Frank T. Norman

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Frank Toadvin Norman
Mayor of Minden, Louisiana, USA
In office
1958–1966
Preceded by Jasper Goodwill
Succeeded by Tom Colten
Minden City Council member
In office
1952–1958
Succeeded by H.T. "Jack" Crisler
President of the Louisiana Municipal Association
In office
1964–1965
Preceded by W.H. "Booty" Scott
Succeeded by J. Rayburn Bertrand
Personal details
Born (1914-11-21)November 21, 1914
Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana
Died November 20, 1994(1994-11-20) (aged 79)
Minden, Louisiana
Resting place Minden Cemetery
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Mildred Bryant Norman (married, 1937-his death)
Children Frankie Norman Thompkins (1939-1975)
Occupation Businessman
Religion Baptist
(1) Norman led the move to establish a municipally-owned power plant in his small city of Minden, rather than reliance on a private company supplying electricity.

(2) Norman became one of the first Democrats in Louisiana to be unseated by a Republican, as the two-party system slowly began to emerge in the 1960s.

(3) Norman was particularly active in the Masonic lodge and the Baptist Church.

(4) Norman became the first student to enroll at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, where he studied under Ben Earl Looney, a Minden native.

Francis Toadvin Norman, known as Frank T. Norman (November 21, 1914 – November 20, 1994), was from 1958 to 1966 the mayor of the small city of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. From 1952 to 1958, Norman served on the Minden City Council as the then public safety commissioner under the since disbanded city commission form of government. He was also a high official in the Louisiana Masonic lodge.

Early years and family[edit]

Norman was born in Homer, the seat of nearby Claiborne Parish, to the physician Bertram Allen Norman (March 5, 1886 – December 6, 1949), and the former Pearl Toadvin (January 17, 1892 – May 4, 1941). Dr. Norman was a first lieutenant in the Louisiana Medical Corps in World War I.[1]

Frank Norman was reared in Minden and graduated in 1931 from Minden High School.[2] He attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish, but did not graduate. Norman was the first student to register at the new Ringling School of Art, a part of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, where another Minden High School graduate, Ben Earl Looney, was a member of the founding faculty. Norman's enrollment at the Ringling school was mentioned in Time magazine.[3]

Norman was a first cousin of Minden optometrist Carter B. Norman (July 1, 1922–August 29, 2009), the son of Frank Norman's uncle, Justin Carter Norman, and the former Lillie Harris. Carter Norman graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee, and practiced in Minden for forty-five years. A United States Army infantryman, he was part of the World War II occupational forces in Japan. He was also a charter member of the Lakeview United Methodist Church in Minden.[4] Frank Norman had two sisters, Sybil Edwina Norman (1919–1983), an office manager from Shreveport, and Ara Juanita Norman Leach (1917–2011) of Gainesville, Texas, a member of the Cooke County Democratic Executive Committee, who was a delegate to fourteen state Democratic conventions in Texas as well as the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.[5]

In 1937, Norman married the former Mildred Bryant (born September 3, 1913), and the couple established permanent residence in 1945 near Victory Park at 901 Park Highway, where Mrs. Norman still resides. They had one daughter, Frankie Norman Tompkins (November 3, 1939 – May 23, 1975), a former teacher from Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish. Frankie and her son, Norman Ray Tompkins (1960–1975), perished from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Bunkie in Avoyelles Parish south of Alexandria.[6] Frankie, the wife of Ennis Ray Tompkins (born c. 1934), also had a daughter, later Janet Tompkins Burke of Shreveport, who in turn gave birth to the Normans' two great-grandsons.[7]

Election as mayor[edit]

Norman owned a used-car dealership.[8] A Democrat, he was elected to the city council in 1952 and 1954 and served in the capacity of public safety commissioner. In 1956, Norman opposed the council's decision to permit movie theaters in Minden to open on Sunday evenings during the time most churches were having night services. Speaking for the theater owners, attorney R. Harmon Drew, Sr., later a state representative, said that not all churches had evening worship and that businesses had the right to operate at the same time as church meetings.[9]

Early in 1956, Norman made an unsuccessful race for Webster Parish clerk of court against the incumbent Thomas Jenkins "Tom" Campbell (1895–1968) and two other challengers, Parey Branton, later a member of the Louisiana House from Shongaloo, and Clarence D. Wiley (1909–1976), then an employee of the parish sheriff's department. Norman finished last, and Wiley narrowly edged Branton for a runoff slot against Campbell. Wiley then defeated Campbell by ninety-two votes.[10]

Norman's council colleagues included future Mayor Jack Batton as streets and parks commissioner, feed store owner Norman J. Cone, Sr. (1906–1997), at finance, retail grocer Fred Thomas "Tony" Elzen (1922-2012) at utilities, and businessman John McCowen (1927–1985) as sanitation commissioner.[11] In 1958, the interim incumbent Jasper Goodwill (1889–1974), who had followed John T. David, Sr. (1897–1974),[12] declined to seek a full term. In the then closed Democratic primary held on April 8, 1958, Norman led a four-candidate field with 809 votes (35 percent). He went into the runoff election thereafter with the second-place candidate, businessman and landowner Paul Wallace, a furniture store owner and former council member who initially had received 788 votes (34.5 percent). Wallace was making his third unsuccessful race for mayor. Two other candidates, A. Eugene Frazier, who had lost the mayor's races in 1950 and 1952 to John T. David, and the dentist Dr. E. Roy Sledge, shared the remaining 30.5 percent of the primary votes. In the runoff, Norman defeated Wallace, 1,286 (57 percent) to 975 (43 percent) and led in all ten municipal precincts.[13]

In the mayoral primary held on April 7, 1962, Norman defeated former Mayor John T. David who was seeking to return to the office after an absence of seven years. David continued to serve as the municipal fire chief.[14]

During the Norman administration, Minden approved the purchase of the municipal light and power plant, which it still maintains to provide city residents with electricity. Norman initiated one-way streets running east and west through the downtown. Minden won a "Cleanest City" contest during his tenure too.[7]

In 1959, a citizens' group proposed to rename the residential street Loop Road, located near the site from 1952 to 2013 of the Northwest Louisiana Technical College, as "Norman Road" in honor of the mayor.[15] The change, however, never happened.

Defeat in 1966[edit]

Norman’s political prospects began to unravel in 1966. First, he faced an African American challenger, J. D. Hampton, Jr., in the Democratic primary for nomination to a third term as mayor. Hampton, on behalf of his daughter, Beverly, was a plaintiff in the school desegregation suit against the Webster Parish School Board. He was the first black ever to seek the position of mayor in the 20th century. Hampton called for improved working conditions for city employees, more recreational facilities, and a vigorous industrial recruitment effort. Norman, who had served as president of the Louisiana Municipal Association in 1964, cited his own experience in government which extended back for a dozen years. Norman handily defeated Hampton, 2,729 (70 percent) to 1,166 (30 percent). According to the official Webster Parish historian, John Agan, Hampton's showing was considered significant because four years earlier, prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, fewer than two hundred black voters had been registered in Minden. In the summer of 1965, Norman had met with James Farmer, a cofounder of the Congress of Racial Equality, who came to Minden to lead a civil rights march. Farmer's interest in Minden had been spurred by a dispute with the city and its sanitation workers.[16]

Then, Norman faced a strong Republican opponent in Tom Colten, the former publisher of the Minden Press and the Minden Herald, which consolidated in 1966 into the combined daily, the Minden Press-Herald. The paper, however, endorsed neither candidate, and partisanship was not emphasized. Colten had sold the newspapers in 1965 and had been executive director of the Chamber of Commerce until he launched his active campaign for mayor. Colten and Norman appeared at a forum hosted by the Minden Jaycees, at which Colten questioned the existence of "idle funds" not being invested by the City of Minden. Norman said that the funds in question were being invested but that there had been delays caused by the resignation of the municipal clerk.[16] No other Republicans were listed on the Minden ballot in the November 8 general election, as all five Democratic city council nominees, including later Mayor Jack Batton, were elected without opposition.[17] At the time Colten and Jack Breaux of Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish were the only Republican mayors in the entire state.

Colten ran a "reform" campaign, claiming that he wanted to get Minden "moving," implying that Norman was too inactive in the position. Colten never used the "R" label. In fact, the Press-Herald on the day after the general election referred to Colten merely as "the challenger," with no mention of party. Colten received 2,044 votes (55.8 percent) to Norman's 1,622 (44.2 percent).[18]

The 1970 challenge[edit]

Grave of former Mayor Frank T. Norman of Minden, Louisiana

In 1967, Colten obtained a sales tax increase to finance public improvements, including a new municipal building and extensive street paving. Norman ran again in 1970, but Colten had the advantage because the community leadership lined up solidly behind the incumbent. A Minden contractor was overheard telling Colten that he could not imagine anyone even running against him, considering how well he had performed as mayor. Yet, Colten seemed unsure as to whether he could win again and took nothing for granted. He had first considered running as an Independent in the general election but chose in the end to remain a Republican. In their 1970 rematch, Colten defeated Norman 2,381 votes (58.9 percent) to 1,661 ballots (41.1 percent).[19]

Norman did not again seek office but remained active in the lodge and as deacon of the large First Baptist Church of Minden.

Norman died a day before his eightieth birthday. He is interred in Section G of the Minden Cemetery.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Earlene Mendenhall Lyle and Ann Mays Harlan, Minden Cemetery records, Minden, Louisiana
  2. ^ Minden High School, Grig yearbook, 1930s
  3. ^ "Art: Ringling Day". Time. October 12, 1931. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Obituary of Carter B. Norman". Shreveport Times. August 31, 2009. Retrieved August 31, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Ara Juanita Leach". Minden Press-Herald, August 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ http://www.mindenmemories.net; Thompkins obit, Minden Press-Herald, May 27, 1975
  7. ^ a b c Frank T. Norman obituary, Minden Press-Herald, November 22, 1994
  8. ^ "Frank Norman Moves Used Car Lot to New Location", Minden Press, May 23, 1952, p. 1
  9. ^ "Council Oks Sunday Night Movies," Minden Herald, April 5, 1956, p. 1
  10. ^ Minden Press, January 17, 1956, p. 1
  11. ^ Minden Press, January 20, 1958, p. 1
  12. ^ Social Security Death Index Search Results
  13. ^ Minden Herald, April 10, 1958, p. 1
  14. ^ Minden Press, April 9, 1962, p. 1
  15. ^ "City Residents Request Change in Name of Present Loop Road", Minden Herald, February 9, 1959, p. 1
  16. ^ a b http://books.google.com/books?id=XvKBQuetARQC&pg=PA148&lpg=PA148&dq=Frank+Norman+of+Minden,+LA&source=web&ots=uxQlqgp7_M&sig=4qQKWz-rZrUFOZRsmPPZwxD3lPQ&hl=en#PPA148,M1
  17. ^ Minden Press-Herald, November 8, 1966
  18. ^ Minden Press-Herald, November 9, 1966
  19. ^ ’’Minden Press-Herald’’, November 4, 1970
Political offices
Preceded by
Jasper Goodwill
Mayor of Minden, Louisiana

Frank Toadvin Norman
1958–1966

Succeeded by
Tom Colten
Preceded by
W.H. "Booty" Scott of New Roads
President of the Louisiana Municipal Association

Frank Toadvin Norman
1964–1965

Succeeded by
J. Rayburn Bertrand of Lafayette