Death of La. TV personality puts spotlight on forgotten Leland College in Baker
BAKER – The death of a northeast Louisiana TV personality brings back memories of the often forgotten Leland College in Baker.
Ernie Miles, of KNOE TV, was a graduate of the black Baptist school that holds historical significance in the African American community. The school closed in 1960. The campus was founded in Baker in 1923 after spending fifty-three years in New Orleans.
Miles, who would have been 90-years-old in 2017, died earlier in January. Funeral services for Miles were this week.
Miles was known to everyone who lived northwest of Alexandria and southeast of Little Rock, Arkansas. His face was beamed from the KNOE television studios centered in Monroe. In 1972, Miles was the first black reporter at the television station.
For decades, Miles hosted the “Ernie Miles Show” on KNOE. The Sunday show highlighted gospel musicians.
The writer of this post – who worked at KNOE in 2009 and part of 2010 – remembers hearing the sound of gospel music radiating from the studio on evenings the show was recorded.
Today, the Leland College site is abandoned. All that remains is a brick structure from the school days. The overgrown, nondescript area is on Groom Road, just west of Main Street. The only memory of it being a beacon of education for many years ago are two nearby streets named “College Avenue” and “Chamberlain Avenue” - Chamberlain was the name of the main building on campus.
In 2015, The Advocate newspaper reported a Baptist church association was hoping to build a retreat and convention center at the site. It's not clear how far along the plans have come since the original story.
Classes started, originally, in the basement of a church in New Orleans. Eventually, the college was built on ten acres on St. Charles Avenue. Leland moved to Baker after a hurricane destroyed the buildings in New Orleans.
According to a historical account on the internet, the Baker location had a brick administration building, brick dormitories, and a framed classroom building along with homes for the president and professors along with farm buildings. Remains of the college at Baker were added to the National Register in 1982.
Other notable alumni include former Grambling University great Eddie Robinson.
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