Read the Books of a Black man who took on the Klan, got Spiro Agnew elected Governor of Maryland and then got locked up in Lorton Prison.

 

In 1965 Whitney LeBlanc was hired to integrate the faculty at Towson State Teachers College north of Baltimore, Maryland. This was never-never land for people with dark skin. A colleague from graduate school at the University of Iowa had the bright idea of bringing LeBlanc from Howard University in Washington DC., to the Lilly white college to shake things up, and he did. The very next year LeBlanc decided to direct the new play, And People All Around by George Sklar. This play dealt with the recent murder of the three civil Right Workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

            With more naivety than bravery, LeBlanc had open rehearsals which attracted quite a crowd of curious students when the word got out that LeBlanc was doing this controversial play in the heart of Klan country. The day before the production was scheduled to open; LeBlanc was called to the president’s office. Dr. Hawkins introduced him to the FBI men who brought word that Klan was planning to shut down the play. LeBlanc’s comment was, “Let ‘em come.” With that it was decided the play would go on as planned and the FBI would protect the actors and the students, and keep the Klan off College property.

            About 20 members of the Klan came in full regalia and protested with signs on the street in front of the College. LeBlanc stood at the edge of the College grounds and watched, as the same organization alleged to have killed, and were later convicted for killing, the civil Rights workers were within 10 feet from where he stood. A shiver of fear ran through LeBanc’s body and he turned and went back into the auditorium and gave the word to lift the curtain. Several Klansmen attempted to enter the auditorium but were turned away by The FBI. Then they went out, took off their sheets and hoods and returned as playgoers to yell and heckle as the play progressed. The FBI removed each of the hecklers as they were revealed, and the play progressed amidst this confusion. When all was said and done the production had run its course and was applauded as the courageous undertaking that it was.

            Now all of this took place in the midst of a political campaign for the governorship of Maryland. At this time the Democratic candidate, George P. Mahoney, a self made millionaire contractor, was leading in the polls to be elected as Governor. His slogan was “Your Home is Your Castle”, and many of the supporters who protested along with the Klan wore Mahoney hats. The next day, Friday October 21, the Baltimore Sun ran an article including a pictures of Klan members with the Mahoney supporters. The Republican committee jumped on this opportunity with vigor. They flooded the state with posters and flyers carrying the picture and message, “Beat back Mahoney and the Klan”. Needless to say this last minute campaign worked and Spiro Agnew was elected Governor by a very narrow margin; 49.5% of the vote to Mahoney’s 40.6%. Hyman Pressman got the 9.8% difference. LeBlanc Has always believed that if it were not for his production of this play, exposing the Klan for the killing of the Civil Rights Workers, Spiro Agnew would have never become Governor and then Vice-President. So he concludes that his production influenced the history of the country; whether for good or evil it was not decided.

 

            In 1969, shortly after the incident with the Klan, LeBlanc became a PBS Television Director, after deciding he had done all that he could to integrate Towson College, which later became Towson University with a completely integrated faculty and student body. It was during a rehearsal at Lorton in Virginia that LeBlanc got locked in the prison.

            While serving as a television director on the staff of The Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting, LeBlanc was approached by NPACT, a political, magazine production company in Washington DC., to consider being the director of a special program. Unknown to LeBlanc at the time, NPACT was having trouble getting the approval of the prisoners at Lorton on a director for The Special.

              It was a delicate situation. The writer of the drama, Roach Brown, the only prisoner with theatre experience, had informed the producers that unless the right director was selected it could be a disaster. “The prisoners do not like having to be told what to do by anyone – they are not trained actors—if they don’t like the person selected as the director they will not cooperate, and the director could get hurt if he crosses them in any way”. With that caution in mind LeBlanc was brought to the prison, on what he thought was public relation visit, but unknowingly was in fact an audition by the prisoners. During the time he was there the prisoners evaluated his body-language, his comments to their questions about their rehearsal techniques, and his attitudes about crime and punishment. The prisoners said, “Yes” and LeBlanc was the director of Holidays…HollowDays.

              For the first rehearsal, arrangements and credentials were issued by the Warden for LeBlanc to be admitted, searched and escorted to the rehearsal room. During the time of the rehearsal there was a shift change for the guards, and when LeBlanc was ready to leave, the guard on duty had not been given any instructions to allow anyone to exit the prison. LeBlanc was locked in much to the distress of Roach Brown who knew it was not safe for LeBlanc to be in the prison overnight. “Word of an irregularity travels fast and it is not safe for him in population overnight”. The warden could not be reached because of a late night engagement, and it was early in the morning hours before the guard was able to get the warden’s authority of open the gate for LeBlanc to leave.

 

                From these experiences, with the Klan and the prison, LeBlanc went on to write novels about, good and evil, right and wrong, prejudice and equality, bigotry and hatred, black and white. And the experiences of his life are reflected in the trilogy about a Louisiana Creole family, Blues in the Wind, Shadows of the Blues and Bodacious Blues. Read them and discover the life experiences of this sensitive and compassionate writer.

 

 

“Bodacious Blues” is the final installment of the trilogy of a Creole family from Estilette, Louisiana. The reader is taken on an adventure that takes up where the author’s second book (“Shadows of the Blues”) leaves off. The author sets a good mood for “Bodacious Blues” by relating the problems that three generations of this family have struggled through. They survived the perils of religious conflicts, murder, voodoo, and racism among all the other trials they are given. “Bodacious Blues” earned my high grade of a B, I think it would be a good adult read and has as much diversity as Harold Robbins’ “Carpetbaggers.” With its 350 pages, it’s not a one-day read, but it is a fairly fast moving book. As with any two or three volume series, it would have helped had I read the first and second LeBlanc books.”

 William Phenn

Reviewer for Reader Views

 

“Whitney LeBlanc’s, Bodacious Blues is an excellent and entertaining coda to his explosive Creole family trilogy. An engrossing saga, vividly told by this loyal Louisiana native and highly respected theatre artist who intimately understands the many shades of truth that the Big Easy holds. Writer LeBlanc presents the reader with a bevy of colorful multiracial characters who will resonate long after you’ve finished this haunting and deeply personal read. As with his two preceding volumes—Blues in the Wind and Shadows of the Blues— Bodacious Blues and its lead character Les Martel, takes us on a soulful and heartfelt journey. It was hard to put down.”

Robert Hooks -

Award winning actor; producer; founder Negro Ensemble Company, The Group Theatre Workshop & The DC Black Repertory Company.

 

 

 

“What an exciting novel. My mother, her father and his mother were born in Waterproof, Louisiana. Late in life I discovered this and went there. This novel reminded me of some of the stories I heard. There is such a rich cultural history in Louisiana I felt like a fly on the wall experiencing Les’s journey. This feels like as bestseller and a film. Kudos to Whitney for a wonderful novel.”

Marla Gibbs -

Lead Actress of 227 series. Major supporting actress of The Jeffersons series. Appeared in over 100 films and television productions. Producer, writer and recipient of many awards.

 

 

 

 

“Talent will out! As exemplified by Whitney J. LeBlanc. Playwright, award winning theatre and television director, designer of beautiful stained glass windows, Whitney has just completed his third historical novel. Last of the trilogy, Bodacious Blues depicts the trials and tribulations of the townspeople of Estilette Louisiana in their association with its most prominent families, the Fergerson/Broussards. Blues, voodoo and the inborn racism of the area touches everyone’s lives in this, Whitney’s tense climatic finish to the Fergerson/Broussard family, and those that embrace and those who would destroy them…Great reading!!!!”

H. Wesley Kenney -

Seven time Emmy winning Television Producer – Director

 

 

“I have known Whitney J. LeBlanc since 1963 and he is without doubt the most creative man I know. A brilliant scenic designer, playwright, director, stained glass artist and now novelist. Whitney never ceases to amaze. With BODACIOUS BLUES, he draws us into the life of Les Martel, aspiring actor and a southern fish trying to swim in northern waters. It’s a wonderful and very entertaining story that finds relevance for our present times. Well done my friend!”

Conrad John Schuck-

Television, movie and stage actor.

 

 

 

 

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