Louisiana has a rich sports history that goes far beyond the gridiron. From dirt horse tracks to Olympic medals and the now-banned sport of high school boxing, you will find those local sports legends on display at a state museum in Natchitoches.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum sits on a corner on one of Louisiana’s most historic streets in the state’s oldest city.
The museum building is a 23-million dollar architectural marvel with hallways and stairways that flow like a river through more than 150 years of Louisiana sports history.
Although the building is new, the artifacts have been collected over decades. Museum Director Jennae Biddiscombe explains, “The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation had the collection and they were the ones that were collecting over the years. It started in 1959 but we have many items that go back further to the 1800’s.”
You can see memorabilia of pro football greats who got their start in Louisiana, like the size 16 quadruple-E cleat of Ernie Ladd of the San Diego Chargers, an All American from Grambling, and the Pro Bowl jersey of Southern University’s Aeneas Williams, an NFL Hall of Famer.
You can also explore Louisiana’s deep roots in the sport of boxing. At one time, the state’s universities and high schools competed in the boxing ring. Museum Curator Shawn Ryder says that boxing, “became so popular, especially in some of the smaller schools where they didn’t necessarily have the money for football or basketball, and it would draw crowds rival to basketball games”.
There is also the rich tradition of horse racing that has taken Louisiana jockeys from the Cajun bush tracks to the Kentucky Derby. These landmark moments are part of a sports digital timeline that begins in the 1850’s. “At the very beginning you’d see about horse racing,” Ryder explains. “Horse racing and boxing are two of the oldest sports here in Louisiana. In 1852 you will read about the Fairgrounds and its predecessor.”
You can also scroll through a digital display of inductees into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The Louisiana Sports Writers Association started picking these top athletes back in 1959. Today are there are more than 300 of these Hall of Famers.
An eye-catching centerpiece of the museum is a modified 1956 Thunderbird, built in a New Orleans garage. This car, built and driven by Knot Farrington, set land speed records in the early 1960’s when it hit a speed of more than 240 miles an hour.
From individual achievements to team sports, history was made and it is now being shared in this state-of-the-art Louisiana museum.