101-Year-Old LSU Alum Proves Age is Just a Number

09/26/2017
BATON ROUGE, LA –Julia Hawkins has been an LSU Tiger for more than a century. While a student studying education in the 1930s, she witnessed some amazing things: from LSU’s first live tiger mascot to a campus visit from Eleanor Roosevelt. 

During the 1934 football season, Hawkins and thousands of other students traveled by train to Nashville and watched the Tigers play Vanderbilt.

“Huey Long was still around and he would come out onto the football field with the team and lead the band or the Tigers,” Hawkins said. “One time we got to go to Tennessee for a game. I got to go on that trip and I remember how much fun it was. Because we were short of money, all of us. I couldn’t have done that if Huey Long hadn’t gotten us really reasonable tickets.”

Hawkins said Long arranged trains to bring the LSU student body to Nashville and said he helped pay their game tickets as well.

Hawkins was born on Feb. 9, 1916. She graduated with a teaching degree from LSU in 1938.

“I had a brother at LSU and a cousin at LSU, and I never planned to go anywhere but LSU,” Hawkins said of her college choice. In 1934, despite the Great Depression, Hawkins became a Tiger and moved to campus.

While a student, she welcomed the first live tiger mascot to campus.

“The day that he came, we declared a holiday. I don’t know who did it, but they closed off all the streets, and wouldn’t let the professors in. We had parades and cheered,” Hawkins said.

In 1937, a famous First Lady also visited the campus while Hawkins was a student.

“Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt came and she was quite an interesting, wonderful woman,” Hawkins said.

But her favorite memory at LSU is the first day of school, when she met her future husband, Murray Hawkins. The two were registering for an event being held at St. Alban’s Church. They dated through college, then after graduating from LSU, Mrs. Hawkins taught in Honduras for the United Fruit Company. Hawkins said she wanted to do something exciting while Murray was pursuing his career in Oklahoma. After working in Oklahoma, Mr. Hawkins served in the Navy and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

“Somebody came and called out on the river, they’ve bombed Pearl Harbor. Oh, that was just the most bombshell thing I could have ever heard,” Hawkins said. “Pretty soon he got in touch with me and he said, ‘Let’s get married by telephone.’” 

Not long after, the two were married by telephone, the bride in Louisiana and the groom in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Following Pearl Harbor, Mr. Hawkins returned home to Louisiana, where Hawkins continued to teach. Mr. Hawkins become an LSU professor and co-authored the petroleum engineering textbook still being referenced today. In 1998, LSU’s petroleum engineering department was named the Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering in recognition of Hawkins and Benjamin C. Craft. The two faculty members helped build the program and served the department as the first two chairmen.

The two welcomed four children. Then much later in her life, she discovered a new passion.

“I was biking. All the children were beginning to learn and we were biking as a family a lot,” Hawkins said. “And then when I was in my 80s, I started going to the senior Olympics.”

She started competitively bicycling in the senior games, collecting medals along the way. But she stopped competing when she realized she was the only women in the race. Her children convinced her to try something new: running. And she hasn’t stopped, running the 50 and 100-meter dash in the Senior Olympics.  

In June 2017, Hawkins ran the 100-meter dash at the National Senior Games, where she broke a world record. Then one month later, she competed in her own backyard, at her alma mater. Hawkins raced in the USA Track and Field Outdoors Masters Championships, held at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium, where family and friends cheered her on. She said that race would be her last, then went on to break a world record for her age group.

When she’s not competitively running, Hawkins is writing: sharing the stories of her life, the letters from her husband Murray. At 101 years old, she credits her longevity to living a healthy life.

“Well, I think I’ve always been active and I’ve always kept my weight down. And I’ve always tried to eat right, and I never smoked or drank,” said Hawkins. “I’m enjoying living.”

 

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Contact Rachel Spangenthal
LSU Media Relations
225-578-3869
rachelsp@lsu.edu

 

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