LSUS’ Living Legacy
Live oaks, crepe myrtles continue to provide shade, beauty to campus
If planting trees is the ultimate act of deferred gratification, then the 30th anniversary of the first plantings at LSU in Shreveport proves the statement to be true beyond question, and you can prove it for yourself by taking a drive through the campus. What was once a cotton field and an assortment of solitary buildings is now an established institution encircled by almost 600 mature live oaks and promenades with canopies of 350 crepe myrtles whose summer proliferation of white buds are a joy to behold.
In 1986 the LSUS campus consisted of six relatively new buildings with sparse trees on the original south side of the campus and a central mall in the center of what had been a treeless cotton field. Chancellor Grady Bogue wanted to make the campus a more beautiful and inviting place, but the problem was money. The legislature wouldn’t appropriate money for beautification, so Bogue created the Campus Beautification Committee and appointed John Porter, local businessman Peter Ramsey and Dr. George Kemp to the committee and charged them to come up with both a landscape design and a way to privately fund the effort.
The design that was ultimately settled upon was largely the work of Peter Ramsey. Ramsey was a man of many talents with an innate understanding of design and proportion and a background in agriculture, and his solution was live oaks and crepe myrtles. Ramsey designed and oversaw the planting operation, designed and installed the crepe myrtle irrigation system, and he and son Dobson, along with Dr. Kemp, personally planted a number of the trees that comprised his design.
While early efforts to raise money had been a spotty one, once Ramsey’s planting campaign got started, money started coming in at a faster rate. In 1990 Ramsey moved to Arkansas to run his family’s bus business, and Dr. John Darling, who succeeded Dr. Bogue as chancellor, reappointed Dr. Kemp to continue the landscaping project. To date over 1,220 trees have been planted. In addition to the 592 live oaks and 350 crepe myrtles there are now 40 elms, 160 red buds, 40 pine trees and 28 magnolias, in addition to 640 coral bells azaleas in four beds and numerous other shrubs.
Every worthwhile addition to our community’s livability started with a vision and an idea that came to fruition by the efforts of good and hard-working people, and in this regard we owe much to George Kemp, John Porter and Peter Ramsey.