Publisher and philanthropist
Inducted June 18, 1999
Felix LaBauve was an early pioneer in the Mississippi newspaper business. Born in France in the early 19th Century, the frightened and lonely boy arrive in America to live with relatives when he was only 8. His widowed mother knew he would have more opportunity for success here where his father had helped Colonists fight the British during the American Revolution.
LaBauve arrived in DeSoto County just as the new county was being organized in 1836. He worked hard and developed a successful business trading calicoes, beads and blankets with the Indians. Because of his political aspirations, he moved his business to Hernando and in 1839 founded the newspaper that is the ancestor to the DeSoto Times Tribune.
On June 14, 1839, he started the first newspaper in DeSoto County, The Hernando Free Press and States Rights Democrat, proclaiming that it would be “decidedly democratic in its tone and temper.” Twenty years later, facing financial difficulty, LaBauve discontinued publication. However, in 1841, he had launched another county newspaper, the Phenix. He was still publishing in 1859 when he changed the title of the publication to the Peoples Press.
LaBauve was a colorful character whose exploits ranged from Bowie knife-fighting on the courthouse square to single-handedly capturing four Union solders during the Civil War. After the ware, LaBauve turned his attention to his political and legal career. By that time, the paper was established as DeSoto County’s primary news source.
An astute publication and dedicated civic leader, he served in the state Senate and House of Representatives and as a circuit court clerk.
LaBauve’s greatest legacy came in support of higher education in DeSoto County. Known as the “father of Scholarships in Mississippi,” he was the first person in the state to leave his fortune to a university or college for scholarships. LaBauve, the lonely fatherless boy who had no chance at higher education, wanted to make sure the orphaned descendants of DeSoto Countians, his adopted family, had a chance to expand their minds. Over the years to come, more than 200 orphans benefited from LaBauve’s gift, man of whom returned to make DeSoto County a better place.