EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Sam Hanna Jr. was first published the week of June 21, 2020.
Gen. Troy H. Middleton stood in the breach and stopped the Nazis from capturing Bastogne in one of the bloodiest engagements of World War II. It's known as the Battle of the Bulge. It was the last offensive carried out by the German army, which had hoped to divide Allied Forces in order to negotiate an end to the war favorable to the Third Reich.
By the grace of God and the heroism of thousands of Allied soldiers including Middleton, the German army failed, and World War II in Europe came to an end with the fall of Nazi Germany less than six months later.
History tells us Middleton's heroics at Bastogne were pivotal in stopping the Nazis from sweeping across Belgium and prolonging the war, but his actions at the Battle of the Bulge represent just one example among many acts of courage Middleton carried out during his service in the U.S. Army over the course of two world wars.
Apparently that meant nothing to the LSU Board of Supervisors, which unanimously agreed last week to remove Middleton's name from the library at the Ole War Skule, for whom the library was named in 1978. The Troy H. Middleton Library will exist no longer. The library will be renamed in honor of Lord only knows what or whom. LSU officials will inform us at a later date.
The grave sin Middleton committed that prompted the LSU board to dishonor his legacy concerns a letter Middleton wrote to the chancellor of the University of Texas in 1961 when Middleton was serving as LSU's president, one of many positions Middleton held on and off at LSU beginning in 1930 as commandant of cadets. In his communication to Texas' Harry Ransom, Middleton discussed LSU's efforts to keep black and white students segregated, which was the law of the land in Louisiana at the time.
It was that letter that fueled the fire for the LSU board to cowardly cater last week to a leftist movement sweeping the country hell bent on whitewashing history. The movement is an example of presentism, which entails adhering to present-day attitudes, especially in interpreting past events as they relate to modern beliefs or values. In other words, Middleton’s stand against fascism in World War II is to be wiped away and ignored forever because his position toward integration as LSU's president — some 60 years ago — conflicts with the wants and wishes of modern-day society, or modern-day fascists. And the LSU board embraced it. So did Gov. John Bel Edwards, who took time out of his fear-mongering, COVID-consumed schedule to rally the LSU board to strip Middleton’s name from the library. Plaques commemorating Middleton’s service and his bust were removed from the library as well.
One must wonder whether Edwards and the LSU board bothered to consider Middleton's service to Louisiana following his tenure as LSU's president. Something tells me they didn't. If they had, they would have discovered then-Gov. John J. McKeithen convinced Middleton to come out of retirement in 1964 to chair a biracial commission of 21 blacks and 21 whites charged with easing tensions over integration throughout the state. Middleton, 74 at the time, initially agreed to chair the commission for no more than two years but stayed on until the commission disbanded in 1970. Along the way, Louisiana State Police was integrated.
Observing the LSU board carry out one hell of an impression of Neville Chamberlain at Munich was troubling to say the least. It was just as troubling as witnessing modern-day fascists in the past few weeks deface statues of American heroes such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and others. All the while, elected officials — Democrats like our governor in Louisiana — as well as police chiefs and sheriffs stood idly by as it all unfolded.
Where is all of this madness headed? At what point do the American people say enough is enough? Why are law-abiding citizens not outraged?
Reducing Middleton to an asterisk in LSU's storied history should alarm any reasonable individual, especially individuals who recognize there are lessons to be learned from history. Presentism doesn't respect history. Instead, presentism demands that we pick apart history and remember only those events that conform with the attitudes or values of the day.
It's a dangerous path for society to pursue. That's especially true when fascists render governors like Edwards and governing bodies like the LSU board to nothing more than mere spectators, or sheep being led to slaughter.