HUMAN INTEREST STORIES

LEVATOR BOYD

by Michael D. Wynne

In my nine years of interviewing wonderful people to write this column, I don’t know why I am still surprised these days by coming across more great CenLa women and men who not only preserve our history and culture, but make history themselves also.

Among the best of the best of this select group is one name that is often mentioned as the most admired person in CenLa. And that one name, if you haven’t guessed it yourself, is Levator Boyd. A book could and should be written on his inspiring life story.

Levator came from very humble origins raised on a farm near Colfax. His father was a produce farmer who later moved to Alexandria to work as a truck driver for Hill Harris. Levator’s beloved mother worked at the Alexandria Steam Laundry and later as an aide at St. Mary’s Training Academy. Levator described his early life, “Until I was in 6th grade, I lived on a plantation … As my parents worked hard and long hours, I had the responsibility to take care of my three younger siblings and cook their afternoon meal. This taught me to be responsible and to be in charge of my life.”

A graduate of the former Mary E. Graham High School in 1957, and then earning a Master’s degree in 1965 from the University of Detroit, Levator wanted to improve his situation over his parents’ lives and he set his sights to become a great teacher. In the
early 1950s, Levator saw teachers being the ones dressing well and driving expensive cars and he also wanted to do the same. Soon he came to realize that teaching is the most important job that one can do – to be the one to mold our children’s lives into becoming productive and positive people.

After graduating from Grambling in 1961 with a mathematics degree, Levator went on to teach at Jones Street (now Arthur F. Smith) and, then later, at Alexandria Senior High (ASH). There at ASH, Levator soon rose to Assistant Principal. As warned
by his mentor, the late Superintendent Allen Nichols, when Levator became Asst. Principal at ASH, partly due to a Federal Court Order from Judge Scott, Levator found that he had now “upset” many white teachers who wanted that same job. He was also
overwhelmed by black families who he says expected “special favors” from him as a black man in that high position.

Nichols soon saw the great work and leadership that this “Policy Guy” had accomplished, and Nichols eventually encouraged him to consider holding the office of Superintendent himself. But by then, Levator was nearing retirement and declined. Levator did serve as Interim Superintendent for 3 months in 1995, the first black to ever hold that position in Rapides Parish.

Levator spent his last years in the school board’s central office working up the chain of command and retiring in 1998 as the director of Vocational Administration. He feels that his greatest accomplishment, other than helping thousands of students in almost 40 years of teaching, was when he was once unexpectedly given a standing ovation by all of his fellow school principals at a meeting.

Side Note: I mentioned earlier that Levator was also a historical preservationist. On November 22, 1966, when the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Rapides Parish Coliseum as a guest of the La. Education Association, Levator, both an admirer and a fellow fraternity brother of King, went to hear and record King’s talk on a tape. Levator’s clear sounding, priceless and irreplaceable recording of King has been listened to now by thousands who are often re-inspired to the Civil Right’s movement. As said by King then, “Don’t sleep through a revolution.”

The father of two, grandfather of five and great grandfather of one, Levator says his wife, Juanita, “has made everything complete in my life- she always stood by me.”

This writer has barely touched on Levator’s many accomplishments, including serving as President of the Board of the Rapides Federal Credit Union. He told this writer, “I had an excellent career and was real fortunate to be at the right place at the right
time, but I will tell anybody to always be prepared for the job that you seek in life.”

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