06292017Headline:

What’s in a Name? The History of Delgado’s Named Buildings (Part 2)

By Mary Achary and Leonard “Lenny” Vasbinder

Photos by Mary Achary with Larocca Hall from stock images

Delgado West Bank Campus

(Algiers) 

In 1967, the Louisiana Legislature saw a growing need for a community college in Algiers. This resulted in the establishment of Delgado Community College — West Bank Campus. The goal was to increase higher educational opportunities for West Bank residents while sparing them the daily cumbersome and often problematic commute across the Crescent City Connection to Delgado City Park Campus.

By 1974, new facilities and classrooms were built and enrollment at West Bank Campus increased to 750. Many of the new students were veterans returning from Vietnam seeking a fresh start to their civilian lives and anxious to learn a new trade.

The year, Delgado Community College — West Bank Campus will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

LaRocca Hall

(Building 1)

             Completed in November 1999 at a cost of over $4 million, LaRocca Hall is Delgado West Bank Campus’ 15-classroom, state-of-the-art computer lab, and lecture hall. Dedicated to Dr. Henry Andrew LaRocca, a prominent West Bank physician, the building includes a student services area and faculty offices.

Delgado Sidney Collier Campus

(New Orleans East)

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Southeast Louisiana, causing severe damage in New Orleans East and forcing the Sidney Collier Technical College to close after sustaining major structural damage. The college later became part of Delgado Community College.

            On April 26, 2013, a groundbreaking ceremony took place to make way for the building of the Delgado Sidney Collier Campus. In Fall 2014, the college began offering programs in General Studies, Air-Conditioning, Barber-Styling, Cosmetology, Carpentry, and Practical Nursing. Delgado Sidney Collier Campus officially opened in the fall of 2015 and is one of eight Delgado Community College locations.

Sidney N. Collier

Sidney N. Collier was a community activist and was the first director of the former Orleans Area Vocational-Technical School. One of the first programs at Orleans Area Vo-Tech was the Nursing Program. The Nursing Program at Orleans Area Vo-Tech provided African-American women skills in the field of nursing because at the time there were no other available higher educational opportunities for them.

Another interesting fact about Sidney Collier is his affiliation with Dillard University. Years ago, a portrait of Collier hung in Dillard’s Theatre Department.

Now that you’ve read how the buildings at Delgado Community College came to be named and the reasons behind the dedications, here are some of the monuments and plaques associated with Delgado and their story.

Bust of Congressman F. Edward Hebert, Delgado City Park Campus

             Dedicated to the man known as the United States House of Representatives’ “longest-serving congressman,” Felix Edward Hebert was a true New Orleanian. A graduate of Jesuit High School and Tulane University, “Eddie” Hebert as he was known to family and friends, was a man of many talents. Hebert’s career began, not in politics, but in public relations and journalism. As a public relations agent, Hebert worked at Loyola University in New Orleans, while holding a second job as a front-page columnist and political editor for the Times-Picayune and New Orleans States, covering the candidacy of Gov. Huey P. Long who was later elected to the United States Senate.

Hebert went into politics himself in 1940 when he campaigned as a Democrat and was elected to the 77th United States Congress, representing the New Orleans-based 1st Congressional District for the next 36 years.

As an advocate for education, Hebert opposed school desegregation and signed the Southern Manifesto in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case which moved against “de jure segregation” in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

On Jan. 2, 1977, shortly after he retired from Congress and two years before his death at age 78, Delgado held a dedication ceremony unveiling a bust of Congressman Hebert honoring his longtime Congressional service and advocacy. The front of the pedestal reads, “Patriot, Journalist, Statesman, Orator, and Advocate of Education.”

Higgins’ Industries Plaque

On a quiet Sunday morning in December of 1941, life in the United States would change forever with the sudden and deliberate attack by Japanese aircraft on American naval ships stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For the next four years, American forces would fight against the increasing spread of Nazism in Europe, and Japanese aggression in the Philippines. But, America and her allies had a secret weapon to give them an edge over their enemies.

Enter Andrew Jackson Higgins and his company, Higgins Industries. Originally billed as a lumber export company in 1922, Higgins saw there was more profit in boat building than exporting lumber due to the growing oil industry in Southern Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. With the success of his “Eureka boat,” Higgins closed his lumber company and in 1930, opened the first Higgins Industries factory located on City Park Avenue in Mid-City building Eureka boats for both commercial businesses as well as the United States Coast Guard.

Higgins graduated to doing business with the government when his Eureka boat caught the eye of the United States Marine Corps. Although the shallow draft and low cost were appealing to the Marines, there was still the problem of how to disembark troops over the sides. Higgins solved the problem by “borrowing” a ramp-bow design that was used on Japanese landing crafts, making a few modifications to the Eureka boat, and by 1938, Higgins Industries rolled out its first LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). Known as the “Higgins boats,” these were the very boats that carried U.S. and Allied troops to the beaches of Normandy, France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

The success of LCVPs enabled Higgins Industries to build three additional factories. One was on St. Charles Avenue, another at the Industrial Canal, and the third in Michoud. The three facilities allowed Higgins to experiment with different LCVP models as well as design and build Patrol-Torpedo (PT) boats for the U.S. Navy.

Higgins Industries reached the height of its production in 1943, employing over 20,000 people in New Orleans. Higgins Industries was an equal opportunity workforce, hiring women and African-Americans who worked to build the boats in record time to meet the D-Day deadline.

Shortly after World War II ended in August 1945, and with LCVPs and PT boats no longer in demand, Higgins Industries did not have the financial ability to make the transition from warcraft manufacturing to consumer manufacturing. This forced Higgins to liquidate his factories in November 1945. The company was restructured and by 1948, boatbuilding operations were consolidated at the Industrial Canal facility. The company continued to struggle when Andrew Higgins died on Aug. 1, 1952, of a stomach ailment.

Although the Higgins Industries City Park Avenue facility is just a memory, a plaque commemorating Andrew Higgins and the City Park Avenue factory stands in its place, praising the hard work and dedication of Higgins Industries and its employees during World War II as well as the mass production of more than 12,000 landing craft and approximately 200 PT boats for the Allied Forces. A fitting tribute to the man described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1964 as, “the man who won the war for us.”

Holt Cemetery Plaque

Next to Delgado is Holt Cemetery, a potter’s field where the indigent and poor of New Orleans are buried. The Cemetery’s dedication plaque at the front entrance tells a brief history of Dr. Joseph Holt, who spent the better part of his professional years practicing medicine at  New Orleans Charity Hospital, and who advocated for a more sanitary underground sewer system for the city. Holt Cemetery was established in 1879 to bury yellow fever victims, and was named after Dr. Holt, who also worked to stop the spread of yellow fever through quarantine and a sulfur fumigation process of incoming ships (the link between mosquitoes and yellow fever had not been discovered, but the sulfur fumes killed the mosquitoes). Some now-famous citizens of New Orleans are buried there, such as Louis Armstrong’s mother and Jazz great Buddy Bolden, although his actual grave is unmarked.

 

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