On September 6, 1975 at 11:58 a.m., longtime public television advocate Lucille Woodard flipped a ceremonial switch to sign WLPB on in Baton Rouge. It was the culmination of three years of hard work after the Legislature approved the creation of the Louisiana Educational Television Authority.
Let’s put 1975 in perspective. Gerald Ford was President; President Obama had just started high school; future Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was in preschool, and Ali and Frazier fought the “Thrilla in Manila.” Two of the year’s big movies were Jaws and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest while 1975 marked the debut of “Saturday Night Live.”
Woodard, a professor at LSU, started working in the 1950s to get educational television throughout the state. After decades of frustrated efforts, the Louisiana Educational Television Authority was created in 1971 and the money to start the state network was appropriated. Executive Director Max Fetty led the efforts to get LPB on the air, but unfortunately, he passed away before the station signed on.
LPB’s first home was in the Louisiana Department of Education building in downtown Baton Rouge. LPB moved to the LPB Telecommunications Center on Perkins Road in 1986.
KLTM-TV in Monroe was the second LPB station to go on the air in 1976, followed by KLTS in Shreveport and KLPB in Lafayette in 1978. KLTL in Lake Charles signed on in 1981 and KLPA-TV in Alexandria went on the air in 1983. LPB has also entered into a partnership with WLAE-TV32 in New Orleans, which gives LPB a presence in the Crescent City.
Louisiana: The State We’re In was started in 1976 with current Executive Director/CEO Beth Courtney as host and producer. The only statewide magazine in Louisiana, it has garnered many journalism and public affairs awards during its 34-year history. Charlie Whinham and Shauna Sanford continue to bring you the news you need to know and interesting features about the people and places which make our state such a fun and unique place to live.
Louisiana Public Square, LPB’s monthly televised town hall meeting, gives average citizens a change to voice their opinions about the important issues in the state and question experts on that month’s subject. Beth Courtney and Shauna Sanford host.
Documentaries about Louisiana and its “unique” politics have always been a major part of LPB’s locally produced programming. LPB combined with rising filmmaker Ken Burns (The Civil War) to produce Huey Long. Other award-winning documentaries produced or co-produced by LPB have included Uncle Earl, Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics, and Lindy Boggs: Steel & Velvet.
The six-part series Louisiana: A History, LPB’s biggest and most lauded project to date, premiered in September 2003 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. It was honored with a 2004 duPont Columbia Award, one of the highest honors in broadcasting.
Preserving and showcasing our state’s history has always been a goal for LPB. Documentaries such as Signpost to Freedom: The 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, Against the Tide: The Story of the Cajun People of Louisiana, and Spirit of a Culture: Cane River Creoles have all explored little-known aspects of our past and present. Recent documentaries have included Atchafalaya Houseboat; A Summer of Birds, the story of John James Audubon’s year in Louisiana; and Forever LSU, the history of the state’s flagship university.
In the 1990s, LPB produced a wide range of documentaries about our state’s artists. Author Ernest Gaines (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman) was the subject of Ernest Gaines: Louisiana Stories. Frame After Frame: The Images of Herman Leonard told the story of jazz photographer Herman Leonard while Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening was a biography of 19th century Louisiana writer Kate Chopin.
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana and New Orleans, LPB documented the heroic actions of rescuers through Katrina’s Smallest Victims and the stories of the storm survivors trying to put the lives back together in American Creole and Washing Away: Losing Louisiana. A follow-up to that award-winning 2006 documentary called Washing Away: After the Storms featured interviews with the same storm survivors.
Our first nationally–syndicated show was Justin Wilson’s Louisiana Cooking. A new Chef John Folse, series premieres soon.
Friends of LPB have been recognizing the accomplishments of distinguished Louisiana natives at its Louisiana Legends Gala each spring while LPB and the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge have honored eight outstanding students with the Lousiana Young Heroes Awards.
Education has always been the focal point of LPB’s mission.
LPB is deeply thankful for the support that it has received over the last 40 years and we look forward to serving the state in the future.
It seems like it was just yesterday that Louisiana Public Broadcasting made its debut, but thanks to the generous support of Friends like you it has been a wonderful adventure that continues to grow into an amazing future.