LSU legacy: The Reveille takes on Huey Long

In 1934, seven staff members at The Reveille, the LSU student newspaper, were expelled after they ran afoul of Huey Long

LSU senior Stanley Shlosman and his friends at The Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, were on the cusp of graduating in 1934 when they ran afoul of Louisiana’s most powerful politician.

The Louisiana State Seal was stamped on each Reveille editorial page, but if any doubts arose about the paper’s loyalty, Huey P. Long, the former governor and, in 1934, a U.S. senator, was glad to clear up uncertainty.

And that year, at Long’s prompting, LSU President James Monroe Smith expelled Shlosman and six other Reveille writers and editors after they ran an anti-Long letter to the editor, then refused to accept faculty censorship.

The students became known as the Reveille Seven.

Shlosman, who at age 100 lives in a West Monroe nursing home, is one of two surviving members of that nationally known “club.”

LSU apologized to the seven in 1941, and Shlosman returned to the university for football games and for events such as his Hall of Fame induction and the 50th anniversary of the Reveille Seven’s expulsion.

He would be returning to the Baton Rouge campus this week, as well, if he were physically able.

Shlosman is honorary co-chairman of the Manship School of Mass Communication’s centennial celebration at LSU.

The expulsions began after Long decided to poke fun at one of his political rivals, state Sen. J.Y. Sanders Jr., who had just won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Long assembled LSU students to start a fake campaign to elect LSU football player Abe Mickal as Sanders’ replacement in the state Senate.

The event was a farce, but Reveille Editor Jesse Cutrer agreed to run a letter to the editor, signed by D.R. Norman, in the paper’s Nov. 16 issue accusing LSU of making a “mockery of constitutional government and democracy.”

“I’ll make ’em tear it out and run the damn paper over,” Long fumed before calling the LSU president, according to Ronald Garay’s book “The Manship School.”

The Kingfish asked Smith to ensure the 4,000 copies of the student paper were reprinted without the letter, a demand Cutrer acceded to. State Police were enlisted to round up the first version. It was Long’s next step, however, that sent the student staff over the edge.

Smith appointed as The Reveille’s adviser a local reporter who then asked to see page proofs of the next issue. The enraged editorial staff ran a disclaimer saying the paper had to be approved by the adviser before being published.

Smith told the editorial staff that from that point forward The Reveille content was not to show the university or its supporters in a bad light.

The four top editors quit, although one, Grace Williamson, did so reluctantly.

Shlosman was among the 26 students who signed a petition to reinstate the editors. Smith suspended the petitioners and said he would reinstate them if they wrote a letter of apology.

Shlosman and three others refused. Meanwhile, Williamson changed her mind and agreed to play by Smith’s rules and replaced Cutrer as editor.

In the Dec. 4 edition, Williamson wrote the staff wasn’t asked to submit to censorship, only faculty supervision.

On Dec. 5, the seven — editors Cutrer, Carl Corbin and Cal Abraham and petitioners Shlosman, Samuel Montague, L. Rea Godbold and David McGuire — were upgraded from suspended to expelled.

For Shlosman, it was a devastating blow that coincided with the Great Depression. Nobody had money, he said, but his parents were supportive.

“I had a horrible experience because practically all of us were seniors,” Shlosman said. “It was serious.”

Legend has it an anonymous person living in New Orleans, possibly a former editor of The Reveille, established a fund from which the students could borrow interest-free money to pay for their education at another university.

Shlosman said the seven earned scholarships to the University of Missouri. Only six of them graduated. Godbold became ill and couldn’t complete his studies.

After graduating in 1936, Shlosman worked for various newspapers, including the State-Times in Baton Rouge and the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News. He spent time in both the news and advertising departments.

He switched careers and served 30 years for a fur and pecan business in Monroe.

The other surviving member of the Reveille Seven is Montague, who is 101 and lives in Kansas.

Montague worked for The Times-Picayune and went on to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, then the press office in the American Embassy of Mexico City.

An oral history of his life is contained at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

McGuire became secretary to U.S. Rep. Hale Boggs and later director of public relations for Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison. In 1954, Morrison named him the city’s first chief administrative officer, a post created under the new City Charter. He died in 1960.

Corbin was hired as an editorial writer for The New Orleans States, one of the city’s two afternoon newspapers, in 1949. He became its editor in 1952 and continued in that position when the States’ parent company acquired The New Orleans Item, the city’s other afternoon paper, in 1958, resulting in The States-Item.

He resigned in 1965 and died in 2011 in New Orleans.

One of Shlosman’s favorite Reveille Seven memories happened a few years after the gang was expelled, and involved Corbin.

Smith, the LSU president, had been convicted in 1939 in the misuse of university funds of forgery, embezzlement, mail fraud and tax evasion.

He resigned and tried to flee to Canada, but was captured.

When Smith was returned to Louisiana, Corbin, by then a professional reporter, jumped on the story. Shlosman said his friend offered Smith this greeting when he saw him next: “I’m Carl Corbin and you dismissed me from LSU and I’m here to interview you.”

In 1941, the LSU Board of Supervisors expunged the dismissal records of the Reveille Seven and sent each of them a formal apology — an action hailed by the student newspaper, which later became The Daily Reveille.

In 1984, then-LSU Chancellor James Wharton invited the Reveille Seven back to the campus for the 50th anniversary of the expulsion. All but McGuire attended. The seven were inducted into the Manship Hall of Fame in 1996.

“We didn’t start out as student activists,” Corbin was quoted as saying at the time. “The situation came to us and we reacted to it.”

Shlosman is now ensconced in his quiet West Monroe nursing home, where his Manship Hall of Fame plaque and University of Missouri diploma sit side-by-side in his room.

None of the Reveille Seven, he said, had any regrets.

Andrea Gallo is a student at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.