By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications
Before there was Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Bublé, there was Gene Austin – which, of course, brings me to the subject of this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build.
How’s that? Aw, c’mon! Austin grew up in Minden, La., site of this year’s Legacy Build. And Austin is known as the father of the crooners. He sold 80 million – yes, 80 million! – records in the 1920 and had massive hits with songs like “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” and “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street,” both of which were remade by dozens of artists.
OK, so maybe you don’t have those on your iPod, but I’ve been researching Minden, and, trust me, Gene Austin’s music transports you back to the roaring twenties. If you don’t believe me, click here and listen for yourself.
That’s just one of many interesting facts about Minden, which sprung up near a commune in the 1800s that was designed as a sort of utopian settlement. Minden would go on to become a major supply depot for the Confederates during the Civil War, and a 15,000-troop Confederate encampment was located just east of Minden. It twice recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded in Louisiana (minus-16 in 1890 and 1899). And country music legend Hank Williams got married to Billie Jean Jones Eshliman there in 1952, less than three months before he died. Of course, it turns out Billie Jean wasn’t quite divorced from her first husband at the time, so the marriage didn’t take.
Minden reminds me a little of Americus with some of its small-town quirkiness. I can’t wait to experience it for myself. Of course, I’m from a town of 1,000 people, so Minden with its 13,000 residents is a big city to me. But to most folks, it’s just a slice of small-town USA.
Come join us and enjoy a little Americana while helping some worthy families get a simple, decent place to call home. I promise you we’ll have fun in the process. Click here to come along!