Lou Fant

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Lou Fant
Louie Judson Fant Jr.

(1931-12-31)December 31, 1931
Greenville, SC
DiedJune 11, 2001(2001-06-11) (aged 69)
Seattle, WA
Occupationteacher, author, coach
Known forsign language education and consulting
Notable work
Ameslan: An Introduction to American Sign Language, The American Sign Language Phrase Book

Lou Fant (December 13, 1931 – June 11, 2001) was a pioneering teacher, author and expert on American Sign Language (ASL). He was also an actor in film, television, and the stage. Natively bilingual in ASL and English, he often played roles relating to sign language and the deaf.[1]

His life centered on advocacy and teaching for the deaf.

Personal life and education[edit]

Fant was born December 13, 1931 in Greenville, South Carolina. He was the only child of deaf parents Louie Judson Fant and Hazeline Helen Reid. Though hearing, he learned ASL as a native language from his parents. They moved to Dallas in 1944 where he graduated from Baylor University, and later received his M.A. in Special Education from Columbia University.[2]

At Baylor, he met and married Lauralea Irwin. They moved to New York, and later to Washington D.C. where he taught at Gallaudet College. They had four children[3] and remained married until her death in 1988.[4] Fant later married Barbara Bernstein, and was married to her until his death in Seattle of pulmonary fibrosis.[5]


He began his career teaching at the New York School for the Deaf, then at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

In 1967, Fant helped establish the National Theater of the Deaf in Waterford, Connecticut and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.[6]

Fant was also a sign language poet, using creative alterations in space and time of ordinary signs to create a type of sign language performance art.[7]

Fant led the Seattle Central Community College Interpreter Training Program from 1989 to 2000, until his retirement.

Hollywood career[edit]

In the 1970s Fant relocated to Southern California to pursue his acting career. Fant took part in numerous television productions, including General Hospital and Little House on the Prairie, and in film, such as Looking for Mr. Goodbar. [4] He was also sign-language coach for some well-known actors, including Henry Winkler, Diane Keaton, Robert Young and Melissa Gilbert. He coached actors in the use of sign language for Children of a Lesser God. He also appeared in television commercials. While in Southern California, he also co-hosted a talk show, “Off Hand,” with Herb Larson, a deaf instructor at California State University Northridge, where Fant also taught ASL classes.[8]


Fant published nine books, and contributed to eight films promoting use of sign language. His Ameslan: An Introduction to American Sign Language (1972)[9] was the first book designed to teach ASL as a unique language rather than as a mere lexicon of signs.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Lou Fant heard the deaf with his heart". The Seattle Times. Seattle Times. June 18, 2001. Archived from the original on 2014-12-12. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  2. ^ "Louis Fant Jr". deafroadrunner. June 18, 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  3. ^ Fant, Alfred (Feb 2, 1990). Fant genealogy: comprising 2809 individual entries, noting available biographical facts. Fant, 1975. p. 171. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 380. FANT, LOUIE JUDSON (deaf): a son of (377) was born March 1, 1895. He married Hazeline Helen Reid (deaf) who was born March 20, 1907. They had one child (381). 381. FANT, LOUIE JUDSON, JR.: a son of (380) was bom December 13, 1931. He married Lauralea Irwin, who was born January 7, 1931. They had four children, (382), (383), (384), (385). Lou and all his family were born and raised in South Carolina. He and his parents moved to Dallas in 1944. He left Texas after completing studies at Baylor, and marrying a Dallas girl. They went to New York where Lou took training to teach deaf children. After teaching for 13 years in both New York and Gallaudet College, he became an actor in the National Theatre of the Deaf.
  4. ^ a b "Lou Fant Biography". Imdb. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
  5. ^ Associated Press (June 25, 2001). "Louis Fant, Who Helped Start the National Theater of the Deaf, Dies at 69". NYTimes.com. New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-09-02. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
  6. ^ "The RID Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) Task Force" (PDF). Views. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Summer 2012.
  7. ^ Klima, Edward; Bellugi, Ursula (1979). "Chapter 13: Wit and Plays on Sign". The Signs of Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 335. ISBN 9780674807969. Retrieved 2014-10-07. In a rendition of a children's comic poem, Lou Fant, an accomplished actor-signer, makes elaborate use of this way of playing with his hands as signs and hands as hands. In the poem "Eletelephony" by Laura Richards, the words elephant and telephone become entangled in various ways, as the title indicates.
  8. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1988-08-22/local/me-532_1_show-hosts
  9. ^ Fant, Lou (1972). Ameslan: An Introduction to American Sign Language. Silver Spring, MD: National Association of the Deaf