Robert T. Tobin
|Robert Terry Tobin|
Undated portrait of Mayor Tobin
|(Interim) Mayor of Minden
Webster Parish, Louisiana, USA
February 6, 1989 – December 5, 1989
|Preceded by||Noel "Gene" Byars|
|Succeeded by||Paul A. Brown|
|Minden City Council member|
|Preceded by||New position|
|Succeeded by||Theron W. Winzer|
September 10, 1910|
Lucky, Bienville Parish
|Died||September 13, 2007
|Resting place||New Prosperity Baptist Church Garden of Memories in Lucky, Louisiana|
|Spouse(s)||Thelma McCoy Tobin (married 1932–2007, his death)|
|Children||One daughter (deceased)|
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
Robert Terry Tobin (September 10, 1910 – September 13, 2007) was an African-American educator who became the first member of his race to have served as mayor of Minden, a small city of about 13,000 residents and the seat of government of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. Mayor Tobin's ten-month tenure in 1989 occurred before the 2000 U.S. census confirmed Minden's status as a majority black locality.
Robert Tobin was the second of seven children born to Nat Tobin and his wife, Jane Patterson (1894–1982), in Louisiana's Bienville Parish village of Lucky. The family moved to Arcadia, the parish seat, so that the Tobin children could obtain a better education. Young Robert graduated from a black school in Arcadia, where he met his future wife, Thelma McCoy. At the time of his death, the couple had been married for seventy-six years and had outlived their daughter.
A World War II veteran of the 78th United States Army Signal Corps, Tobin was honorably discharged with the rank of technical sergeant and remained a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Studying at Louisiana's Southern University in Baton Rouge, a historically black institution of higher learning, and graduating with a major in science and a minor in mathematics, he subsequently attended California's Stanford University in Palo Alto, from which he obtained a master of science degree in science and secondary school supervision. He then entered the teaching profession at Castor Elementary School in the Bienville Parish village of Castor, later becoming principal of the school and subsequently transferring, at the invitation of his friend and mentor, Wilbur Leon Hayes, to the then-all-black Webster High School in Minden, where he served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal. Five years after his retirement in 1970 from the field of education, the school was consolidated with the previously white Minden High School.
Tobin was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
A Democrat, Tobin was elected in 1978 to the Minden City Council from the predominantly black District A. He defeated J. D. Hampton (born c. 1935), 519 (67 percent) to 255 (33 percent). In 1966, Hampton became the first black official to run for the office of Minden mayor when he unsuccessfully challenged Frank T. Norman in the party primary. Hampton was also the complainant in the Webster Parish school desegregation case promoted by his United Christian Freedom Movement. Tobin was reelected to city council without opposition in 1982 and 1986. In February 1989, the council appointed him, at the age of seventy-eight, as mayor to succeed Democrat Noel "Gene" Byars, who was recalled amid controversy over charging the municipality for personal expenses.
In the special election for mayor held later in 1989, Tobin ran first with 1,545 votes. Republican Paul A. Brown, a relative newcomer to Minden, trailed slightly with 1,509 ballots while future mayor Bill Robertson and Peggy J. Staples (1933–2009), the first woman ever to have served on the Minden City Council, followed with 1,028 and 452 ballots, respectively. The primary turnout reached 60 percent of registered voters. In the runoff campaign, Brown defeated Tobin, 2,400 (54 percent) to 2,064 (46 percent). but held the post for only a year, as Robertson rebounded in 1990 to claim the mayor's office for a full term and served as mayor until his death in June 2013.
In retirement, Tobin devoted a year to building his house and occupied his time with traveling and fishing. He was a member of civic and professional organizations, including the Webster Association of Retired Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators, National Association of Educators, Phi Delta Kappa, Kiwanis International, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. As he approached his 97th birthday and 76th wedding anniversary, the couple was profiled in the September 2007 issue of Jet magazine, which was on newsstands at the time of his death.
Robert Tobin died in Minden three days after his 97th birthday and was honored with two services on September 17: at the St. Rest Baptist Church in Minden, where Tobin was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher, and at the New Prosperity Baptist Church in Lucky. Interment was at the New Prosperity Baptist Church Garden of Memories in Lucky. He often said: "By the Grace of God, I have come this far, and He will surely lead me on."
- Minden Press-Herald, January 15, 1992, p. 1
- Minden Press-Herald, August 28, 1978, p. 1; Election results, September 18, 1978
- "Tobin, Byars in November 18 run-off", Minden Press-Herald, October 8, 1989, p. 1
- Minden Press-Herald, October 10, 1989, p. 1
- "Brown elected mayor", Minden Press-Herald, November 19, 1989, p. 1
- "Louisiana election returns, November 18, 1989". staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- "Former Minden mayor dies at 96". NWLA (Northwestern Louisiana) News. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
- "Robert Terry Tobin". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved September 16, 2007.
Noel Eugene "Gene" Byars
|Mayor of Minden, Louisiana
Robert Terry Tobin
Paul Aaron Brown