The Legacies They Built: Honoring Pinkie Gordon Lane, Lutrill and Pearl Payne, and Julian T. White

September 13, 2023

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In 2022, LSU’s Board of Supervisors voted to recognize the significant contributions of four Black LSU pioneers by naming two programs and one building in their honor: the Pinkie Gordon Lane Graduate School, Lutrill and Pearl Payne School of Education, and Julian T. White Hall (formerly the Design Building) to honor their legacies. But who were these inspiring figures?

LSU Libraries Special Collections’ new exhibition, “The Legacies They Built: Honoring Pinkie Gordon Lane, Lutrill and Pearl Payne, and Julian T. White,” highlights creative works, photographs, correspondence, and publications that tell their stories before, during, and after their time on LSU’s campus as well as the broader connections that they made in academia and in their public contributions. The exhibition is on display in Hill Memorial Library through December 20, 2023, and is free and open to the public.

Cover of Mystic Female, 1978

Lane was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for this compilation of poetry Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections

– Cover of Mystic Female, 1978

“We’re proud to celebrate these remarkable individuals who have shaped the fabric of our institution and inspired generations of scholars. Housing their materials within LSU Libraries ensures that their stories are remembered and accessible to current and future students, researchers, and community members. This exhibition not only pays tribute to their accomplishments but also highlights the importance of inclusivity and the power of education,” said Stanley Wilder, dean of LSU Libraries.

Between 1951 and 1971, the four honorees achieved significant milestones at LSU. For each, these were not the capstones of their contributions, but foundations for the larger legacies that they would build as teachers and community leaders. In fact, a congratulatory note from a friend of Lane’s upon her graduation could apply to all four: “Some people are great because they are first; you are first because you are great!”

  • Before becoming Louisiana’s first Black Poet Laureate in 1989, Pinkie Gordon Lane was the first Black woman to earn a doctorate from LSU. She earned a PhD in English in 1967. Additionally, she was the first woman to chair Southern University’s English Department and a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet.
  • Lutrill Payne was the first Black graduate student to matriculate at LSU. Initially, he was denied admission to the LSU Graduate School. After mounting a successful legal defense, he enrolled in a vocational agriculture class at LSU in 1951. In 1952, his wife, Pearl Payne, enrolled and became the first Black woman to earn a master’s degree in education in 1956. Together, Lutrill and Pearl Payne worked to integrate LSU’s Graduate School, breaking down barriers for future generations of students.
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Screenshot from Experience LSU video, c. 1994: Julian T. White and student review architectural plans

– Louisiana State University Archives

  • Julian T. White was among the first Black licensed architects in Louisiana and LSU’s first Black professor. He joined LSU’s Architecture Department in 1971. White continued working as a commercial architect while teaching; his real-life experiences were an inspiration to his students.

In addition to the photographs and documents on display from the University Archives, visitors to the exhibition can explore photos provided by the families of Lane, the Paynes, and White in honor of the recent memorialization of their relatives.

“Because of the generous donations of personal and family papers to LSU Libraries’ Special Collections, we are able to ‘put a face with a name,’ in a sense,” said Leah Wood Jewett, exhibitions manager for LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. “This exhibition showcases important collections that illustrate the lives of real people who surmounted real obstacles in the pursuit of education here at LSU. ‘The Legacies They Built’ reminds us of the flesh and blood behind the foundation and bricks.”

Poetry Reading

In addition to this exhibition, a poetry reading with musical accompaniment celebrating the work of Pinkie Gordon Lane will take place on the evening of October 16 as part of LSU Libraries’ “Music in Motion” series. More details will be available on our event calendar in the coming days. Visit