Today in New Orleans History

September 23

Shushan Airport Milneburg Joys

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Harness Racing at Lafreniere Park
September 23, 1954
Felix Bonura served as the president of the 427 acre multi-million dollar pari-mutual Magnolia Park Inc. Harness Racing course which opened in 1954 on Frank J. Clancy Boulevard (now Downs Boulevard) on what was a portion of what was originally La Freniere concession. The company built a $100,000 road (David Drive?) from Airline Highway to the track where there was parking for 5000 vehicles, seating for 2500 in the grandstand (the dining area seated 600) and accommodations for over 20,000 people on the grounds. Barns provided spaces for 600 horses on the 227 acre track. The remaining 200 acres was later used for housing development. The harness racing season ran from September to Thanksgiving Day (when the New Orleans Fairgrounds opened each year). In 1959 the track was renamed Jefferson Downs which offered nighttime horse racing. It closed in 1965. The land later became Lafreniere Park whose groundbreaking was celebrated in 1977 -- the park was dedicated and opened in 1982. (Photo Courtesy of the Jefferson Parish Yearly Review.)

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Jazz is Legislated as a National American Treasure
September 23, 1987

In 1987, the US House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill proposed by Democratic Representative John Conyers Jr. to define jazz as a unique form of American music stating, among other things, "... that jazz is hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated." The bill passed in the House of Representatives on September 23, 1987 and in the Senate on November 4, 1987.

Allison Miner
Jazz Fest Founder
Born on September 23, 1949

By Eve Abrams, WWNO

When the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival first began [the second incarnation of it] in 1969, it was radical...founders Quint Davis, George Wein, and Allison Miner created a safe space for New Orleanians to come together, to hear each others’ music and to party -- together.  Eve Abrams brings us this profile of Allison Miner, a titan in New Orleans music, and the only person with a Jazz Fest stage named for her:

For many people, like me, Allison Miner was a name attached to the stage inside the grandstand where musicians talk more than play. But then I started meeting people like Grant Morris, who became close with Miner when she managed Professor Longhair for most of the 1980’s. Morris calls Allison, "one of the most important people in music history, in the history of people who aren’t musicians."...Allison managed the Wild Magnolias, Rebirth Brass Band, Steve Masakowsi, and most infamously, Professor Longhair. She was part nurturing mother, part hard-nosed business woman, and there was no line between the musician and herself. They were like family...Allison Miner died at age 46 of bone marrow cancer. By that time, she’d started the Jazz and Heritage Archive, helped launch WWOZ, and ensured that the Jazz Festival would be a non-profit and part of a foundation. After she died [on December 23, 1995], the Music and Heritage stage was named in her honor. It’s still the only Jazz Festival stage named for someone. Read the entire beautiful tribute to Allison Miner at

Theodore Jourdan Debuts
For the White Sox
September 18, 1916

Born in New Orleans on September 5, 1895, Theodore Charles Jourdan  made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago White Sox on September 18, 1916.  He was a first baseman over parts of four seasons (1916–1918, 1920) with Chicago. He complied a career batting average of .214 in 196 at-bats, with 11 RBIs.  He ended his career in the majors on October 3, 1920 with the White Sox with whom he played with for World Series championship in 1917 He died in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 66 on  September 23, 1961.

Jazzman Wooden Joe Nicholas is Born
September 23, 1883 

Born in New Orleans on September 23, 1883,  jazzman Wooden Joe Nicholas was an active member of the early New Orleans jazz scene. He knew Buddy Bolden and said Bolden was the main influence on his cornet style.  In 1915 he was playing clarinet with King Oliver.  In addition to forming the Camelia Brass Band in 1918,  he was famous for his volume and endurance. Nicholas did not record until 1945 when he was 62 years old and again in 1949.  He died in New Orleans on November 17, 1957. He was the uncle of clarinetist Albert Nicholas.

Rudolph Matas Dies
September 23, 1957

Rudolph Matas earned his degree from the Medical School of the University of Louisiana in 1880 at the age of nineteen. In 1889 he was the first surgeon in the United States to use spinal anesthesia. During his career he developed the IV drip technique and was the first to surgically repair aneurysms. Dr. Matas died on September 23, 1957, at the age of 97. Rudolph Matas Elementary School in Metairie is named in his honor.

Lee Harvey Oswald Leaves New Orleans
September 1963

Marina Oswald's  friend, Ruth Paine, transported Marina and her child by car from New Orleans to the Paine home in Irving, Texas, near Dallas, on September 23, 1963. Lee Harvey  Oswald stayed in New Orleans at least two more days to collect a $33 unemployment check. It is uncertain when he left New Orleans; he is next known to have boarded a bus in Houston on September 26—bound for the Mexican border, rather than Dallas—and to have told other bus passengers that he planned to travel to Cuba via Mexico.  He arrived in Mexico City on September 27, where he applied for a transit visa at the Cuban Embassy.
On a related note, on September 23, 2009 the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the following:

Gadhafi points finger at Israel over JFK assassination

NEW YORK (JTA/Jewish Telegraphic Agency) — Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi insinuated that Israel was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Speaking Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly, Gadhafi implied that Israel may have plotted to kill Kennedy in 1963 because he allegedly wanted to launch a probe into its clandestine nuclear program.

“Jack Ruby, an Israeli, killed Lee Harvey Oswald,” the Libyan leader was quoted by the translator as saying. “Why did this Israeli kill Harvey? Ruby later died mysteriously. The whole world should know that Kennedy wanted to investigate the actions of the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona.”

An H5 Meteorite fell in New Orleans on September 23, 2003.

Dr. Barry Henry, 76, the Saenger's biggest fan, died on September 23, 2013, days before its reopening.

September 23, 1909
Washington Post Report

Gradually New Orleans and the territory surrounding the Crescent City is recovering from the first effects of the tropical hurricane.
DEATH LIST IS NOW 100 Gulf Region Struggles With Hurricane's Damage. RAILROADS ALL IN CONFUSION -- Southern Louisiana and Mississippi Have an Immense Task to Restore Transportation and Wire Communication -- ''Lost" Train Found -- Weather Bureau's Warnings of Storm Exact. -- Those engaged in the work of rescue and repair, made necessary by the West Indian hurricane, which swept Louisiana and Mississippi last Monday have found their task a far more colossal one than they expected. Practically all of the isolated country sections of the storm-swept area have now been explored, but until definite reports have been received from relief parties it will not be possible to form anything like an accurate list of the dead and injured.
MANY CORPSES LEFT IN WAKE OF HURRICANE --  It Is Probable That Over Fifty Persons Have Perished on the Louisiana Coast -- GREATEST LOSS OF LIFE IN TERREBONNE PARISH -- The Property Loss in Louisiana and Mississippi May Exceed $3,000,000---Great Destruction Wrought at Biloxi and Other Summer Resorts Along the Coast. Miles of Territory Laid Waste. Death List in Terrebonne. Shipping Totally Destroyed. Additional News of Havoc. Clung to Tie and Was Saved. HEAVY LOSSES REPORTED ON MISSISSIPPI COAST DAMAGE DONE AT JACKSON WILL REACH $50,000.

Hurricane Rita
September 23, 2005

On September 23, 2005, Rita also produced a storm surge of  4 to 7 feet in coastal areas of southeastern Louisiana, flooding some areas that had been impacted by the surge from Hurricane Katrina, including New Orleans, Slidell, and Mandeville. Some levees in southern Jefferson and southern Terrebonne Parishes were overtopped or breached, as were a few repaired levees in the New Orleans area including the Industrial Harbor Navigation (Industrial Canal). ). This The surge prolonged the efforts to remove floodwatersfrom the New Orleans area.
The approach of Rita provoked one the largest evacuations in U.S. history. Media reports indicate that the number of evacuees in Texas could have exceeded numbers took place in Louisiana. Rita's s storm surge devastated communities in coastal areas of southwestern Louisiana, including Holly Beach, Cameron, Creole, and Grand Cheniere in Cameron Parish. Almost every structure in these areas was estroyed, and some were completely swept away.
Farther inland, numerous homes in Grand Lake were damaged or destroyed. Many portions of the Lake Charles area suffered substantial flood damage, including downtown and some surrounding residential communities. In Vermillion Parish, most structures in the town of Pecan Island were destroyed, and dozens of other homes and businesses were flooded and damaged.  Storm-surge damage to homes and businesses in low lying areas occurred along the entire coast of Louisiana, although the impact in the New Orleans area was not nearly as widespread as during Hurricane Katrina.  From

September 22-24th, 1722
First Well-documented Hurricane in Louisiana
It initially moved through the Lesser Antilles on September 11th, later making landfall west of the Mouth of the Mississippi on the 23rd, then passing through Central Louisiana. This same storm most likely recurved northeast into South Carolina, as they reported 3 days of flooding rains around the 27th.

Winds of hurricane force lasted fifteen hours beginning at 10 PM on the 22nd and ending shortly after noon on the 23rd. Storm surges were three feet at Bayou St. John and eight feet in the Mississippi River. Thirty six huts were destroyed, including the area hospital. These buildings were hastily constructed in 1717-18 when New Orleans was initially selected to be the capital of the Louisiana Company after a hurricane devastated Dauphin Island (Sullivan). The St. Louis church was destroyed. Food crops were lost in Biloxi. This storm was responsible for the moving of Mobile from 27 miles above the Mouth of the Mobile River to its present day site.
Ships were reported to be sunk in the harbor during this hurricane. Three piroughs loaded with fowl, corn, and other goods were lost up towards the Tensas. The level of the Mississippi river rose eight feet due to the hurricane. In 1718, a three foot high levee was built to protect New Orleans from both river and tide overflow. This proved inadequate, as older area settlements used the devastation of New Orleans in the “Great Hurricane of 1722" as final proof of that city’s unsuitability as the capital of Louisiana, following a great flood by only three years. (Wiki)

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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).

Shushan Airport
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