W. Darrell Overdyke

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William Darrell Overdyke

(Louisiana historian, professor at Centenary College in Shreveport)​

Born August 7, 1907​
Cherokee, Crawford County
Kansas, USA
Died June 21, 1973 (aged 65)
Spouse Martha Walker Overdyke​

Alma mater:
Centenary College of Louisiana
Louisiana State University
Duke University

Religion Methodist

William Darrell Overdyke (August 7, 1907 – June 21, 1973) was an American historian known particularly for his work on 18th- and 19th-century plantation houses in his adopted state of Louisiana as well as the former Know Nothing Party in the southern United States, a group that opposed most expanded immigration during the 1850s.​


Overdyke was born in Cherokee near Pittsburg in Crawford County in southeastern Kansas. He graduated with honors in 1928 from Methodist-affiliated Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. He then procured his Master of Arts degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, after which time he joined the Centenary faculty, a position that he retained for the remainder of his life. In 1941, he was awarded his Ph.D. by Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.[1]​ ​


At Centenary, Overdyke was an advisor to pre-law students, director of inter-collegiate debate and forensics, and faculty advisor to the student senate. He was also a Boy Scouts troop master. Because of his kindness, Overdyke was nicknamed "Dr. Bunny" and for several years was voted "favorite professor" by the Centenary graduating classes. The college newspaper referred to him in 1970 as "a man of rare qualities, one knows him by his smile, a hand lifted in a friendly wave, words spoken with kindness, eyes that show a true sincere concern for each fellow man."[1]

Overdyke twice received Carnegie Foundation grants and a grant for special study from the Hemenway furniture store in Shreveport. From 1945 to 1948, he was chairman of the division of social science. He was a member of the building committee that planned and built the Magale Library at Centenary. He was a pioneer in the use of portable microfilming equipment for use as a research tool.[1]

Overdyke was a charter member of Phi Alpha Theta and a founder of the Southern, Louisiana, and North Louisiana historical associations as well as the Louisiana Academy of Sciences. He was active in the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. He contributed articles and book reviews to various historical journals in the United States and England.[1] His article "A Southern Family on the Missouri Frontier: Letters From Independence, 1843-1855" was published in 1951 in The Journal of Southern History.[2]

His books include The American Party in Louisiana and the broader The Know-Nothing Party in the South,[3] The second publication includes a chapter on former U.S. President Millard Fillmore's 1856 comeback effort through the American Party. Fillmore, who carried only Maryland, lost to the Democrat James Buchanan of Pennsylvania.[4]

His Louisiana Plantation Homes: Colonial and Ante Bellum,[5] reflects the work of more than three decades of traveling through the main roads and back roads of Louisiana to photograph the exteriors, interiors, and architectural details of more than one hundred plantation homes. Overdyke visited more than thirty parishes and found a wide variety of residential structures in Louisiana compared to most other states.[6]​ ​ Overdyke's interests in architecture and photographic art was enhanced by his wife, the former Martha Walker (1908–1984), who aided him in the collection of architectural and photographic data. This work was selected by the International Council of Scholars and is listed in The Encyclopedia of World Art as one of the leading references in Louisiana architecture.[1]​ ​ Two of his other books are The Samuel Ralston Letters and Sanity in an Insane World.[1]​ ​ During his later tenure at Centenary, Overdyke was a colleague of the historian Walter M. Lowrey, a former president of the Louisiana Historical Association.[7]


On October 31, 1970, Overdyke was named "Research Professor of Southern History" by the Centenary College board of trustees in honor of his academic successes. In a tribute published shortly after Overdyke's death in 1973 in the journal North Louisiana History, Professor John David Winters, a specialist in Russian history and the American Civil War at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston , wrote:​ ​

Darrell Overdyke loved beauty -- nature, music, dance, literature, and art. When possible, he attended every symphony concert, ballet, musical play, opera, and art exhibit presented. ... His personal music library contained more than seven hundred classical records, many of which were string quartet recordings. Above all, he loved people -- children, college students, and all others he met. He gave freely of his time and talents to everyone who asked.[1]

​ Similarly, Webb D. Pomeroy (Class of 1944, 1923–1989), a former Overdyke student and later faculty colleague, said in the funeral eulogy:​ ​

No other professor ever spent more time with students. No student who seriously studied with him could ever say, "He doesn't like me." ... He lives on in our faith and in our lives. ...[1]

​ Overdyke is still remembered through the Overdyke Awards in North Louisiana History.​


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 John D. Winters, "W. Darrell Overdyke," North Louisiana History Vol. 4, No. 4 (Fall 1973), pp. 30-31.
  2. W. Darrell Overdyke, "A Southern Family on the Missouri Frontier: Letters From Independence, 1843-1855," Journal of Southern History, Volume XVII, Number 2 (May 1951), pp. 216-237.
  3. (1950) The Know-Nothing Party in the South. Louisiana State University Press, 328. Retrieved on May 9, 2011. 
  4. Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore -- Bibliography. presidentprofiles.com. Retrieved on May 9, 2011.
  5. (1965) Louisiana Plantation Homes Colonial and Ante-Bellum. American Legacy Press. ISBN 0-517-36053-5. Retrieved on May 9, 2011. 
  6. Book Reviews: Louisiana Plantation Homes. 8. Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. pp. 390–393. 
  7. John D. Winters, "In Memoriam: Walter M. Lowrey, 1921–1980," North Louisiana History, then the Journal of the North Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer 1980).