Clyde Fant

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Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
Mayor of Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
In office
1946–1954
Preceded by Sam Caldwell
Succeeded by James C. Gardner
Mayor of Shreveport
In office
1958–1970
Preceded by James C. Gardner
Succeeded by Calhoun Allen
Shreveport Public Utilities Commissioner
In office
1944–1946
Preceded by James Reilly
Personal details
Born (1905-10-18)October 18, 1905
Linden in Cass County, Texas, USA
Died July 6, 1973(1973-07-06) (aged 67)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Margaret Moos Fant (born 1909)
Children Clyde Fant, Jr. (born 1934)

John Frank "Jack" Fant (born 1937)

Occupation Businessman
Religion Southern Baptist
(1) In the first of his five nonconsecutive terms as mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, Fant was among four mayors from the United States invited to The Hague, Netherlands, in 1948 for the World Conference of Mayors, an occasion which rendered him national attention.

(2) During his long mayoral tenure, Fant had been expected to run for governor or lieutenant governor, but he never did so.

April 30, 1962 Holiday in Dixie Parade, Mayor Clyde Fant sitting in a 1930 Ford Model "A" Rumble Seat Roadster waiting for the parade to begin. The driver is James W Bowen.
Mayors Clyde Fant, James C. Gardner, and Calhoun Allen at a tax renewal campaign in Shreveport, Louisiana, City Hall, Summer 1971

Clyde Edward Fant, Sr. (October 18, 1905 – July 6, 1973), was a 20-year Democratic mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, having served from 1946 to 1954 and again from 1958 to 1970. Fant was cited as "Louisiana's Mayor of the Year" in 1953 by the Louisiana Municipal Association, which he headed for three consecutive years. In 1948, with fewer than two years of mayoral experience, he had been among four mayors in the United States invited to The Hague, Netherlands, for the annual conference of the World Conference of Mayors, an occasion which rendered him national recognition. Fant's success as Shreveport's mayor was attributed to his commitment to his city, his interpersonal skills, and the approval in his first term of a $9.6 million capital improvements bond issue that set the stage for municipal growth in the post-World War II era. Shreveport was the second most populous city in Louisiana until the 1970s, when Baton Rouge surpassed it to take the second ranking.


Early years and family[edit]

Clyde Fant was a native of Linden in Cass County, Texas. He was one of six children of Mr. and Mrs. John Preston Fant. John Fant was a cotton gin owner and a onetime Texas state legislator. Clyde Fant graduated in 1925 from the former Marshall (Texas) College, now East Texas Baptist University. He taught school for a year in Blocker, a since abandoned community near Marshall, the seat of Harrison County. He then worked for a lumber company in east Texas and was thereafter associated with Southwestern Gas and Electric Company. He was an executive with Interstate Electric Company, with seven years of service with the firm, when he was transferred to Shreveport.

Fant was married to the former Margaret Moos (born 1909); they had two sons, Dr. Clyde E. Fant, Jr., Th.D. (born 1934), a Baptist clergyman and author of the "Great Preaching" series, and John Frank Fant (born 1937).

Dr. Clyde Fant Jr., is a former pastor in Ruston and former professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He is professor-emeritus at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

John Frank "Jack" Fant received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and in 1962 a law degree from the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge. On September 4, 1971, he was appointed to serve as Judge over the First Judicial District, Division "D", in Shreveport to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of William F. Woods. Upon leaving the bench, Jack Fant relocated to Huntsville, Texas, where he took a position as an Inmate Legal Services attorney with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (then known as the Texas Department of Corrections). He was later promoted to an assistant director over the State Counsel for Offenders (then the Inmate Legal Services) and served in that capacity for several years. In 2002, his employment was terminated after the Department of Criminal Justice recognized that he did not hold a Texas law license. On May 3, 2004, a Walker County jury found Fant guilty of perjury. He did not appeal. (Cause Number 02-1701, Walker County Court At Law). With the resoluton of his legal credentials, Fant remains in private practice in Huntsville.

Five elections as mayor[edit]

In 1944, Fant was appointed as Shreveport's public utilities commissioner by newly inaugurated Governor Jimmie Davis, who had been the Shreveport public safety commissioner from 1938 to 1942, and like Fant, a man steeped in the activities of the Southern Baptist Church. Fant succeeded commissioner James Reilly, who accepted a position with the State of Louisiana.

In 1946, Fant ran not seek a full term as utilities commissioner but as mayor, under the city's then commission form of government. Sam Caldwell, the incumbent mayor, had run unsuccessfully against Davis for governor in 1944. Fant was elected to a four-year term and reelected in 1950.

In the 1952 gubernatorial race, Fant supported Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden, who prevailed over another jurist, Carlos Spaht of Baton Rouge.[1]

Fant did not seek a third term in 1954, and the position went to his fellow Democrat James C. Gardner. From 1954 to 1958, Fant was the president and general manager of the insurance agency, Fant, Chase, and Kline.

In 1958, Fant decided to seek a return to the mayoral position. He unseated Gardner, who was closely identified with more "progressive" politics, by a large margin in the Democratic primary. Fant pledged to lead Shreveport to greater heights in the 1960s than had already been accomplished. Fant won again in 1962, and he was unopposed for his fifth, and as it turned out final, term in 1966.

Republicans began to gain strength in Shreveport in the middle 1960s, but no Republican challenged Fant in any of his elections. A group of Republicans tried to convince then GOP State Chairman Charlton Lyons, to challenge Fant in 1966. Lyons politely declined to wage a mayoral campaign, after having lost races for Congress in 1961 to Joe D. Waggonner and governor in 1964 to John McKeithen. Fant did not seek a sixth term in 1970, in part because of health considerations. He was succeeded by the outgoing public utilities commissioner Calhoun Allen. George W. D'Artois continued as public safety commissioner, a post to which he was elected in 1962, in the new Allen administration; Don Hathaway was elected public works commissioner in 1970.

The long-term public works commissioner, H. Lane Mitchell, whose service began in 1934 and paralleled most of Fant's tenure, had resigned in December 1968, amid what developed as an embarrassing theft scandal.[2]

Fant had been considered a potential candidate for governor or lieutenant governor, but he ran for no other office than Shreveport mayor. He served in several state appointive positions, including the Louisiana Tax Commission, the Board of Institutions, and the Overton-Red River Waterway Planning Commission.

Mayoral accomplishments[edit]

Fant was credited with maintaining racial calm in Shreveport during the late 1950s and early 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement, when a majority of the city's voters were segregationists. Fant instituted municipal programs aimed at uplifting black citizens, including slum clearance. By the time that he finally left office in 1970, nearly 7,500 dwellings had been rehabilitated, and another 2,000 were demolished. Fant's successor, Calhoun Allen, continued such outreach to the black community, but racial resentments continued for decades.

Under Fant, an area along the Red River was developed as the site of the Shreveport Convention Center and Civic Center complex. Later the popular Clyde Fant Parkway, named in the former mayor's honor, brought regular, joggers, walkers, and bicyclists into the Riverfront area. The acclaimed R.S. Barnwell Memorial Garden and Art Center was also established when Fant was mayor but faced closure in 2014 became of financial problems. Other projects in the Fant years included the Shreveport-Barksdale Air Force Base bridge, the Jewella-Milam Street connection, the Youree Drive extension, and the Southern Avenue and Spring Street viaduct.

In 1953, Fant was selected by the LMA as "Louisiana's Mayor of the Year." The National Municipal League and Look magazine, moreover, named Shreveport as one of the nation's top eleven cities. That same year, Fant was the first individual to receive the Shreveport Advertising Club's annual award called "Shreveport's Best Ad," a designation given to an institution or a person who brought the city the most favorable publicity during the year. Fant was a past president of the Broadmoor Kiwanis Club.

Fant's legacy[edit]

Fountain on Clyde Fant Parkway along Red River in Shreveport

The Clyde E. Fant Memorial Award for Community Service is given annually in honor of the late mayor. Past winners include Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee, the first woman to garner the honor.

On his death, the Shreveport Times eulogized the former mayor:

"Clyde Fant, more than any other person, was Shreveport. He poured his life into our community, and the community responded with respect and love.

"There was no more powerful force in Northwest Louisiana during the past quarter-century than Clyde Fant. Additionally, the accomplishment of the Fant years in office would rank him as one of the chief top executives in Shreveport history.

"He was a kind, gentle, Christian man, but his politics were laced with bare-knuckled toughness when he felt it necessary.

"That combination marked continuing progress for Shreveport throughout Mr. Fant's two decades of service.

"When he was first elected to office at the end of World War II, he inherited a city in a desperate financial condition. Using his immense personal powers, he turned the city around and left a legacy of industrial growth and quality services for Shreveport.

"Clyde Fant was a man of unusual vision, and the consequences of that vision will long be felt by the people here. His programs helped to build our city, not only in a mortar and stone fashion, they also gave Shreveport an aura of humanity. . . .

"If he was Shreveport's shining star, then he was also Louisiana's mayor of mayors. . . .

"He needs no monument to mark his resting place because Shreveport is the better reminder of his life."

Grave of Clyde E. Fant in Shreveport's Forest Park Cemetery

Fant was a long-term member of the board of directors of Broadmoor Baptist Church and was chairman of the board for seven years. He taught a men's Bible class. He resided at 340 Ockley Drive in the Broadmoor neighborhood.[3] Services were held at the Broadmoor Baptist Church, with the then pastor, Dr. Scott Lamar Tatum (born 1920), officiating. Fant is interred at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport. His papers are in the archives of Louisiana State University at Shreveport, a four-year branch campus which opened in 1967.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Over 400 attend Bob Kennon rally Tuesday", Minden Herald, February 8, 1952, p. 1
  2. ^ "State v. Mitchell". leagle.com. May 3, 1971. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ William McCleary, "The Broadmoor Neighborhood: One of Shrevport's Older Communities", North Louisiana History, Vol. XLII (Winter-Spring 2011), p. 5

Clyde Fant obituary, Shreveport Times, July 7, 1973

Clyde Fant obituary, Shreveport Journal, July 6, 1973

Preceded by
Sam Caldwell
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana

Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
1946–1954

Succeeded by
James C. Gardner
Preceded by
James C. Gardner
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana

Clyde Edward Fant, Sr.
1958–1970

Succeeded by
Calhoun Allen