Jack Batton

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Jack Batton
Mayor of Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana, USA
In office
1978 – December 31, 1982
Preceded by Jacob E. "Pat" Patterson
Succeeded by Noel "Gene" Byars
Minden City Council member (Streets and Parks Commissioner)
In office
1946–1962
Succeeded by Five at-large winners

J. Travis Taylor (as Streets and Parks Commissioner)

In office
1966–1978
Succeeded by Position abolished under new charter
Personal details
Born (1913-12-16)December 16, 1913
Minden, Webster Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died April 8, 1996(1996-04-08) (aged 82)
Minden, Louisiana
Resting place Minden Cemetery
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Alice Shurtleff Batton (died 1973)

(2) Louise Zeagler Jones Batton (divorced)

Relations J. D. Batton (brother)
Children Jackie Batton Reeves

Jimmy Batton (1943–1997) Dorothy Batton Smith

Parents James Bryant and Nolie K. Batton
Occupation Businessman
Religion Methodist
(1) Mayor Batton continued the municipally-owned power plant in his small city of Minden and pushed for expanded street paving and low-income housing projects during his tenure from 1978–1982.

(2) Though he made his living as a merchant and a cattleman, Batton served a total of thirty-two years in municipal government.

(3) Batton's election as mayor coincided with the implementation of a new mayor-council government superseded the city commission format.

Rock house on Goodwill at Marshall streets in Minden once owned by Jack Batton; prior to the construction of the house, the lot was used for grazing cattle owned by Batton and his friend, Delna "Cowboy" Drake.
Controversial at the time of their construction, the Webster Manor Apartments were completed after Jack Batton, their principal sponsor, had left the office of mayor of Minden.
This razed lot on Martin Luther King Drive in Minden once housed the Jack Batton Grocery.
Jack Batton Arena of the Minden Riding Club in Minden, Louisiana
Inside the Jack Batton Arena
The Batton/Shurtleff family grave marker in the historic Minden Cemetery

Jack Batton (December 16, 1913 – April 8, 1996)[1] was a businessman who served from 1978 to 1982 as the mayor of the small city of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana.

Background[edit]

A Minden native, Batton was the son of James Bryant Batton (1880-1939) and Nolie K. Batton (1881-1971). The senior Batton, formerly of Dubberly in south Webster Parish, was a former Webster Parish chief deputy sheriff, a two-term Minden police chief,[2] and an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff in a special election held in 1933 after a devastating tornado struck the city.

Batton graduated in 1932 from Minden High School, where in the fall of 1931 he played football.[3] His first wife, the former Dorothy Alice Shurtleff (December 18, 1914–May 14, 1973), was a daughter of A. C. Shurtleff (January 15, 1882 - September 16, 1928) and Cora Belle Shurtleff (February 1, 1888–December 16, 1960).

The Battons resided in a house made of brown rock at the intersection of Goodwill and Marshall streets in Minden. The house is across the street from the boyhood home of the singer David Houston. The football star David Lee of the former Baltimore Colts grew up in the same neighborhood block.

The Battons had three children: Jackie Batton Reeves (born 1938) and husband, Henry Rogers Reeves (born c. 1937), of Haughton in Bossier Parish; James Howard "Jimmy" Batton (1943–1997), a former Webster Parish sheriff's deputy, and Dorothy Gale Batton Smith (born 1946) and husband, Harold Eugene Smith (1940-2011),[4] of Waynesboro, Virginia. There were also five grandchildren.[5]

At the time of his death, Batton was divorced from the former Louise Zeagler Jones (1916–2004),[6] the widow of retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel Rosamond Roy Jones (1912–1980)[1] of Natchitochnes and later Minden. Louise Jones Batton was heavily involved in the American Legion auxiliary and in various veterans causes. Rosamond and Louise Jones had three children, Doris Jones Copeland, Rosamond Anne Gaston, and Phillip Lee Jones (born 1947). Rosamond and Louise Jones are interred at Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Minden.[6]

City council service[edit]

A Democrat, Batton served on the Minden City Council in the former position of streets and parks commissioner from 1946–1962 and from 1966–1978. He was defeated in the at-large city council races held on May 12, 1962, as were all sitting council members,[7][8] and businessman J. Travis Taylor (1914–1995)[1] became the new streets and park commissioner for a single term.[9] Batton was a brother of J. D. Batton, the former Minden police chief and then from 1952 to 1964, the Webster Parish sheriff. In 1948, J. D. Batton lost a race for Webster Parish clerk of court to the incumbent Thomas J. Campbell (1895–1968), a native of Castor in Bienville Parish.[2] Jack Batton's brother-in-law, Arthur Howard Shurtleff (1920–1985), was a member of the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing body akin to the county commission in most other states.

In his first term as streets and parks commissioner, Batton and then newly elected Mayor John T. David moved forward a plan to blacktop eight miles of Minden municipal streets, beginning with a short link of Bayou Avenue from Pine Street west to the Minden Cemetery.[10] After his defeat on the council in 1962, Batton returned to the council in 1966, when Mayor Frank Norman was unseated by the Republican Tom Colten and streets and parks commissioner Travis Taylor did not run again. Batton won his last term as streets and parks commissioner in 1974, when he defeated two intraparty opponents, Emily Doss and the businessman William J. Rabon (1922–1991),[1] who had owned the former Star Furniture Company on the Shreveport Road.

Tenure as mayor[edit]

In 1978, after nearly three decades on the council, all under the city commission format, Batton ran for mayor under the current mayor-council system. The incumbent, Jacob E. "Pat" Patterson, declined to seek a second term. In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on September 16, 1978, Batton won the mayor’s position by an 88-vote margin over his fellow Democrat, the late Orris R. Long, former executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Batton polled 2,633 votes (50.8 percent) to Long’s 2,545 (49.2 percent).[11]

In the same election, Peggy J. Staples (1933–2009) became the first woman ever elected to the city council. She defeated fellow Democrat Ben Kinel, 733 (67 percent) to 359 (33 percent). Robert T. Tobin similarly became the first African American elected to the council in 1978, having defeated fellow Democrat J.D. Hampton, 519 (69.8 percent) to 225 (30.2 percent). And Republican Felix R. Garrett (1922-1987), formerly the public utilities commissioner, became the first member of his party to fill a single-member district seat on the city council.[11][12] Batton did not seek reelection in 1982, when the educator, Noel "Gene" Byars, was elected mayor.

As mayor, Batton advocated continued municipal ownership of the light and power plant, first procured by the city during the 1958–1966 administration of Mayor Frank Norman. Batton worked to expand low-income housing and continued street paving.


Recall attempt over low-income housing[edit]

In the spring of 1981, Minden resident Joe Holemon launched an unsuccessful recall petition against Batton over the proposed construction of a low-income housing complex, Webster Manor Apartments, adjacent to the Pecan View neighborhood between Shirley Drive and the Lewisville Road. The project contractor was Jamar Adcock of Monroe, a former member of the Louisiana State Senate who ran unsuccessfully in 1971 for lieutenant governor.[13]

Holeman sought to recall Batton on the grounds that the mayor did not inform the city council on April 7, 1980 that it had thirty days thereafter to consider objections to the apartments and that his failure to have done so implicitly meant the approval of the project. Holeman also accused Batton of having needlessly delayed the 1980-1981 city budget by more than six months.[14]

When the city council voted 3-2 to rescind Adcock's building permit, Batton vetoed the measure on grounds that the project was needed and that the city would otherwise be sued for breach of contract if it halted construction of the apartments.[15] Batton's veto was tested in a ruling from Attorney General William J. Guste, who declared that the mayor could veto a 3-2 or 4-1 council vote but not a unanimous one.[16]

Batton said that he had no actual knowledge of any objections to the apartments until the recall attempt was launched. He also voiced a lack of concern about the recall effort, which failed to garner the needed 2,468 signature to bring forth a special election.[17][18]

After two lawsuits and months of delays,[19] the council worked with Adcock to allow construction of the Webster Manor Apartments at two other sites, rather than in the Pecan View subdivision. Thirty-one apartments were built at the intersection of Bayou Avenue and Miller Street, and fifty-five others followed further west at the intersection of Bayou Avenue and Weston Street near the Town and Country Nursing Home. There were questions about acceptable sewerage facilities, but Batton said the needed services were adequate at both sites.[20]

Other political activities[edit]

Batton announced in March 1982 that he would not seek reelection to a second term because he intended to join his son, Jimmy Batton, in expanding their planting of wheat and cotton crops. He noted in the decision not to run that he had never missed a city council meeting in thirty-two years in municipal government.[21]

However, Batton returned to the political fray in 1986 in a bid to oust his successor, Noel Byars, who was recalled from the position in 1989 on a matter of questional personal finances. Batton used the slogan, "Get an Old Pro Off the Bench." Byars listed his own accomplishments from 1982 to 1986 as $830,000 in street improvements, $9 million in new industry, and three hundred new jobs. Byars prevailed, 2,603 votes (53.6 percent) to Batton's 2,252 (46.4 percent). It was Batton's last political race.[22]

Batton as civic leader[edit]

From 1936 until his retirement in 1991, Batton operated his since razed Batton's Grocery on Maiden Lane (since Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive) in an African- American section of the city.[23]

A cattleman, Batton owned the Minden Auction Barn and provided at no cost the arena used by the Minden Riding Club. He also raised horses.[5] The facility was subsequently renamed the Jack Batton Arena.[24] In 1950, he was named the second president of the new Webster Parish Cattleman's Association.[25]

Active with Batton in the riding club was his friend and fellow cattleman, Delna Russell "Cowboy" Drake (1905–1976).[26]

Batton was a member of the Minden Fire Department from 1949 to 1989.

In 1949, Batton became a director of Hunter's Playground and Playhouse, located near Batton's home on Goodwill Street. The complex was opened for the entertainment of young people in the city by Larry B. Hunter (1896–1971) and his wife, Gladys Powell Hunter (1899–1973), the owners of the local Coca-Cola franchise.[27]

Batton was a director of the Webster Parish Free Fair Board, since the Bossier/Webster Fair and Forest Festival.[28]

In November 1990, Batton was shot and hospitalized in a holdup attempt at his grocery store. An eighteen-year-old male from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was visiting Minden during the Thanksgiving Day holidays, shot the former mayor when Batton hesitated to turn over money demanded by the culprit.[29]

Batton was a member of the Masonic lodge and the First United Methodist Church of Minden.[5] He died in 1996 at the age of eighty-two and is interred in the Batton/Shurtleff family plot in Section C of the Minden Cemetery.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
  2. ^ a b Minden Herald, October 24, 1947, p. 1
  3. ^ Minden Press-Herald, August 29, 1986, p. 24
  4. ^ Harold E. Smith obituary, Minden Press-Herald, November 3, 2011
  5. ^ a b c "Jack Batton dies at 82," Minden Press-Herald, April 9, 1996, p. 1
  6. ^ a b "Obit: Louise Jones". boards.ancestry.com. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ Minden Press, May 14, 1962, p. 1
  8. ^ Minden Herald, May 17, 1962, p. 6
  9. ^ "Commission Posts Set for Council", Minden Herald, May 24, 1962, p. 1
  10. ^ "Paving Program Announced by Mayor David", Minden Herald, August 2, 1946, p. 1
  11. ^ a b "Batton new Minden mayor; council runoff next", Minden Press-Herald, September 18, 1978, p. 1
  12. ^ Garrett was himself unseated in 1982 by the Democrat James Leonard "Jim" Starkey (1955-2012), a paramedic and former ambulance company owner who subsequently relocated to Walker in Livingston Parish.
  13. ^ "Petition filed today to recall Mayor Batton", Minden Press-Herald, March 6, 1981, p. 1
  14. ^ "Holemon outlines reason for mayoral recall attempt", Minden Press-Herald, March 17, 1981, p. 1
  15. ^ "Mayor says building permit stands", Minden Press-Herald, December 10, 1981, p. 1
  16. ^ "Batton's interpretation of veto power upheld", Minden Press-Herald, February 26, 1982, p. 1
  17. ^ "Batton answers citizens' complaints", Minden Press-Herald, March 18, 1981, p. 1
  18. ^ "Mayor glad: Recall bid fizzles", Minden Press-Herald, September 3, 1981, p. 1
  19. ^ "Government and Politics", Minden Press-Herald, December 31, 1982, p. 1
  20. ^ "Shirley Drive project relocated to Cemetery Sreet and Bayou Avenue", Minden Press-Herald, December 23, 1982, p. 1; though the newspaper refers to "Cemetery Street" for part of the project, the correct address is 300 Miller Street adjacent to Bayou Avenue.
  21. ^ "Mayor Batton won't seek second term," Minden Press-Herald, March 29, 1982, p.1
  22. ^ "Mayor Byars in for second term", Minden Press-Herald, September 28, 1986, p. 1
  23. ^ Minden Press-Herald, April 25, 1970, p. 2C
  24. ^ nwlanews.com - Your home for news in Bossier and Webster Parishes
  25. ^ "Jack Batton Is Named President of Webster Parish Cattle Group", Minden Herald, May 12, 1950, p. 1
  26. ^ "Jack Batton Home". mindenmemories.org (Sherry Gresham Gritzbaugh of Bellaire, Texas. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Hunter's Playhouse". mindenmemories.org. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Webster Parish, La., Picks New Directors of Free Fair", The Billboard, February 19, 1949, p. 53
  29. ^ "Former mayor shot during holdup try. Batton reportedly in stable condition at local hospital", Minden Press-Herald, November 27, 1990, p. 1
Preceded by
J.E. "Pat" Patterson
Mayor of Minden, Louisiana

Jack Batton
1978–1982

Succeeded by
Noel "Gene" Byars