Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This dissertation is a study of Louisiana's political, social, and economic development during World War II. Louisiana in 1939 was a rural, agricultural, poorly-educated, racially segregated, one-party, southern state. By 1945, however, many aspects of life in Louisiana had changed. Louisiana's political development during the war years was marked by the temporary displacement of the Longite faction of the Democratic party by the reform faction of the party. Even though reformers Sam Jones and James H. Davis captured control of the executive branch of the state government, Longites remained strong in the legislature and in minor state offices. The Longite holdovers retained enough political clout to prevent full implementation of the reform program and preserved their faction's political base. Both teachers and students left their schools in order to participate in the war effort. In addition schools took on the task of educating their students and the general public for the new wartime demands. The state's economy was marked by increased industrialization during the early 1940s. Demand for implements of war stimulated industrial production throughout the country, and Louisiana was no exception. Despite large war plants constructed in the state, however, Louisiana remained predominately rural. Increased income caused by the demand for agricultural products raised the living standard of Louisiana farmers from the low levels of the 1930s. Louisianians living on the homefront had to adjust to many changes. Consumer goods virtually disappeared "for the duration;" family members and friends disappeared in the vast American war effort; holidays lost many traditional trappings; and two groups whose social and economic equality had long been suppressed made claims for their share of recognition. Blacks and women used the scarcity of traditional laborers to move into jobs formerly dominated by white males. Even though their gains proved to be temporary, their emergence from the economic shadows established the foundation upon which later economic and social improvements were made. Louisiana was transformed between 1939 and 1945. The old state, however, was still visible underneath the layers of change.