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Randall A. Detro

Randall Detro, former professor of geography at Nicholls State University and Director of the Placename Survey of Louisiana, passed away on March 7, 2016.

Randall Augustus Detro was born in 1931 and grew up in Red River Parish, Louisiana, a state to which he stayed devoted for his whole life.

Detro was primarily a cultural geographer but his work spanned many aspects of the human and physical landscape of Louisiana.

He had a particular interest in toponymy. His doctoral thesis, completed at Louisiana State University in 1970, was entitled “Generic Terms in the Place Names of Louisiana: An Index to the Cultural Landscape.” He published a number of other papers and book chapters on the toponymy of Louisiana, and also served as the Director of the Placename Survey of Louisiana. With Jesse Walker he compiled the work of Meredith (Pete) F. Burrill on geographic names in The Wonderful World of Geographic Names (Louisiana State University, 2004).

He contributed to a range of studies on human interactions with the natural environment of the Mississippi delta region, including settlement regression along the Louisiana coastal marsh, the coastal marsh as a recreational resource, the socioeconomic conditions of the deltaic region, the development of the marsh buggy as a means of transportation in difficult terrain, an environmental impact statement on deep draft access to Baton Rouge ports, the development of the sulphur industry and mines in Louisiana, and a historical atlas of shipwrecks in the Mississippi River.

Detro taught in the Department of Geography at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and also served as Director of the university’s library. He was a long time member of the American Association of Geographers and presented his distinctive Louisiana-focused research at many Annual Meetings of the AAG and the Southeast Division.