Robert E. Piper, Jr.
Civil Rights

He was born in Shreveport to Robert and Ruthie Mae Peirot Piper. While his father worked for Kansas City Southern Railroad, his mother served as a receptionist for Caddo Parish School Board. Early in Robert's life the family lived in a frame house in Kingdom Land, an area of west Shreveport. When he was about 14 they moved into a brick home on Ashton Street in Lakeside. He describes his childhood as "fairly uneventful," although he grew up when the city was segregated. Blacks, he says, were excluded from dining in many restaurants, and drank from water fountains marked "Colored." On the other hand, he says, that atmosphere "created a greater kinship feeling among black folks." He became involved in civil rights activities while in college, helping to lead 10,000 students on a march to the state capitol when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. While in law school he protested the Vietnam War. Graduating from Southern University as a political science major, he earned a law degree from Boston College in June of 1971. After living in New Orleans briefly, he then returned to Shreveport in July of 1973 to work with Caddo Legal Aid Society. Six months later he became a partner in Huckaby and Piper, a law firm that worked in civil rights issues. It filed a lawsuit forcing the city to integrate the fire department. It sued to change city government from a mayor-commission to a council form, which represented all municipal areas. It also prodded major companies to hire more minorities. Robert served on the Caddo Parish School Board for nearly seven years, and was the first African-American to sit on the city court bench. He recalls that Shreveport suffered less turmoil during integration than other Southern cities. "I think it was because we worked in a very co-operative fashion, black and white together, to come up with plans that made sense and insured education for all students," he says.