Joe Gray Taylor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Joe Gray Taylor, Sr.
Born(1920-02-14)February 14, 1920
DiedDecember 8, 1987(1987-12-08) (aged 67)
Alma materMemphis State University
Louisiana State University
Professor at McNeese State University
Spouse(s)Helen Friday Taylor (married 1945-1987, his death)
ChildrenJoe G. Taylor, Jr.

Harriet Eva Taylor

Edward Coleman Taylor
Parent(s)Bassil Gray Taylor
Lennie Fee Shinault

Joe Gray Taylor (February 14, 1920 – December 8, 1987) was a historian of the American South who published fifteen essays and eight books, including Louisiana: a Bicentennial History (1976). A World War II hero, Taylor was affiliated for most of his career with McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Early years, military, family[edit]

Taylor was born in Tipton County, located north of Memphis, Tennessee, to Bassil Gray Taylor, who earned the family livelihood as a farmer and carpenter, and the former Lennie Fee Shinault. He was educated in public schools and attended Memphis State University, then Memphis State College, from 1937 to 1939. He taught in a one-room school in Tennessee from 1939 until 1941.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Taylor joined the United States Air Force (then the Army Air Corps). He flew seventy missions as bombardier-navigator with the Twelfth Bomb Group in the China-Burma theater. He attained the rank of first lieutenant and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and three battle stars.

On his discharge from the armed forces in 1945, Taylor married the former Helen Friday (born 1923), of North, South Carolina, a small town near Orangeburg. The couple had three children.

After the war, Taylor obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Memphis State in 1947 and 1948, respectively. He thereafter obtained the Ph.D. degree in history from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge in 1951. He taught at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux (Junior College at the time) from 1950 to 1953, prior to a four-year commitment as the historian at the Air Force Research Studies Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base near Montgomery, Alabama.

Academic career[edit]

Taylor returned to teaching at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond for the 1957–1958 term. Then he returned to Nicholls State from 1958 to 1963, when he became professor at McNeese, a position that he held until his death 24 years later.

At McNeese, Taylor chaired the history department from 1968 to 1983. He was then the head of the College of Liberal Arts from 1983 until his death.

Books and articles[edit]

Taylor produced five monographs and four essays on Air Force history. Otherwise, he concentrated on Louisiana and the South. His works included Negro Slavery in Louisiana (1963) and Louisiana Reconstructed, 1863–1877 (1974), which won the L. Kemper Williams Prize and the Louisiana Literary Award. A later work was his social history on southern hospitality titled Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South (1982). Taylor was, along with LSU professor Edwin Adams Davis and Raleigh A. Suarez, one of the coauthors of Louisiana: The Pelican State, a middle school textbook which traces the development of Louisiana from its earliest times to the 1980s.[1]

Taylor authored book reviews in twenty historical journals and thirty reviews in Louisiana History alone. One of Taylor's acclaimed reviews was "The Many Interests of T. Harry Williams" in the March 1984 edition of Reviews in American History. T. Harry Williams was the preeminent historian at LSU prior to his death in 1979.

In 1967, Taylor was elected president of the Louisiana Historical Association. He received the McNeese "Distinguished Teaching Award" in 1979. He received the "Award of Merit" from the American Association for State and Local History in 1984. He was a member of the executive council of the Southern Historical Association for the last two years of his life. He was named Louisiana "Humanist of the Year" in 1986. His associations included Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Alpha Theta, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, and Louisiana Historical Association. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Taylor died in Lake Charles. He is interred in Robinson Cemetery near the Gainesville community in Tipton County, Tennessee. Taylor's papers are in McNeese's Lether Edward Frazar Library.


  1. ^ Edwin Adams Davis, Raleigh A. Suarez, and Joe Gray Taylor, Louisiana: The Pelican State. Louisiana State University Press. 1985. ISBN 978-0807111444. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  • "Joe Gray Taylor", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. II (1988), p. 781; Taylor was also a contributor to the Dictionary.
  • "In Memoriam: Joe Gray Taylor," North Louisiana History, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1988), pp. 44–46
  • Taylor obituary, Lake Charles American Press, December 9, 1987
Preceded by
J. Preston Moore
President of the Louisiana Historical Association

Joe Gray Taylor

Succeeded by
John David Winters