From the Shreveport Times:
Heard had amazing impact on LSU athletics
10:38 PM, Jun. 16, 2011 |
- Filed Under
More than eight decades after he arrived on the scene, his fingerprints remain all over the LSU athletic program.
A case could be made that in the 118-year history of Tiger sports no one — not Doc Fenton, Billy Cannon, Pistol Pete or even the Kingfish, Huey Long — left an deeper imprint on the program, which owns an Southeastern Conference-leading 43 national championships, than Thomas Pinckney Heard.
A force behind three expansions of Tiger Stadium (1931, 1936, 1954) — in which the arena grew from 12,000 to 67,500 without which LSU could not evolved into the potent football entity it has become — Heard, known as "Skipper" was the far-sighted athletic director when the Tigers became a charter member of the SEC (1933); when LSU first hooked up with 50,000-watt clear-channel WWL-AM (1942), giving the Tigers a national broadcast platform; when LSU became one of the first teams to fly to faraway intersectional football games (1939). He even coached the LSU golf team to a national championship (1947).
Heard was also an early pioneer in the establishment of legal and above-board athletic grants-in-aid, and is described in Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney's book "The Fighting Tigers" as "a man who might well be considered the father of the tremendous sports plant on today's Baton Rouge campus."
He's an overdue but logical inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
That will take place Saturday, June 25 in Natchitoches, with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne speaking about his impact, and grandson Will Wilton accepting the honor on behalf of a man who shaped the destiny of LSU sports.
Prime example is relayed from Finney's tome in which he writes, "The first addition to the stands in Tiger Stadium reflected the shrewd business sense of LSU's graduate manager. Later, though the grapevine, Heard learned that LSU president James M. Smith had $250,000 earmarked for dormitories. Armed with that knowledge he proceeded to sell Smith on the idea that the president could have his dormitories in the stadium simply by raising the stands on both sides and extending them to each goal line.
From the Alexandria Town Talk:
Pitkin's Heard won, and lost, battle with general
Lindsey Heard, the youngest brother of Skipper Heard, who was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, honored his brother at the induction banquet on Saturday in Natchitoches. Melinda Martinezfirstname.lastname@example.org
Marty Mule' For the LSWA
NATCHITOCHES -- Who would've thought the little Vernon Parish town of Pitkin would produce two Louisiana Sports Hall of Famers in the last six years?
In 2006, it was Sheila Thompson-Johnson, the legendary women's basketball player and coach at Louisiana College, and this year, it is former LSU athletics director Thomas Pinckney "Skipper" Heard.
Through the stories and festivities that led up to Saturday night's induction ceremonies at the Natchitoches Events Center, many across the state finally became familiar with the story of Heard's visionary and ground-breaking tenure as the LSU athletics director from 1933-54.
What is less known about Heard is that he was one of 13 children (10 boys, three girls) who quit high school when he was 16 to join the Navy for two years and fight in World War I.
"He came back and finished high school and then went to LSU," said his grandson Will Wilton, a Baton Rouge native who has been the director of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for 15 years.
The youngest of Heard's siblings is 88-year-old Lindsey Heard, who is one of only two surviving siblings of the former LSU AD, the other being a sister in Beaumont, Texas. Lindsey is also one of only two members of the once thriving Heard family who still are in Pitkin.
"He was about 27 years older than me, so I don't remember much about him," confessed Lindsey Heard, when first asked about his brother, but later confirmed that Skipper Heard coached the LSU golf team to the NCAA championship in 1947 and, while he was the athletics director, on trips back to Pitkin he would stop at gas stations along the way and drop off LSU football schedules in Vernon Parish.
During the Great Depression, that made him a marketer ahead of his time.
The Heard family came to Louisiana from Georgia and first settled at Dry Creek in Beauregard Parish before moving to Pitkin, said Lindsey Heard, who was a Army combat engineer in World War II.
One of Skipper Heard's career hallmarks was to raise the capacity of Tiger Stadium in a few increments until it reached 67,500, when he persuaded the state legislature to enlarge the stadium by more than 20,000 and enclose the south end. That likely cost him his job, ironically, because in doing that, he was butting heads with his boss, LSU President Troy Middleton.
Understand, that was Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton, the forgotten but crucially important American general during World War II, with whom Heard was butting heads.
Middleton was a guy who butted heads with Gen. George Patton -- and won.
Middleton's ax with Heard was that he badly wanted a new library to come first, ahead of the stadium expansion. Although the library (named after Middleton) eventually was built, Heard's was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts since it cost him his job.
For some perspective, the soft-spoken, bespectacled Middleton was the general who, as commander of the VIIth Corps, feuded with, and ultimately convinced, the combative Patton of a strategy that could - and did - turn back the deadly onslaught of the Germans in the Ardennes Forest in mid-December 1944.
Patton later characterized Middleton's plan as "a stroke of genius" and it was one that ultimately led an otherwise minor player in the war, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, to get the confidence to resist the Germans' demand to surrender at Bastogne with his famous one-word reply: "Nuts."
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the presenter for Heard's posthumous award at Saturday night's banquet, said for Heard to "maneuver through the political minefield" to get dorms to be one of the ways to get the stadium expansion "was really unheard of at the time."
That, along with his "let there be light" innovation of night games, set the stadium apart among college stadiums and started a Saturday night tradition like none other.
He may not have had as short a quip as "Nuts" to Middleton in his battle for stadium expansion, but he did deliver famous last words in the feud. Some years after his departure as AD, he was sitting in the press box while fans were squeezing into the expanded stadium for the game between top-ranked LSU and undefeated Ole Miss.
"I wonder," he said, "how many people are at the library tonight?"
Maybe as many as there were at the one in Pitkin.
AD Heard had lasting impact on LSU athletics
1:25 AM, Jun. 16, 2011 |
Marty Mule' For the LSWA
A case could be made that in the 118-year history of Tiger sports no one -- not Doc Fenton, Billy Cannon, Pistol Pete or even the Kingfish, Huey Long -- left an deeper imprint on the program, which owns an Southeastern Conference-leading 43 national championships, than Thomas Pinckney "Skipper" Heard.
A force behind three expansions of Tiger Stadium in which the arena grew from 12,000 to 67,500 without which LSU could not evolved into the potent football entity it has become.
Heard was the athletics director when the Tigers became a charter member of the SEC (1933); when LSU first hooked up with 50,000-watt clear-channel WWL-AM (1942), giving the Tigers a national broadcast platform; when LSU became one of the first teams to fly to faraway inter-sectional football games (1939). He even coached the LSU golf team to a national championship (1947).
Heard was also an early pioneer in the establishment of legal and above-board athletic grants-in-aid, and is described in Peter Finney's book "The Fighting Tigers" as "a man who might well be considered the father of the tremendous sports plant on today's Baton Rouge campus."
He's an overdue but logical inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. That will take place June 25 in Natchitoches, with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne speaking about his impact, and grandson Will Wilton accepting the honor on behalf of a man who shaped the destiny of LSU sports.
Prime example is relayed from Finney's tome in which he writes, "The first addition to the stands in Tiger Stadium reflected the shrewd business sense of LSU's graduate manager. Later, though the grapevine, Heard learned that LSU president James M. Smith had $250,000 earmarked for dormitories. Armed with that knowledge he proceeded to sell Smith on the idea that the president could have his dormitories in the stadium simply by raising the stands on both sides and extending them to each goal line. Explained Heard: "What it meant was, for $250,000, the president got his dormitories and we increased the seating capacity."
The filled-in dorms eventually housed 1,500 students and the stadium grew by 10,000 seats.
But what Heard will forever be remembered for is his invention of "Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium." Night football, which changed the landscape of fall evenings in Louisiana -- and gave LSU its signature sports persona.
For the princely Depression-era sum of $7,500, Heard took a gamble and installed lights, though success was not immediate. Rains swept across Louisiana during the early part of October, 1931 and just 6,000 fans were scattered in the 22,000-seat stadium when the Tigers beat Spring Hill 35-0. A week later, in a 19-12 victory against South Carolina LSU drew 10,000. The precedent had been set, and Heard had forever changed the setting of LSU football.
When Cohen resigned as football coach, Army's Biff Jones was brought in. But Jones was also an instructor in military science and did not have extra time from his coaching to oversee the entire program. Thus, Heard became LSU's second official athletics director but in reality continued as its first, and began building further on an enviable and long-lasting program.
But not every story has a fairytale ending. After more than two decades on the job, Heard was forced out of office in 1954 largely because of his persuasion of the state legislature to again enlarge Tiger Stadium by more than 20,000 seats enclosing the south end to 67,500.
It was a good idea, but not when Heard's boss, LSU President Troy Middleton, wanted a badly needed new library to come first. Both projects eventually came to fruition, but when Heard's idea prevailed, his fate was probably sealed.
Still, Heard got off the last word, or least the most memorable, on the subject.
Four years later, when LSU filled the expanded stadium for the first time with the new-ranked No. 1 Tigers playing undefeated Ole Miss, Heard was sitting in the press box he had built, watching the fans squeeze into the stands.
"I wonder," he said low, but loud enough for those immediately around him to hear, "how many people are at the library tonight?"
From the Baton Rouge Advocate
Heard, Walker lead 2011 inductees
- Page 1 of 2
Heard’s legacy grew Saturday night when he was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, providing a lasting memory for 42 relatives on hand.
“We want to thank the Louisiana Sports Writers Association for their work and research that made this possible,” Heard’s grandson Will Wilton said. “When you look at the numbers — we have relatives who came from all across Louisiana and Texas to be here — it shows what it means to us. I know it’s something my grandfather would be very proud of.”
Heard and former LSU baseball star Todd Walker were part of an eight-member class inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies Saturday night at the Natchitoches Events Center. About 650 attended the 52nd annual induction event.
Also inducted were three former members of the New Orleans Saints: kicker Morten Andersen, fullback Buford Jordan and linebacker Vaughan Johnson. Former University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball star Kyla Hall Holas, former Xavier University and NBA standout Donald “Slick” Watts and West Monroe High football coach Don Shows were the other inductees.
Boxing official Elmo Adolph, of New Orleans, and former legislator and Haughton coach Billy Montgomery were recipients of the 2011 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award. Also honored were New Orleans writer-historian Ron Brocato and former Southeastern Louisiana University Sports Information Director Larry Hymel, recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism Award.
“I grew up watching the Saints,” Walker said. “So for me, it’s cool to be in the same room with them, much less be inducted into a hall of fame with them.
“The other halls of fame I’ve been put in are baseball specific. This is everybody who can run, jump or throw something. It’s a unique class and I’m very honored to be part of it.”
While Heard, who died in 1980, helped build LSU into the national sports power by promoting Saturday night football as an event by installing lights om Tiger Stadium and brokering statewide broadcasts of games during his tenure as athletic director from 1933-54, Walker was a key player in the Tigers’ rise to prominence in college baseball.
Walker was an All-American who was voted the 1993 College World Series MVP after helping lead the Tigers to the national title. He went on to play 12 seasons in the major leagues with seven teams after being drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Twins in 1994.
Holas, now the head softball coach at the University of Houston, became the first softball player inducted. She led the Cajuns to their first Women’s College World Series in 1993. She compiled a 104-20 record in the circle and an earned run average of 0.50.
“It’s still very humbling getting a whole perspective of it,” Hollas said of the Hall of Fame. “It’s just something I never imagined, but it’s also something I worked very hard for.”
West Monroe’s Shows enters the 2011 season with 321 victories and has won seven state titles with the Rebels dating to the early 1990s. He ranks fourth on Louisiana’s all-time victories list.
Page 2 of 2“This is a great thing you have done for all the people of Louisiana,” Shows said of the Hall of Fame. “And not just for the ones who have received this award. It gives everybody a hope of getting in the Hall of Fame.
“I’m privileged to be where I am. It’s not a Don Shows thing at West Monroe or anywhere else I’ve coached. It’s about the parents, the players and the other coaches.”
Watts, a Mississippi native, was an NAIA All-American at Xavier-New Orleans, then went on to play with both the Seattle SuperSonics and New Orleans Jazz in the NBA. He led the NBA in assists and steals and made the NBA’s All-Defensive team.
Jordan, an Iota native, helps lead the contingent of three New Orleans Saints who all played at the same time with the team. He played fullback and special teams for the Saints from 1986-92 and also was Louisiana’s all-time leading rusher with 4,156 yards when he graduated and now ranks third.
“We all did some good things for Louisiana,” Jordan said. “And I’m Louisiana through and through. It’s an honor to be inducted with this group. I’m glad to bring some recognition to my home town.”
a Andersen scored 2,544 career points during an illustrious 25-year career in the NFL that included 13 seasons with the Saints. Johnson becomes the fourth member of the Saints’ famed “Dome Patrol” linebacker corps inducted. He played eight seasons with the Saints and made the Pro Bowl four times.
Pictures from the Occasion:
|Nieces and great nieces -- Sarah McGrade, Alex Jackson, Frances Jackson Freeman, Danielle Rhine, & Veronica Perez Mueller|