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Acknowledgments and Methodology
THIS BOOK began twenty years ago, in 1977. At the time I was living in New Orleans and writing a column for began twenty years ago, in 1977. At the time I was living in New Orleans and writing a column for The Vieux Carre Courier The Vieux Carre Courier, a weekly owned by Phil Carter, who was also involved in his family's paper in Greenville, Mississippi. That April, Phil ran a special issue on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1927 flood. I grew up in Rhode Island and had never heard of it before, but it added to a fascination I already had with the Mississippi River. I remember reading about the flood, then walking a few hundred yards from the paper on Decatur Street to the levee and watching the river roll past. Ever since I have wanted to write something about the flood. Five years ago I finally decided to do so and began working full-time on it.
I would like to explain my methodology, particularly where I quote conversations that occurred nearly three-quarters of a century ago. I was remarkably lucky to discover detailed minutes and even exact transcripts of many of these conversations. In this regard, an extraordinarily rich source was the Harry B. Caplan Papers at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. I have also used quotes based on either contemporaneous notes, memoranda, and letters written by partic.i.p.ants, and, in the case of some public meetings, newspaper accounts. In addition, I interviewed approximately 125 people. My thanks go to all of them. Most of these people supplied background information about the characters important to this book or about a place and time, but a few of those interviewed also recalled comments made by the people in the book in particularly memorable situations. I did use these quotes.
I would like to give special thanks to the late Herman Kohlmeyer and Frank Hall. They both exerted considerable effort to help me, and both combined intelligence with intimate knowledge of events and personalities. Their a.s.sistance made this book better than it would otherwise have been.
Next I would like to thank Phil Carter, who has been extremely helpful and gracious in the course of my working on this book. Neither he nor anyone else is responsible for anything in the book. If there are any mistakes, they are mine. If there is offense given, I have given it. This is not simply a pro forma disclaimer. To the contrary, when Phil realized that I was headed down one particular path he objected. But that was the way my research, and I believe the truth, took me. Nonetheless, I wish to thank him and everyone else who helped me.
In Washington, my good friend Bob Dawson (an old Tulane football connection) introduced me to the right people to get me started. Martin Reuss, a historian with the Army Corps of Engineers, was exceptionally helpful-both personally and through his writings. Pete Daniel at the Smithsonian Inst.i.tution, author of Deep'n as It Come Deep'n as It Come, which is also about the 1927 flood, generously shared with me information, photographs, and taped interviews he conducted. In Vicksburg, Michael Robinson, now with the Mississippi River Commission, showed me around and taught me much. Bertram Wyatt-Brown of the University of Florida shared with me his research for his book House of Percy House of Percy. John K. Brown of the University of Virginia spent much time going through papers a.s.sembled by the late John Kouwenhoven about James Buchanan Eads for me. I look forward to his biography of Eads. At the University of Southwestern Louisiana, I. Bruce Turner was exceptionally helpful. In St. Louis at the Missouri Historical Society, I much appreciate the efforts of Ms. Wendi Perry, who went through many papers for me. At the Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa, Pat Wildenberg deserves special mention for guiding me through the collection and responding to telephone queries later.
In New Orleans, Betty Werlein Carter helped me to understand that city as well as Greenville, Mississippi. Dorothy Benge took me under her wing and led me through St. Bernard Parish. Exceptionally helpful also were city archivist Wayne Evarad at the New Orleans Public Library; also there I thank Irene Wainwright and Andrea Ducros. At Tulane University's Howard-Tilton Library, Joan Caldwell has become a friend. At the Orleans Levee Board, Gary Benoit put out special effort. At the Earl Long Library of the University of New Orleans, Clive Hardy and Marie Window did likewise. Laura Bayon shared family lore and photographs. Robert Brown at the district office of the Army Corps of Engineers and Captain Edward Morehouse, commander of the U.S. Dredge Wheeler Wheeler, escorted me on a trip down to the mouth of the Mississippi and the remains of Port Eads. The late Stephen Lemann, whom I remember with great fondness, offered me cooperaton and guidance. At the Louisiana State Museum, director James Sefcik was extremely kind.
In Greenville, many thanks to Clint Bagley and Bern and Frankie Keating, and also special thanks to the Washington County Library system for use of its excellent oral history collection. Most important, Sylvia Jackson took me by the hand and introduced me to people who would not have spoken openly without her endors.e.m.e.nt of me. Newman Bolls and his son Patrick Bolls gave generously of their time and knowledge. In Jackson, Mississippi, at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, I appreciate the support of Hank Holmes and the entire research staff, along with the permissions they gave for use of material in their collections.
My agent Raphael Sagalyn did an outstanding job in finding the best editor for this book, and I also appreciate his willingness to accommodate some of my more unusual requests.
At Simon & Schuster, I am sincerely grateful to my editor, Alice Mayhew. She did more than what even a good editor does. From my first contact with her, I was more than just impressed with her grasp of what I was trying to do in this book. In fact, she sometimes saw it more clearly than I did, and kept me on track. Elizabeth Stein, whose t.i.tle now may be only a.s.sociate editor but who clearly will be someone of consequence in publishing, lent her considerable talents to my cause. Her suggestions were universally well thought out.
And I want to thank my wife, Margaret Anne Hudgins. Every day she went through archival material with me, and her tenacity in tracking down details exceeded my own. (I hope she forgives me for not including anything about the Santa Fund.) Her insight into character and general sense of the workings of the world added dimensions that would have escaped me otherwise. Anne, thank you. (So.) Finally, I want to acknowledge the cousins-Rose Fulford Hudgins and Jane Fulford Warren-whose love and support was always there for me.
-JOHN M. B M. BARRY.
New Orleans January, 1997