Last week I heard that the LSU stadium was celebrating its’ ninetieth anniversary. It is a magnificent stadium and many a male student have lived in the bowels of the stadium while obtaining a world class education. What is not understood is just how the stadium came to be.
Huey Long was elected to the governorship of Louisiana in 1928. A year after his election two events happened that ultimately changed the face of Louisiana. The first was the onset of the Great Depression. The second was the attempt to impeach Long. While it may be unclear how the two events affected each other, they do.
When Long was undergoing impeachment attempts an ally for Long emerged and provided both material and moral support. The man was named Leon Weis. He was an architect from New Orleans. They became friends and Long believed in loyalty and rewarding that locality. Eventually Weiss would receive his share of state projects.
The Great Depression was a very destructive time in the history of our nation. The stock market had crashed and the economy was in a shambles. Lives were ruined and in certain situations lives were lost due to the desperation of the times. Farms were foreclosed on and soup lines formed in the cities as manufacturing closed down. The depression spread to Europe and the world was in chaos. In an attempt to regain positive economic conditions for our country, the Federal Government began a series of programs to pump money into the economy and at the same time employee the unemployed and build confidence in the citizens.
These two unrelated events in history were destined to merge on the campus of Louisiana State University. Huey Long loved LSU and especially the football team with all the pomp can circumstance surrounding it. While he wanted a university system around the state that would allow an opportunity for anyone to receive an education, LSU would be his flagship. Long wanted to build a new stadium for his university and he approached the Federal Government to provide this funding. Under federal funding programs associated to the economic recovery acts, he felt he could get his stadium built. He was mistaken and the request was rejected. The Federal Government didn’t build football stadiums; but they would build were dormitories. Long turned to his new ally Leon Wise.
Wise took the problem and turned it into a bold approach to the issue. He designed a new wing to the LSU stadium and designed it in such a way that the stadium could house students. The plan was then submitted to Washington, not as a request for stadium funding but instead as a dormitory funding request. The request was approved, LSU got a stadium expansion and the students got new dorm rooms. And that was how LSU got its’ new stadium but this is not the end of the story.
Wise continued his association with the administration and following Long’s assassination he continued to design for the Long hand-picked administration of Richard Lesche. His designs were revolutionary and during the two administrations he produced plans for such structures as the state capital building, governor’s mansion, the massive Charity Hospital in New Orleans and buildings on campuses all over Louisiana. When the Louisiana Scandals led to 200 indictments and the imprisonment of the governor and president of LSU, Weiss was among those that went to prison. Some feel that his religion led to his indictment more than his involvement in corruption.
There is still more to this story. Our community has direct ties to the development of the Louisiana State University Stadium. Online reference to Wise identifies that he born in rural Union Parish in the town of Farmerville.


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