During an April 2013 visit to Memphis for a National Federation of Press Women Board meeting, I had a great view of the Mississippi River from my hotel room. However, the river seemed to flow upstream because I was a half-turn off in my directions.
I was along the Mississippi again last week for the 2019 NFPW Conference in Baton Rouge.
The first morning, June 27, I walked a trail along the river and photographed tugboats and barges heading south to New Orleans and north to unknown upstream destinations.
Also on my photo card are grain elevators, huge cargo ships docked near a “Port of Greater Baton Rouge” sign, vehicles driving across and boats going under a huge erector set style steel bridge, and the permanently docked USS Kidd, one of four remaining World War II-era Fletcher-class destroyers that now is a museum.
Our NFPW lunch last Friday was in the Old State Capitol. The castle-like building with a magnificent stained-glass ceiling was built in the 1800s and restored most recently in 2008.
It also may be haunted. Staff and visitors have told stories about strange footprints on the Senate room floor (our lunchroom), doors opening and closing on their own, and a ghost believed to be a mid-1800s congressman who died of a heart attack after a heated debate.
Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne’s talk about some of his state’s many characters started with dynamic politician, Huey Long, who was governor in 1928-32 and U.S. senator from 1932 until his assassination Sept. 8, 1935, in the towering new state capitol he ordered built while governor.
The $5 million project resembles Nebraska’s capitol, but is 50 feet taller and was completed in 1932 after 14 months of construction. Our $10 million Tower of the Plains was built in four phases from 1922 to 1932.
Dardenne said Gov. Long was popular with common folks for projects like paving thousands of miles of rural roads. However, he also put many relatives on the state’s payroll and ran the state with a heavy hand.
His handpicked successor was the official governor during Long’s U.S. Senate years, but Dardenne said Long remained acting governor and spent much of his time in Baton Rouge.
Long is among the people, places and events featured in wonderful displays in the Old State Capitol and at the Capitol Park Museum where NFPW members attended a June 27 reception complete with Louisiana foods, a string quartet, local artists and two baby alligators brought by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries staff.
Views of the current capitol from the Capitol Park Museum’s covered patio included its reflection in a water feature.
My collection of Mississippi River photos wouldn’t have been complete without the images taken from a 10th-floor balcony off a hotel ballroom that was the banquet site last Friday and Saturday nights.
Just before the Friday night program started, someone said, “Look at the sunset.”
Several of us grabbed our cameras and went outside through the one unlocked balcony door. I took photos until the sun dropped below the horizon and the last pink-purple shades of light faded from the river water.
It was when I returned to my table to finish dessert — a slice of pecan pie — that I realized the sun seemed to set in the eastern sky.
Again, I was enjoying great Mississippi River views with a faulty sense of direction. I told myself I was on the river’s east bank looking west, with water flowing to New Orleans on my left and upstream on my right. But it didn’t seem that way.
I hope my inner compass adjusts this weekend while I continue to sort, label and study all those river photos.
Lori Potter is a Hub staff writer.