Straight Up History is a digital project dedicated to documenting the history of Straight University, one of the first Historically Black Colleges in the state of Louisiana, which later became Dillard University. PRC’s Operation Comeback program is renovating the last remaining structure of the Straight University campus. Read more stories about the history of Straight University here.
The Roy Joseph Weems papers at the Amistad Research Center documents student life at Straight College during the 1920s and early 1930’s before it merged with New Orleans University to form Dillard University. Materials in the Roy Joseph Weems papers include photographs, correspondence, student publications, newspaper clippings, diplomas, and certificates that richly chronicle Straight College athletics and rivalries among other area colleges, such as Xavier University and New Orleans University. Sports represented in the collection include football, track and field, and baseball. Straight College publications in the collection include The Straight Gleaner, The Crimson Courier, and Straight College Bulletin.
Roy Joseph Weems was born in 1909 in Alexandria, Louisiana. He attended Catholic schools in Alexandria and Los Angeles before studying at Straight College where he graduated in 1933. Weems was a star football player at Straight, where he also lettered in track, basketball, and baseball. He received the most attention as a full back for Straight’s football team. Newspaper articles written about Straight’s football team during Weems’ time as a player lauded his athletic prowess on the field. One article states that Weems “ran rings around Southern’s defense, and kept the ball out of danger with his brilliant punting.” Football was not all consuming for Weems while he attended Straight, he also focused on his studies. Another interesting document in Weems’ collection is a philosophy paper that he wrote in which he received an A-. In it, he pondered about the existence of God through an analysis of ancient and modern philosophers. Weems states in the paper, “Before taking this philosophy course my conception of God was wearing away, that is, the conception of God became so puzzling to me that I was just about to submit that there was not any such thing as a God.”
Young men & women, possibly Straight College students. Photo courtesy of Amistad Research Center.
Within a couple of years of graduating from Straight, Weems married Marjory Amelia Oubre in 1937 and had two daughters, Myrna Lynne and Marjory Elaine. He worked for Unity Insurance Company and retired from the United States Post Office after 36 years of service. Weems was an active member of the Beau Brummell Club, Omega Psi Phi, and Straightites of Dillard University. He served informally as a historian of Straight, and several of his former classmates sent him photographs and other materials for safekeeping. Correspondence in the collection chiefly pertains to the organization of reunions of Straight graduates, and enclosures include alumni lists and obituaries of classmates. Letters in the collection also suggests that some items within the Weems papers, particularly photographs of Straight College, were given to Weems by former classmates. Former Straight teacher, Beatrice West, donated the photograph album now housed in this collection. The finding aid for the Roy Joseph Weems papers can be found here.