First Black professor at LSU continues impacting campus community
BATON ROUGE - Throughout American history, Black people have used education as a key tool to freedom and equality. In south Louisiana, those who fought to get educated turned around to become educators, including Julian Thaddeus White.
“He graduated in ‘61 from the University of Illinois Champaign Banner," said his wife Lorreta White. “He graduated on a Friday and we got married the next Friday or Saturday."
White said 'I do' to her late husband Julian T. White of Alexandria more than 60 years ago.
“He had a cousin-in-law, Dickie Thurman, who was an engineer but practiced architecture, who influenced him," said Loretta. “He would work with him some summers, and I think that led him to majoring in architecture."
That cousin-in-law, Henry “Dickie” Thurman, was the first licensed Black architect in the state of Louisiana. Julian White would become the second.
“He realized there were many battles ahead,” Loretta went on. “He tried to get into LSU, and that was impossible for him at the time. He just always knew from early on, maybe high school or so that he wanted to be an architect."
On his road to becoming an architect, White faced each of his many battles with grace.
“He came to take the licensing test and somebody in the room asked, 'do we have to take the test with him in the room?' And so the proctor had him move to another room,” said Thomas Sofranco, who worked alongside and was mentored by White.
“That room ended up being his office then as he came back here to teach,” he continued. He used that room as his office for 33 years during his teaching career at LSU.
“From being a young architect and a young professor, he was really a mentor to me as I came to this new profession,” continued Sofranco.
While he worked at a local architecture firm, White still took on independent projects that served larger social purpose: schools, medical offices, public facilities, and churches across the country.
“If you were a Black or white girl or a guy, you know, Julian just set the standard of that's what it means to be a professional,” Sofranco said.
The impact Julian White had on the LSU community is still apparent, as the building where he taught for so many years became the Julian T. White Design Building. There is also a physical piece of his legacy that you can see with a ride down Perkins Road.
That building, which was originally designed as a medical office, is now home to Digital FX Studio, where they still have White's original blueprints.
In an effort to continue his legacy, the Julian Thaddeus White Memorial Scholarship is awarded to LSU architecture students who may have financial needs.
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