Today in New Orleans History

October 6

Milneburg Joys

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Alice O'Brien Borchardt is Born
 October 6, 1939


Alice Borchardt, left, and her sister, Anne Rice in Houston.  Photo from the Houston Chronicle

"Storytelling came easy for Houston novelist Alice Borchardt, even as a young child growing up in New Orleans when she would share her fancy tales with her younger sisters at their urging", wrote Renee C. Lee in the Houston Chronicle about Alice O'Brien Borchardt.  One of those four sisters was novelist Anne Rice. "Alice loved to write," Anne Rice said in a statement to The Las Angeles Times. "She had a natural ear for beautiful language and was a natural storyteller."  "We want to be the Bronte sisters," Rice said in a 1995 interview with the Houston Chronicle, referring to the sisters who wrote the gothic novels "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights." "We want to go down in history."

Alice O'Brien Borchardt was born in New Orleans on October 6, 1939.  She moved with her family, as a teenager, to Richardson, Texas.  After a career in nursing, she began to write historical fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Her sister Anne encouraged her, helped her find an agent, and wrote introductions to several of her books. The first of her seven novels, Devoted, was published in 1995. She is best known for a trilogy about werewolves in medieval Rome. In her Legends of the Wolves trilogy, (The Silver Wolf, Night of the Wolf and The Wolf King,) the orphaned Regeane and the nobleman Maeniel, both are part wolf and part human, contend with bullying chieftains, embattled emperors and supernatural interventions. The last book in the series was published in 2001.  Alice died on July 24, 2007 at the age of  67 after a long battle with cancer.

Books by Alice Borchardt 

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Archbishop Aymond, along with other U.S. Bishops, celebrated a Funeral Mass for Archbishop Hannan on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at St. Louis  Cathedral, followed by the burial in a crypt beneath the sanctuary.

LSU's first Bengal tiger named Mike, was named after Mike Chambers, LSU's athletic trainer in 1936, and was bought for $750 from the Little Rock Arkansas Zoo. Mike VI, a 300-pound Bengal-Siberian mix tiger acquired from the Indiana big-cat sanctuary was previously known as Roscoe; "Mike VI" was officially named Mike on September 8, 2007. He was introduced to fans at a home game against Florida on October 6, 2007.

On October 6, 2005, Amtrak announced that the City of New Orleans and Crescent passenger trains will again serve New Orleans Union Station beginning on Sunday October 9. Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Amtrak suspended City of New Orleans service south of Memphis, Tennessee, and suspended Crescent service south of Atlanta, Georgia, in anticipation of damage to the tracks and signal systems surrounding New Orleans. The first departure from New Orleans will be the northbound Crescent at 7:20 AM, followed by the northbound City of New Orleans at 1:45 PM; the first corresponding southbound trains are scheduled to arrive in New Orleans later that afternoon. Amtrak's announcement did not mention service restoration on the transcontinental Sunset Limited.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS), a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters, was introduced by Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-California) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) on September 22, 2005.  The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2006 by a margin of 349 to 29. Technically an amendment to the Stafford Act, it was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 6, 2006. The bill is now Public Law 109-308 The bill was initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the abandonment of many thousands of pets and other animals brought the matter of animal welfare to national attention.

The Canal Street Maison Blanche store was closed in 1982 by the City Stores Company and reopened in 1984. In 1997 work began to use the upper floors as part of a new Ritz-Carlton hotel. The original plan was for the lower floors to continue to operate as a Maison Blanche department store. However, after Dillard's acquired the store with the purchase of the remainder of the Maison Blanche chain, they closed the Canal Street store. The building is the New Orleans Ritz Carlton, whose grand opening was on October 6, 2000.

 Rosa F. Keller Library & Community Center Named
in Honor of Great Lady

 October 6, 1999
The New Orleans Recreation Department Keller Center at 1814 Magnolia Street was dedicated on November 22, 1971. It was named in honor of Rosa Freeman Keller who had dedicated decades of her life in New Orleans to racial and gender equality.
Coca Cola heiress and racial pioneer Rosa Freeman Keller worked tirelessly throughout her long life for those less fortunate than herself, particularly New Orleans’s African American residents. Though her elite social background made her perhaps an unlikely social activist, Keller helped lead the fight for the integration of public schools and transportation facilities in New Orleans. She never hesitated to use her position in powerful organizations, such as the Independent Women’s Organization, the National Urban League, or the Young Women’s Christian Association, to advocate for racial equality. Further, Keller encouraged women to play an active role in the political process. The Keller Family Foundation currently continues her legacy.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1985October6RosaKellerTPLovingCup.gifRosa Freeman was born March 31, 1911, to Alfred Bird “A.B.” Freeman and Ella West. While her mother descended from a family of southern aristocrats, Rosa’s father was a salesman—a “nobody from nowhere”—until he made a fortune with his fledgling Coca Cola business. With his success, the family gained entrance into the world of the New Orleans elite. After high school, Rosa Freeman attended Sophie Newcomb College for a year and then, anxious to establish her independence, transferred to Hollins College in Virginia, only to drop out a year later. At her social debut in New Orleans, Rosa Freeman met Charles Keller II, whom she married in 1932. After a few itinerant years because of Charles’s work in the armed services, the Keller family settled in New Orleans in 1944.

Already a member of the New Orleans chapter of the League of Women Voters, Keller began her foray into the world of politics working on voter registration. When her mother died in 1945, Keller was asked to serve on the local YWCA board, an integrated organization that deeply impacted her views on race relations. In 1947, seeking to alleviate the housing shortage for New Orleans’s black families, Rosa and Charles Keller, along with friends and philanthropists Edith and Edgar Stern, financed the construction of Pontchartrain Park, one of the first middle-class black communities in the country.            

Keller expanded her political involvement in the early 1950s when she helped organize the Independent Women’s Organization, created to support the election of moderate mayoral candidate deLesseps Morrison. When Morrison asked Keller to serve on the board of the public library system, she readily accepted, becoming the first woman to serve on a citywide board. Almost immediately Keller brought controversy to her position when she set out to integrate the New Orleans public library system—a goal she eventually achieved.

Keller continued to serve the New Orleans black community in a variety of ways. She chaired the board of Flint-Goodridge Hospital, a facility that catered to the black community. In this capacity, she fought for and won access to Blue Cross coverage for the New Orleans black community, and insisted that African American medical students have access to New Orleans’s medical libraries. Keller also served as president of the New Orleans Urban League, and on the boards of numerous citywide interracial organizations.

In 1953, Keller decided that it was time the League of Women Voters, an organization she loved, begin the process of admitting black members. With the help of her progressive peers, she succeeded in integrating the organization in 1955. State laws passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, however, forced to the league to resegregate a year later. Through Keller’s persistence, the league permanently achieved integrated status in 1963.

In 1958 Keller led the fight to desegregate the New Orleans public transportation system, but she considered her efforts to integrate the city’s public schools as “her war.” Toward this end, Keller helped create Save Our Schools (SOS), an organization dominated by elite white women in the New Orleans community. During the 1960 New Orleans School Crisis, when the first black children attended formerly all-white schools, SOS ferried children to and from the integrated schools. They also raised monies for the black and white families who kept their children in the schools and lobbied the state legislature on behalf of integrated schools. Much to the chagrin of some family members, Keller also personally financed the legal fight to desegregate Tulane University in 1963. Through the years, Rosa Keller had no qualms about holding interracial gatherings in her Uptown home, though it was considered a serious breach of racial etiquette at the time.

Keller received numerous honors for her work on racial issues in New Orleans, including the Times-Picayune Loving Cup Award, which honors New Orleans residents who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of public acclaim or material reward. She also received an honorary alumnus degree from Newcomb College and an honorary doctorate from Dillard University. She died in April 15, 1998, in New Orleans. The Keller Family Foundation, established in 1949, continues to provide monies to sustain and improve the New Orleans community.  The Rosa F. Keller Library & Community Center at 4300 S. Broad was named for her on October 6, 1999

Frystak, Shannon. "Rosa Keller." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Photos from the New Orleans Public Library.


Hospital Street was renamed Gov. Nicholls Street on October 6, 1909.

Business tycoon Harry Palmerston Williams (October 6, 1889–May 19, 1936) worked in Louisiana throughout the early years of the 20th Century. He became a noted aviation owner of the Wedell-Williams Air Service Corporation that dominated air racing in he United States during the  Golden Age of Aviation

New Orleans chess master Paul Morphy received an invitation to participate in the First American Chess Congress, to be held in New York from October 6 to November 10, 1857. He at first declined, but at the urging of his uncle eventually decided to play. He defeated each of his rivals, including James Thompson, Alexander Beaufort Meek, and two strong German masters, Theodor Lichtenhein and Louis Paulsen, the latter two in the semifinal and final rounds. Morphy was hailed as the chess champion of the United States,

The Racer's Storm (October 6-7, 1837) hit Matamoros, Mexico before recurving northeast and striking the Louisiana coast just east of Cameron; moved east across Gulf coast before heading across North Carolina and then out into the Atlantic.  It caused a surge of 8 feet of water above high tide on Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans experienced a "gale" on the 5th and 6th, destroying chimneys, awnings, and many area roofs. The City Exchange on Lewis Street, which was under construction at the time, suffered much damage. The original wooden Bayou St. John lighthouse, the first built by the U.S. Government outside the original 13 colonies, was swept into obscurity. All wharves along the Mississippi coast were washed away with the tide. The storm caused widespread flooding and considerable damage to shipping; all boats, including 4 steamboats, perished in the storm.  Lower portions of New Orleans were submerged. Many of the buildings were damaged or carried away by the tide. Crops were seriously damaged along both sides of the Mississippi, particularly sugarcane and cotton. Six lives were lost. (NOAA)

Pierre Augustin Charles Bourguignon Derbigny, the sixth Governor of Louisiana was born in 1769 at Laon near Lille, France, the eldest son of Augustin Bourguignon d'Herbigny who was President of the Directoire de l'Aisne and Mayor of Laon, and Louise Angelique Blondela.  Derbigny studied law at Ste. Genevieve but fled France in 1791 during the French Revolution. He arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and married Felicité Odile de Hault de Lassus with whom he would have five daughters and two sons.  He arrived in New Orleans, then a Spanish colony, in 1797 and by 1803 had been appointed Secretary of the Legislative Council. After the United States' annexation of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Derbigny was one of the representatives of the new Americans in Washington seeking self-government for the Orleans Territory. His oration of July 4, 1804 also urges for the reopening of the slave trade.  As the territory was integrated into the United States, Derbigny opposed British common law in Louisiana and defended the retention of civil law practices established during the French and Spanish colonial periods. He also led a movement to establish the College of Orleans and served as Regent. In 1812, he was selected as Secretary of the Territorial Senate. He also served in Captain Chauveneau's Company of Cavalry in the Louisiana Militia. From 1814-1820, Derbigny served as a Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He was one of the principal drafters of the 1825 Civil Code of Louisiana, along with Edward Livingston, François Xavier Martin and Louis Moreau de Liset. In 1821, Derbigny resigned from the Supreme Court of Louisiana to run unsuccessfully for Governor against Jean N. Destréhan, Abner Duncan and Thomas B. Robertson. Despite his loss to Robertson, Derbigny was appointed Secretary of State of Louisiana and served from 1821-1828. In 1828, he ran for Governor again and this time defeated Thomas Butler, his former supporter Bernard de Marigny and Congressman Philemon Thomas. The state Legislature confirmed his election over these 3 opponents. Derbigny was affiliated with the nascent National Republican Party, an anti-Jackson group. In Derbigny's Inauguration speech, he urged internal improvements which the legislature supported including: incorporation of a gas light company for New Orleans, several navigation companies for New Orleans and important bayous in the state, and the construction and repair of levees. On October 6, 1829, after 10 months in office, Governor Derbigny was thrown from a carriage on the West Bank of the Mississippi and died three days later in Gretna. Governor Derbigny is buried in St. Louis Number 1 Cemetery in New Orleans.  Source:

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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