Dallas — UL alumnus Gary Lavergne’s account of the struggle to desegregate the University of Texas law school, Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall and the Long Road to Justice was the top winner for nonfiction at the Texas Institute of Letters’ (TIL) awards banquet Saturday, April 30, 2011.

Lavergne earned $5,000 as the winner of the Carr P. Collins contest for nonfiction. The award-winning book was published by the University of Texas Press. Before Brown had previously won the 2010 Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas History by the Texas State Historical Association.

Lavergne is the director of Admissions Research and Policy Analysis at The University of Texas at Austin.  He was born and raised in Church Point, and earned his B.A. in Social Studies Education in 1976 and an M.Ed. in 1981 in Secondary School Teaching, both from the University of Louisiana. 

In April of 2001, Lavergne was selected Outstanding Alumnus of the Class of 1976 by the College of Education at UL, and was honored at their annual Awards Night Banquet.

In April of 2008 the French-American Foundation selected Gary to present his research on college admissions percentage plans and affirmative action to scholars and policymakers in Paris at the Ministry of Higher Education, the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, and Lycée Henri IV.

Lavergne's award-winning first book, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders, has been named by The Austin American Statesman as the definitive account of the Texas Tower Tragedy.  His second book was The Bad Boy from Rosebud, released in July of 1999. Dan Rather of CBS News called it "classic crime reporting."  His third book, Worse Than Death, is the story of the largest mass murder in the history of Dallas, Texas.  To learn more about Gary Lavergne, visit his website.

TIL, founded in 1936 to recognize literary achievement and promote interest in Texas literature, is the state’s oldest literary organization. Cash prizes presented at the banquet at the Radisson Hotel Central Dallas totaled more than $20,000.

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