John D. Winters

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John D. Winters
Born John David Winters
(1916-12-23)December 23, 1916
McCool, Attala County
Mississippi, USA
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Ruston, Lincoln Parish, Louisiana
Alma mater Louisiana State University
Occupation Historian
Professor at Louisiana Tech University,
Years active 1948-1984
Spouse(s) Frances Locke Winters (married 1952-his death)
Children No children
Parent(s) John D. Winters, Sr.
Estrella Fancher Winters

John David Winters (December 23, 1916 – December 9, 1997)[1] was a historian at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. He is best known for his definitive and award-winning study, The Civil War in Louisiana, which was published in 1963, released in paperback in 1991, and still in print.[2]


Winters was born to John David Winters, Sr. (1891–1944), and the former Estrella Fancher (1890–1958) in rural McCool in Attala County in central Mississippi. He was reared in Lake Providence, the seat of East Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana.[1] His parents are interred at Lake Providence Cemetery.[3]

He earned the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He served in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, but his obituary does not list the branch of service.[1]

Marriage and family

On January 26, 1952, he wed the former Frances Locke (1921–2006) in her native Ashdown in Little River County in southwestern Arkansas.[4]

Academic career

Winters, who did not use the designation "Jr.," was professor of history at Louisiana Tech from 1948 until his retirement in 1984.[5]

The Civil War in Louisiana

As the Louisiana Tech acquisitions librarian from 1948–1984, Mrs. Winters assisted her husband in writing The Civil War in Louisiana. The project that required years of extensive research in various historical records and Winters acknowledged his wife's assistance.[6]

The Civil War in Louisiana won the 1963 Louisiana Literary Award presented by the Louisiana Library Association and the 1964 "Special Merit Book Award" from the Greater Louisiana Tech Foundation.[1][7][citation needed]

Winters estimates that three thousand free blacks volunteered for militia duty in Louisiana by 1862, but the historians Lawrence L. Hewitt and Arthur W. Bergeron in their Louisianians in the Civil War claim that his number is too high. They estimate that no more than two thousand participated. Fifteen free blacks are documented by Hewitt and Bergeron as having joined the Confederate Army as privates. The three most prominent instances of such volunteers were in St. Landry Parish in south Louisiana.[8][9]


Winters' work has been criticized. Clarence L. Mohr of the University of Georgia wrote in 1974 of The Civil War in Louisiana:

"Winters' discussions, however, are characterized by frequent mentions of the 'Negro problem,' allusions to sexual indiscretions by 'colored wenches' and attempts by Union soldiers to 'lure' slaves away from their masters... The author's perspective is further revealed in his description of black conduct in areas occupied and later evacuated by Federal troops during General Nathaniel P. Banks' Red River expedition in 1863. 'Some [Negroes]' writes Winters, 'refused to work and were shot; some were soundly thrashed; and all of them began to act better.'"[10]

Historical career

From 1977 until his retirement in 1984, Winters was the first recipient and holder of the Garnie W. McGinty Chair of History, named for the former Louisiana Tech history department chairman. In 1991, Winters was named Louisiana Tech professor emeritus.[1] Louisiana Tech honored Winters by naming an "Endowed Professorship in History" after him.[11]

In 1980, Winters and Danelle Bradford co-authored "Seventy-Eight Years of Football at Louisiana Tech" in the North Louisiana Historical Association Journal, since renamed North Louisiana History.[12] Winters also wrote an article on the Ouachita and Black rivers of Louisiana.[13]


In 1994, Winters participated in an interview for the Centennial Oral History Collection at Louisiana Tech. In this hour-long conversation, he discusses varied experiences on the campus, the effects of desegregation in the 1960s, the influence of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and his participation in the Louisiana Tech-Rome studies program.[14]

Professional and civic activities

In 1968, Winters was elected president of the Louisiana Historical Association, now based in Lafayette. He was named a fellow by the association in 1993.[15] He was also active in other historical societies.[1]

Winters served on the board of directors for the Ruston Community Theatre and the Louisiana Tech Concert Association. He was a past president of the Ruston Civic Symphony.[1]



Winters died at Lincoln General Hospital in Ruston at the age of eighty. He was survived by his wife Frances and two sisters-in-law, Doris M. Winters (1917–2004) of Lake Providence and Elizabeth Winters of Garland, Texas. He was predeceased by two brothers, one of whom was Doris' husband, Henry F. Winters (1915–1987). Frances Winters died some eight years after the death of John Winters. They were cremated. His memorial service was held on December 11, 1997, at Trinity United Methodist Church in Ruston.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 John D. Winters obituary, Ruston Daily Leader, December 10, 1997
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  4. Family Search Record Search "Discover Your Ancestors"; also confirmed by Owens Memorial Chapel Funeral Home in Ruston, Louisiana
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  6. John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. xvi-xii
  7. Winters' work contains few dates by years but abounds with months and days. Dates given without occasional years are confusing to those using his book as a reference. He begins new chapters without using the year of the events. He does not clearly identify whether a military officer is Union or Confederate, and he sometimes omits the rank of the officer. He does not clearly identify some of the place names, which makes the specifics unclear to those outside of an immediate geographic area. He does not repeat first names of lesser-known military officers, which may require the reader to check constantly in the index and backtrack to refresh his memory of the particular individual. Winters' prose style reflects the human factors involved in war, and he delves into subjects not always covered in standard narratives. The work is particularly quotable and though fully factual goes beyond mere citing of facts.
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  9. Winters, p. 21
  10. Clarence L. Mohr, "Bibliographical Essay: Southern Blacks in the Civil War: A Century of Historiography," Journal of Negro History, Vol. 59, No. 2.
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Preceded by
Leonard V. Huber
President of the Louisiana Historical Association

John David Winters

Succeeded by
Henry W. Morris