest that came complete with drum-rolls provided by Center graduate assistants and a mange-ridden geriatric cat as a prize. Long-time Center friend and SELHA member Vic Couvillon was the “lucky” winner. After the contest, Hyde informed guests of some of the exciting events planned throughout the parish to commemorate Tangipahoa’s 150th anniversary. Hyde also held a book signing for those seeking an autographed copy of the new edition of Pistols and Politics. Moreau followed with an engaging discussion of current projects underway at Turtle Cove, while highlighting continuing, and newly emerging challenges to the Manchac Swamp ecosystem in the twenty-first century. A lively question and answer session followed as guests availed themselves of the opportunity to ask the scientist for objective answers to their questions regarding climate change and the environmental impact of elevated carbon dioxide levels. Once the speakers concluded, the bar reopened and attendees had the chance to discuss the evening’s lectures or engage in more light-hearted banter. An informal canvas of attendees indicates that this was one of the more memorable meetings in the association’s long history.
2018 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Spring Meeting
The Center proudly supports the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association, which anchors our town and gown approach to history. Each year at its annual spring meeting, the SELHA hosts a scrumptious dinner, serves libations, and features a brief lecture by prominent guest speakers such as Louisiana’s former secretary of state Jay Dardenne and current governor John Bel Edwards. Some speakers are so popular with our membership that we bring them back for an additional conversation. In 2010 Danny Heitman, an author and award-winning columnist for The Baton Rouge Advocate, was the featured speaker and shared vignettes from his book, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House. Heitman’s lecture brought a number of new faces to our gathering and entertained all who attended. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response his first lecture received, Heitman was identified as a speaker we needed to invite back. In 2018 Heitman, much to the delight of our members, agreed to return.
Doors for the meeting opened at 6 pm at our usual haunt, the Hammond Regional Arts Center. At the commencement of the event, the capacity crowd was brought up to speed on the association’s future plans by organization president and long time Center friend, Dr. Clark Forrest. Next came our featured guest Danny Heitman’s remarks. His lecture, “Writing Local in a Global Culture,” explored how south Louisiana has informed the essays and other writings he has produced for regional, national and international audiences. As in the past, Heitman’s wit shined through as he reflected on the impact not just of region, but also of generation in shaping how one sees the world. “Much has changed since my journalism career began more than three decades ago,” Heitman said. “The rise of the internet has done much to collapse boundaries and create a truly global village. In spite of that -- or perhaps because of it -- a writer's relationship with the region where he lives and works is more important than ever.”
2017 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Spring Meeting
On April 6, 2017, SELHA held its annual spring meeting at the Hammond Regional Arts Center. As in the past, the event began with spirits and conversation building camaraderie among members, students, and their guests. A delicious assortment of southern dishes was provided by long-time member, John Jordan, and enjoyed by all.
Attendees then welcomed Dr. Sarah Hyde, Assistant Professor of History at River Parishes Community College, as she discussed her recent book, Schooling in the Antebellum South: The Rise of Public and Private Education in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, in which she analyzes educational development in the Gulf South before the Civil War, not only revealing a thriving private and public education system, but also offering insight into the worldview and aspirations of the people inhabiting the region. Following her lecture, Dr. Hyde provided guests with the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of her book.
2016 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
In 2016, the association returned to its roots with an emphasis on local history. Eric Johnson, head of the Sims Library at Southeastern Louisiana University and Kathy Tijerino, also with the Sims Library, agreed to provide a slide presentation from their recent publication “Images of America: Hammond.” The Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies is always happy to promote the work of local authors, especially when the Center’s holdings are used extensively in related publications. Day-after-day for several months in 2015- 2016, Kathy and Eric descended on the Center to sift through the myriad of images related to the history of Hammond in our holdings. For the authors, the toughest job was picking a few dozen of the thousands of pictures on hand to fit the needs of the publisher. The quality of the final product speaks for itself. The book is available locally and on popular online vendors such as Amazon.
As in the past, the organization held its meeting in the Levy Building–home of the Hammond Regional Arts Center–across the street from the historic Columbia Theater. The location is perfect for the group’s needs and all rental expenses for the facility help to fund area art programs. Its a win-win scenario for the group. Once the speakers were chosen, the date selected, and the venue booked, our next call went to Marilyn’s Catering which has provided sumptuous, home cooked meals at the event for the past few years. The gathering drew a big crowd that was not disappointed by the exciting presentation on Hammond’s past. Tangipahoa native Jason Thompson was also present at the event to offer an update on his research on area Indian Mounds– a topic that always attracts the attention of our members. A lively question and answer session followed the formal presentation after which attendees had the opportunity to fraternize in a less formal manner with the presenters over cocktails.
2015 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
The Southeast Louisiana Historical Association is known for many things, including an impressive academic journal The Southeast Louisiana Review, a robust membership representing a cross-section of the Florida Parish population, and an always lively spring meeting that often features noted scholars and local politicians. Each year, organization leaders strive to keep its members satisfied and searches for methods to broaden membership. In 2014, then state legislator John Bel Edwards was scheduled to speak but owing to the unfortunate death of his father Frank on the morning of the meeting, he respectfully asked to be released from his speaking obligation. Naturally, we quickly found a replacement and accepted Edwards’ promise to reschedule. A lot changed over the course of the next year. Edwards was actively pursuing the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion and he was polling surprisingly well in a field of well-known Republican challengers. Considering that his campaign was in full swing we did not expect that Edwards would be able to schedule a time convenient for us to have him speak to the association. We should have known that Edwards would honor his commitment. Rather than ask us to work around his plans, he told us to select a date and he would adjust his schedule to accommodate our needs. With 16 April selected, we eagerly began preparations for the gathering which would feature Representative Edwards.
As in previous years, the Hammond Regional Arts Center, located in the Levy Building in downtown Hammond served as host to the event in which Edwards discussed his family's recent induction into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame and other topics related to the state of Louisiana. Before a standing room only crowd, Edwards addressed numerous subjects and even worked in a few campaign plugs. As always, the festivities began with a meet and greet social, followed by a buffet dinner catered by Ms. Marilyn Harrison. Edwards not only delivered his remarks, he also answered all questions, and stayed to speak with whomever wanted an audience. There was no rushing to another engagement. Edwards, an Amite native, was clearly happy to be with the people he had represented for a number of years. Of course much has transpired since that April day when Edwards spoke. Several months later he was elected as the new governor of Louisiana! Today he occupies the Governor’s Mansion and is charged with trying to right the state’s economy which has been ravaged by neglect and poor planning. We wish him well.
2014 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
Each year, the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association strives to bring its members
first-rate scholarship in the organization’s journal The Southeast Louisiana Review
as well as top-notch entertainment at its annual meeting. The latest edition of the
Review will be addressed in a later article. As for the 2014 spring meeting, most
members thought it would be difficult to match our 2013 speaker Lieutenant Governor
Jay Dardenne. After considerable discussion, the association extended an invitation
to Representative John Bel Edwards whose family had just been inducted in to the Louisiana
Political Hall of Fame. Edwards graciously accepted the invitation–and as the announcements
regarding the 17 April 2014 event started hitting the public the response was overwhelming.
Few people who live in Louisiana’s Seventy-Second District have not in some way been
positively influenced by Edwards. A much larger than expected crowd was planned and
excitement mounted for the meeting scheduled to be held at the Levy Building in historic
downtown Hammond. On the day of the event, tragedy befell the Edwards family as its
patriarch and long time Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Frank M. Edwards succumbed after
a long illness. John Edwards graciously called the Center in his time of grief and
apologized that he would not be able to make it to the event. The association quickly
mobilized to find a replacement just as it mourned the loss of an old friend. One
of the first people to come to mind as a replacement was Jason Thompson, an expert
on Louisiana Indians, a guest on the Florida Parish Chronicles, and a recent contributor
to the Southeast Louisiana Review. It is not easy to convince someone to be a keynote
speaker at a dinner function that will be hosted just a few hours from the time one
receives the call. But Mr. Thompson is not an ordinary person, and he graciously accepted
As the crowd waited, it fell to the association’s acting secretary and treasurer, Keith Finley, to announce to those gathered of the unfortunate circumstances that befell the featured guest for the evening. Attendees were informed that Edwards expressed his desire to honor his commitment to the organization. After informing the crowd about Edwards, Finley introduced the group’s new speaker. Mr. Thompson went on to regale the enthusiastic crowd with stories of uncovering Indian artifacts throughout the Florida Parishes. Many of these tales included run-ins with snakes and angry relic hunters bent on destroying Louisiana’s Indian heritage at gunpoint if necessary. Thompson turned out to be a hit and the evening proved most enjoyable. As always, the event featured a cocktail reception both before and following the meeting and as usual, the association retained the services of the wildly popular Marilyn’s Catering.
2013 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
In an effort to expand its membership, the SELHA in 2013 opted to select a regionally recognized figure to serve as its speaker. It did not take long to decide that Louisiana's Lieutenant Governor, history buff, and friend to higher education, Jay Dardenne represented a perfect choice. At the spring 2013 gathering held, as on many previous occasions, at the Hammond Regional Arts Center, Dardenne entertained the packed reception hall with humorous anecdotes that shed light on Louisiana's unique history. The capacity crowd raved at the well rehearsed performance. Sharing the spotlight with Dardenne was Southeastern professor and history department chair William B. Robison, The Tudors on Film and Television, which he co-authored with long time SELHA member Sue Parrill.
2012 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
The Southeast Louisiana Historical Association has evolved considerably since its first official gathering in 1974. Members have come and gone over the years, but the group's goal has remained largely unchanged. Preserving and celebrating the history of southeast Louisiana is and always will be at the forefront of its activities. Today, the association has revitalized its scholarly academic journal in the form of the Southeast Louisiana Review to replace the now defunct Southeast Louisiana Historical Papers, just as the association has made every effort to expand its membership.
Whether one's historical interests are local, state wide, or even national in scope our annual dinner meeting has something for all tastes. This year's gathering proved no different as recent Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies staffer Cody Scallions enlighted and entertained association members.
The backdrop for the 2012 dinner was conveniently located at the Alumni Building on Southeastern Louisiana University's campus. Attendees were treated to a sumptuous southern style home cooked meal provided by Marilyn's Catering Service as they enjoyed potent drinks served up by Center employees and good conversation provided by the membership. Organization president Clark Forrest gaveled the meeting to order. Following the rapid dispensation of association business, Cody Scallions took the floor. In what was both an enlightening and entertaining performance, Scallions regaled the standing room only crowd with stories of the short-lived Republic of West Florida. A lively question and answer session followed.
2011 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
Members of the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association know that the group's spring meeting comes complete with lively conversation, good food, and a keynote speaker whose research sheds light on the region's past. Those in attendance at the April 19, 2011 gathering had high expectations and they were not disappointed. Once again the Hammond Regional Arts Center served as the backdrop for the event that featured the expected cocktail reception and an assortment of non-Association sponsored eye-popping paintings festooning the walls. This year, the association departed from its usual food selections and hired Marilyn's Catering. Guests raved over the delicious homemade food choices. Due to popular demand, we plan on retaining Ms. Marilyn's services for the 2012 spring gathering of the association. As members feasted on the sumptuous meal, they listened as long-time Center staffer and Association member, Kieth M. Finley led a spirited discussion of his award winning book, Delaying the Dream. Finley's presentation highlighted how the actions of southern United States senators in the fight against civil rights legislation affected social developments at the local level, including Louisiana's Florida Parishes. A question and answer session along with additional food and spirits followed.
2010 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
Each spring the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association gathers to conduct its business, learn a little local history, and to socialize. Often, the meeting includes a guest speaker. Previous presenters have been as diverse as the association’s membership. This year we were fortunate to retain the services of award winning Advocate columnist Danny Heitman who recently published A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House with LSU Press.
As soon as the SELHA announced its speaker the Center was inundated with calls from the community asking for tickets. Many callers knew the author and his Ponchatoula family personally and wanted a chance to catch up on old memories. Others read his family values oriented news column in the Advocate and wanted a chance to meet him. Regardless of the reason for attendance, all present got the chance to hear a fine presentation on the inspiring season Audubon spent as a personal tutor at Oakley House in West Feliciana Parish. During that summer, Audubon found the inspiration to complete his magisterial and comprehensive pictorial record of American birds that ultimately made him famous. For the SELHA, the increased attendance also translated into an increase in membership as many who attended solely to hear Heitman also joined the organization, finding the camaraderie of the group appealing. Following the presentation, Heitman autographed books and visited with his many fans. Like all association events, this one also came complete with a meal and an open bar serviced by Center staffers.
2009 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
The SELHA is known for its lively dinner lecture series featuring regional and national scholars who have addressed a wide range of topics. In 2009, attendees at the association's spring meeting were greeted with the usual food and spirits and privileged to hear the north-shore's most loquacious historian Donald Sharp, who discussed the influence of the U.S. Naval presence in our region based on his more than forty years of research. Following the presentation, he fielded questions from the interested audience. From James Rumsey and the steam boat to gunboats on the Amite River, Sharp gave the crowd something to think about as well as debate at the cocktail reception that followed. In this case, it can truly be said that a good time was had by all.
2008 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Returns
The SELHA experienced an exciting 2008 with the initiation of new programs, along with the continuation of old ones. The year started with our annual membership drive. During that period we urged members to sign up for another stint with the organization and hinted at the revival of a regional scholarly journal. Membership in the organization soon reached an all time high with many old friends returning and many new ones joining for the first time. Next came the announcement that our spring 2008 dinner/lecture event would feature nationally known scholar Dr. Jon Kukla, author of the critically acclaimed book A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America . To house its growing membership, the organization's executive committee scheduled its meeting at the historic Columbia Theater.
At the April 17 event, the department of history also recognized two of Southeastern Louisiana University's most beloved historians, Dr. Michael Kurtz for his service as a faculty member and as Dean of the Graduate School and Dr. Roman Heleniak for his service as a faculty member, Department Head, and as a Scholar in Residence in the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies. The moving ceremony culminated with the awarding of certificates to the honored guests. Kukla's engaging presentation followed by the usual food and libations, served as the perfect ending for a perfect evening. The pending retirement of Southeast Louisiana Historical Association President Dr. Roman Heleniak placed the organization's annual events on hold. During this brief hiatus, the group reorganized and reinvented itself to even better serve the needs of the region.
Launching the new “SELHA” took place at the unveiling of the Center's latest exhibit consisting in part of a photographic display titled “100 years 100 photographs,” on loan from the Varnado Store Museum in Franklinton. The pictorial exhibit underwritten by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities revealed the centrality of the railroad in the development of Washington Parish. In conjunction with the photographic display, the Center staff organized a corollary exhibit that highlighted the growth and influence of the railroad in Tangipahoa Parish. The Center showcased a wide array of railroad related artifacts and paraphernalia many of which are from the Judge Leon Ford, III Collection. Whether rail-fan, local historian, or just curious, the Center's new exhibit offered something for everyone.
A meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association coincided with the exhibit's opening. Dr. Keith Finley, Interregnum Head of the Organization, opened the meeting by introducing the group's new President Dr. Clark Forrest, a long time member and former director of the SELHA. Dr. Forrest informed the crowd of many new plans for the organization. It was released that the historical association would once again publish a refereed scholarly journal accessible to both scholars and amateur historians that will offer a multi-disciplinary examination of the Florida Parishes.
2006 - SELHA Hosts Manchac Film Premier
Southeast Louisiana Historical Association functions always promise good food, good
times, and more often than not, good scholarship. As the Spring 2006 meeting approached,
the organization's leadership debated potential speakers. Graduate students and faculty
members conducting research in regional history were all considered. A short list
of names slowly took shape and a date-27 April--was selected.
At the same time preparations were being made, the Center's EPA funded film neared completion. It would be ready in time for a showing at the SELHA gathering. Organization President, Roman Heleniak promptly shifted the evening's focus and embraced the notion of premiering the film titled, “The Manchac Swamp: Man-made Disaster in Search of Resolution” at the spring meeting.
As a new plan emerged, it became necessary to make the event's festivities less formal to ensure that adequate chairs were available for the larger than normal crowd expected. Organization members were honored that the important film would have its first public showing at their event. The crowd, which was the largest gathering of the Association in a decade, was treated to the premier of the Mancha Swamp film.
Two years previous the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies had received a $63,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to write a narrative and to produce a documentary film highlighting the long-term consequences of human habitation in the northern and western Pontchartrain basin. This film was the culmination of this major project. The crowd was not disappointed the production highlighted the causal chain that precipitated the ravaging of the Manchac Swamp, an area that many of our members have cherished since childhood. Guests at this meeting dined on a variety of delicious foods that included po-boy sandwiches from the "Crazy Pig," jambalaya from "Jambalaya Company" and Hungarian pastries from the "Old World Bakery." The History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, also inducted its new members at the event. It proved a fitting venue for welcoming new scholars into the fold.
"The Manchac Swamp: Manmade Disaster in Search of a Resolution" has since been selected to appear in the New York International Film Festival on 17 September 2006 and aired statewide on Louisiana Public Broadcasting 3 September 2006.
2005 - Southeast Louisiana Historical Association Meeting
For the Winter meeting on December 14, 2005, food, spirits, and frivolity once again prevailed as SELHA members visited with old friends and made new ones over a hearty assortment of barbecued items compliments of Wilbert's of Covington. On May 25, 2005, former Southeastern graduate student and current Washington Parish public school teacher, Ms. Dera Talley provided SELHA members with a memorable dinner lecture. Her comments on the development of the Washington Parish Fair clearly moved many in the crowd who remembered their past, pleasant experiences at what the events' coordinators call America's “largest free fair.” Complimenting Ms. Talley's remarks was a sumptuous spread that included abnormally large cuts of homemade roast beef prepared by then SELHA President, Dr. Roman Heleniak.