Local History: Who Was Clyde Fant?
First off, I'd like to thank you for the great response we've been getting on these local history articles. I'm hoping to satisfy some curiosity that maybe we have all had at one time or another. Because of that curiosity, I'm getting some great requests from folks who want to know something about the place where they live. This week's article comes from one of those requests:
The Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway is a seven mile stretch of roadway running beside the Red River in Shreveport. It starts at the base of the Jimmie Davis Bridge, and travels the bank of the Red through downtown Shreveport, then terminates where it splits into Jack Wells Blvd. and Airport Dr.
But who was Clyde Fant?
Clyde Edward Fant, Sr. was a long-serving and very influential Democratic mayor of Shreveport.
Fant was born in Linden, TX on October 18, 1905, and according to his Wikipedia article:
He was one of six children of Mr. and Mrs. John Preston Fant. John Fant was a cotton gin owner and a one-time 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 county 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 went on to be elected Mayor of Shreveport five times, first serving two terms from 1946–1954, then three more from 1958–1970. When he wasn't Mayor, he was appointed to many high profile positions in the state, and even was looked favorably upon as a gubernatorial candidate, but never ran for any other office besides Mayor of Shreveport. The state appointive positions he served included the Louisiana Tax Commission, the Board of Institutions, and the Overton-Red River Waterway Planning Commission.
While in the office of Mayor, Fant was credited with maintaining racial calm in Shreveport during the late 1950s and early 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement, and he paved the way for some of Shreveport's most prosperous years. Fant, in his first term as mayor, was responsible for a $9.6 million capital improvements bond issue that set the stage for municipal growth, culminating in Shreveport becoming the second most populated city in Louisiana, until surpassed by Baton Rouge in 1970.
We go again to his Wikipedia page:
Under Fant, an area along the Red River was developed as the site of the Shreveport Convention Center and Civic Center complex... The acclaimed R.S. Barnwell Memorial Garden and Art Center was also established when Fant was mayor... Other projects in the Fant years included the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge, the Jewella-Milam Street connection, the Youree Drive extension, and the Southern Avenue and Spring Street viaduct.
From his marriage to the former Margaret Moos (1909-2009), Fant had two children. Clyde E. Fant, Jr., Th.D. (born 1934) is a Southern Baptist clergyman and author of the "Great Preaching" series (since the original publishing of this article, Fant Jr. has been arrested on child abuse and pornography charges. We felt it necessary to include that here. You can read details about the allegations and arrest here) , and John Frank Fant (born 1937), is a lawyer in Texas. Clyde Fant passed away July 6, 1973, and is interred in Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport.
As you can see, it is no wonder we named that picturesque piece of pavement after Mr. Fant, being that he literally paved the way for it to be built.
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