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Speed Lamkin exhibit opens Monday at ULM

Published May 5, 2017

Monday, May 8, the University of Louisiana Monroe opens an exhibit from the collection of Monroe-born American novelist and playwright, Speed Lamkin. The exhibit will be displayed for two weeks in library’s Special Collections & Archives on the fifth floor.

An opening reception is 10 a.m.-noon Monday and is free and open to the public.


The initiative for the exhibit came through work of ULM English professor Will Rogers, and graduating senior Ashley Williams, who have extensively studied Lamkin’s collection of 867 books, personal papers and documents.


“We went through every one of these books and made notes about what we saw, and we want to show ULM’s and wider Monroe community just what a valuable thing we have here, and this is just a small part.” Rogers said. “We also found many other things like Civil War documents and at least two different collections from politicians, which means that there are more students who could get involved with this, and I don’t think they are not getting involved because they don’t want to, but it’s just that they need to know more.”


Lamkin left Monroe at age 16 to attend Harvard University. He graduated there in 1948. He became a sensation at age 22 with the publication of his 1950 novel titled “Tiger in the Garden.” Among many other accomplishments, he won the O’Henry prize for a short story and wrote a play that was performed on Broadway. He died in 2011.


Rogers notes Lamkin’s work is very important for a few different reasons.

“His family, which includes the Laytons, is a very old and storied Monroe family, and his observations, though fictionalized, of mid-century Monroe have lasting value for their historical information,” Rogers said.

“In particular, though, this collection is valuable because it shows the genesis and development of his writing style and material, and it offers a snapshot and insight into some of the connections of various famous figures in Monroe society. Further, considering his links to other famous writers, including Edward Albee, and his cultivation of culture and the arts in Monroe only adds to the value of the collection.”


Williams said the work on collection helped her gain much-needed experience in archiving. She was recently accepted to Simmons College in Boston where she will pursue her master’s in library science with a concentration in archives management.


“What I really want to do in future is museum curating, and now I already have some experience in curating an exhibit,” Williams said. “To take Lamkin’s things and show people what he wrote and did is the best way to introduce him, and due to his great taste, anybody will be able to find something of their interest in this collection.”


Rogers is currently working on a Lamkin’s biography he hopes to finish in the next three years.



University of Louisiana at Monroe English professor Will Rogers and graduating senior Ashley Williams have studied the collection of Speed Lamkin and curated an exhibit which opens Monday in the ULM Library Special Collections & Archives on the fifth floor. A reception will be from 10 a.m.-noon Monday.

Photo by Emerald McIntyre/ULM Photo Services