Don Lee Keith Is Dead: A Student’s Acquaintance with a Maverick New Orleans Journalist

ACCESS PURCHASE
Students and scholars can access articles for free via Project Muse.

Don Lee Keith Is Dead: A Student’s Acquaintance with a Maverick New Orleans Journalist

by Perry Kasprzak
Southern Cultures, Vol. 12, No. 1: Spring 2006

"'Hi, my name is Don Lee Keith, and you don't know me, but you ought to.'"

Don Lee Keith was journalist-in-residence at the University of New Orleans for seven years, until his death in July 2003. Keith was about the brightest literary star that under-funded college could probably afford, and in this role he played the bohemian academic: eccentric, charming, troublesome, untenured. He was a teacher less schooled than experienced, and his writing from forty-one years as a journalist did most of the instructing. His style of teaching, which included frequent cursing, saucy anecdotes, and brutally honest grading, earned him plenty of complaints, and if it wasn’t for the students who did not drop his classes—the ones who often wrote at his prodding for the college newspaper, followed him around campus for extra class-time, and treated him as a mentor—Keith probably would have been replaced by another less troublesome journalist. He said that when the announcement was made that he had been appointed “Journalist-in-Residence,” he asked, “Does that mean they’re going to give me a cot and a hotplate?” Witticisms like these earned him a student following that kept him popular, if not employed.