LCU Founder’s Day pays tribute to Nortons, Tudors and architect of Library

Louisiana Christian University celebrated its annual fall Founder’s Day Chapel on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with a historical marker unveiling in honor of the Richard W. Norton Memorial Library.

“In the early 1950s almost 70 years ago, two members of the Norton family of North Louisiana, Mrs. Richard W. Norton Jr. and Mrs. Nellie Norton Smitherman, both ladies from Shreveport, gifted substantial funds for the construction of the first free-standing library on our campus,” said LCU President Dr. Rick Brewer. “Construction finished in time for the 1955-56 academic year.”

LCU’s library is named for a 19th-century Baptist minister, Richard W. Norton, whose descendants wanted him honored for his tireless work in the Baptist faith, said Dr. Henry Robertson, professor of history. Norton received a college education in Virginia and at Furman College in Greenville, South Carolina. Norton accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and preached the word in churches across Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.

During the first years of his ministry, he comforted Southern soldiers during the Civil War as chaplain for a Tennessee regiment. He helped soldiers at hospitals with their letters home, and blessed those who were marching off in the line of battle with a near certainty of death hanging over their heads  Following his war service, Norton’s ministry stretched for decades and included pastoring many churches where he reached thousands for Christ.  

His descendants in the Norton family were leaders in the early 20th-century oil and gas industry, and this success endowed them with tremendous wealth. They became among the most important donors in all of North Louisiana. The Nortons gave away millions of dollars to create important places.  One of the most significant, the  R.W. Norton Art museum located in Shreveport remains a fantastic repository of treasured pieces of world-class painting and sculpture.  “That museum and our library are the most important testaments of a desire of the Nortons to endow the world with improvements in the quality of life for all Louisianans,” Robertson said. “What they did there and here in Pineville was truly transformational.  We are especially grateful for our library and the Norton’s belief in liberal arts Christian higher education.” 

The Louisiana Baptist Convention and several churches also provided funding for the Norton Library, which was designed by architect J. Cheshire Peyton, of Shreveport, and built by Tudor Construction of Pineville. 

“The Tudor family has been an integral part of this university from our beginnings in 1906 and now for over a century,” Brewer said. “Their donations, construction excellence, and service have given us the Library masterpiece and several additional campus buildings over the decades.”

 Robertson smiled as he mentioned the main reasons the library was so popular when it first opened wasn’t just the much larger space for over 300,000 books, rather it was also the new amenity of air-conditioning. 

“In 1955, an air-conditioned space became a popular place for anyone to visit in our humid subtropical climate,” he said. 

The Richard W. Norton Memorial Library stands as an example of great American achievement. There is no greater affirmation of freedom and love of country than Louisiana College – now Louisiana Christian University – fostering a place for great minds to gather, for young people to learn, go out into the world to change it for Christ.  

Media Release     |     Nov. 9, 2022     |     Pineville, Louisiana
Contact: Dr. Elizabeth B. Clarke, Director of University Communications |