Baton Rouge, La – In 1951, Lutrill Payne Sr. filed suit against Louisiana State University, which led to the desegregation of LSU’s graduate school. On Dec. 18, 2015 the LSU College of Agriculture recognized Payne’s accomplishments by posthumously awarding him the LSU University Medal, LSU’s highest honor, during its December commencement ceremony.
“Payne advocated for racial equality and education,” Bill Richardson, dean of the College of Agriculture and LSU vice president for agriculture said. “Mr. Payne’s efforts paved the way for African Americans to pursue advanced study at LSU and promoted equal opportunity within higher education throughout Louisiana.”
Payne, who passed away in 1999, was also a veteran of World War II and the first African American to run for public office in Natchitoches.
Payne’s wife of 59 years, 97-year-old Pearl Payne, attended the ceremony with her family and friends.
“He said he wasn’t doing this for himself,” Payne said of the lawsuit. “But he was doing it for future generations of graduate students.”
Five years after the lawsuit, Pearl Payne received her graduate degree from LSU in education.
Payne’s daughter, Carolyn Payne White, said the family was humbled and honored by this recognition.
“LSU remained special to my mother and father,” White said. “I know my father would be so proud. So much has changed in the South and at LSU that it would be hard for today’s students to imagine what it was like back then.”