Frank T. Norman
|Frank Toadvin Norman|
|Preceded by||Jasper Goodwill|
|Succeeded by||Tom Colten|
Minden City Council member
|Succeeded by||Hiram T. "Jack" Crisler|
President of the
Louisiana Municipal Association
|Preceded by||W.H. "Booty" Scott|
|Succeeded by||J. Rayburn Bertrand|
|Born|| November 21, 1914|
Homer, Claiborne Parish
|Died|| November 20, 1994 (aged 79)|
|Resting place||Minden Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Mildred Bryant Norman (married, 1937-1994, his death)|
|Children|| Frankie Norman Thompkins (1939-1975)|
Grandson Norman Ray Tompkins
|Alma mater|| Minden High School|
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 commission form of government. He was also a high official in the Louisiana Masonic lodge.
Norman was born in Homer in Claiborne Parish, from which Webster Parish had been carved in 1871, to the physician Bertram Allen Norman (March 5, 1886 – December 6, 1949), and the former Pearl Toadvin (January 17, 1892 – May 4, 1941). At the time of Pearl Norman's death, the couple was residing in Cotton Valley north of Minden. Dr. Norman was a first lieutenant in the Louisiana Medical Corps in World War I. Norman's maternal uncle, Clyde Toadvin, was a son-in-law of the Minden judge, Lynn Kyle Watkins.
Frank Norman was reared in Minden and graduated in 1931 from Minden High School. He attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston ln Lincoln Parish but did not graduate. He 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 in 1931.
Norman was a first cousin of Minden optometrist Carter B. Norman (1922-2009), 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 a charter member of the Lakeview United Methodist Church in Minden. 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, which nominated John Kerry to challenge U.S. President George W. Bush.
In 1937, Norman married the former Mildred Bryant (September 3, 1913 – May 20, 2017), a native of Lincoln Parish. The couple established permanent residence at 901 Park Highway. They had one child, a daughter named Frankie Norman Tompkins (November 3, 1939 – May 23, 1975), a former teacher from Plain Dealing in northern Bossier Parish. As Frankie matured, her mother resumed her own career as an employee of the Minden Sanitarium. 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. Frankie was married to Ennis Ray Tompkins (1934-2016), a son of Cue and Willie Law Tompkins of Vivian and a long-term blueberry farmer in Plain Dealing. Frankie and Ennis Tompkins also had a daughter, later Janet Tompkins "Jan" Burke of Grayson, near Atlanta, Georgia, who in turn gave birth to the Normans' two great-granddaughters, Katee Robertson of Grayson and Jessie Berndt of Atlanta.
Norman owned a used-car dealership. 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 Richard Harmon Drew, Sr. (1917-1995), 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.
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 Pershing Branton, Sr., later a member of the Louisiana House from Shongaloo, 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.
Norman's council colleagues included future Mayor Jack Batton (the younger brother of then Sheriff J. D. 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. In 1958, interim Mayor Jasper Goodwill, who had followed John T. David, declined to seek a full term. In the then closed Democratic primary held 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. One of the two remaining candidates, Alton Eugene Frazier (1922-2001), was also making a third bid for mayor, having lost 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.
In the primary elections held on April 7, 1962, more than a dozen candidates ran for mayor and council seats. Mayor Norman faced a challenge from John T. David who was seeking to return to the office after an absence of seven years. The two candidates disagreed over whether the office of mayor should be full-time, Norman's position, or remain part-time, the view of David. Both favored the continuation of at-large city council positions with the view that members should represent the city as a whole, rather than individual districts, Norman defeated David, who still continued to serve as the municipal fire chief. a position which ended with the 1978 elections under the mayor-council form of government.
During the Norman administration, Minden approved the purchase of the municipal light and power plant, which it still maintains to provide its residents with electricity. During particular periods of heat and cold, electric rates can vary greatly from the preceding month because of the additional household usage. In January 2018, a particularly cold month, many customers saw big increases in their monthly billing. Later Minden Mayor Marvin Thomas "Tommy" Davis noted that rates never changed though higher billings occurred because of usage.
Mayor Norman initiated one-way streets running east and west through the downtown. Minden won a "Cleanest City" contest during his tenure too.
In 1962, the Minden City Council adopted a $496,000 budget. The following month, business developers H.O. West, Edward Kennon, and R. Don Hinton, Sr., sought municipal assistance in the installation of water lines to new subdivisions in the amount of $15,000 annually. West, the owner of a regional department store chain, said that such aid would allow a reduction in the price of homes and benefit the city through an increase in the number of homeowners. The council, however, rejected the builders in a three-to-two vote.
Defeat in 1966
Norman's political prospects began to unravel in the spring of 1966. He faced an African- American challenger, John D. Hampton, Jr. (1935-2015), in the Democratic primary for nomination to a third term. A United States Army veteran and an employee of the former International Paper Company in Springhill in northern Webster Parish, Hampton filed as a plaintiff on behalf of his minor daughter, Beverly, later Beverly McClerklin, 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. As the president of the Louisiana Municipal Association in 1964, Norman 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 L. Farmer, Jr., a native of Marshall, Texas, and a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, who came to Minden to lead a march. Farmer's interest in Minden had been spurred by a dispute with the city and its sanitation workers.
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. 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. At the time Colten and Jack Louis Breaux, Sr. (1926-1980), of Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish were the only Republican mayors in the entire state.
Colten claimed 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).
The 1970 challenge
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. In their 1970 rematch, Colten defeated Norman 2,381 votes (58.9 percent) to 1,661 ballots (41.1 percent). Norman did not again seek office but remained active in the lodge and as deacon of the large First Baptist Church of Minden.
- Pearl Toadvin Norman (mother of Frank Norman). Findagrave.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2016.
- Earlene Mendenhall Lyle and Ann Mays Harlan, Minden Cemetery records, Minden, Louisiana
- Minden High School, Grig yearbook, 1931.
- Art: Ringling Day. Time (October 12, 1931). Retrieved on May 2, 2010.
- Obituary of Carter B. Norman. The Shreveport Times (August 31, 2009). Retrieved on August 31, 2009.
- Ara Juanita Leach obituary. Minden Press-Herald, August 10, 2011.
- Mildred Bryant Norman. Old.findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 29, 2018.
- "Mayor's Wife Praised in Publication", Minden Press, June 22, 1959, p. 1.
- Tompkins obit. The Minden Press-Herald (May 27, 1975). Retrieved on January 22, 2016.
- Ennis Ray Tompkins. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on January 22, 2016.
- Frank T. Norman obituary, The Minden Press-Herald, November 22, 1994.
- 'Minden Press, May 23, 1952, p. 1.
- "Council Oks Sunday Night Movies," Minden Herald, April 5, 1956, p. 1.
- Minden Press, January 17, 1956, p. 1.
- Minden Press, January 20, 1958, p. 1.
- Minden Herald, April 10, 1958, p. 1.
- "Candidates Sign up for April City Election; Highly Competitive Races Expected; Fourteen in Contention for Council Posts", Minden Herald, February 22, 1962, p. 1.
- "Mayoral Candidates Split on Two Campaign Issues", Minden Herald, March 15, 1962, p. 1.
- Minden Press, April 9, 1962, p. 1.
- Caleb Daniel (February 2, 2018). Cold to blame for electric bill spikes. Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved on February 17, 2018.
- Minden Herald, August 9, 1962, p. 1.
- "City Council Rejecxts Bid for Water Refunds by Developers", Minden Herald, September 13, 1962, p. 1.
- J. D. Hampton, Jr. obituary. The Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved on May 15, 2015.
- John A. Agan. Minden: Perseverance and Pride. Columbia, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7385-2388-7. Retrieved on January 23, 2015.
- The Minden Press-Herald, November 8, 1966, p. 1.
- The Minden Press-Herald, November 9, 1966, p. 1.
- The Minden Press-Herald, November 4, 1970, p. 1.