The beginnings of the department go back to the late 19th century at LSU. In 1878
the LSU Corps of Cadets (LSU was founded as a military academy and remained so until
the 20th century) were required to take a course called Rhetoric and Verse Speaking taught by Captain Paul Hawkins. In 1888, Captain Hawkins held the first Public Speaking
and Declamation contests. In 1910 a series of four courses called Speech Division
was offered and the first Debate Team was chartered. In 1923 a minor was offered and
in 1928 Giles Wilkeson Gray began the Department of Speech. In the early 1930's it
offered graduate as well as undergraduate work.
In 1911 the Department of Public Speaking was established under the leadership of Professor John Adams. In 1927, Adams was asked to resign as Head. He refused and the President asked the Board to abolish the department. The quarrel was resolved when C.M. Wise was appointed Chair of the Department.
During the 1930's the department established its PhD program and awarded the first doctorates in Speech Communication in the South. During subsequent decades it provided many of the professors who established departments in every corner of the nation earning the title "Motherlode of Communication." Under the leadership of Gray, Wise, Braden and HopKins the department was consistently ranked in the top 20 communication departments in the nation.