January 1, 1979 – December 31, 1982
|Preceded by||Jacob E. "Pat" Patterson|
|Succeeded by||Noel "Gene" Byars|
Minden City Council member:
(Streets and Parks Commissioner)
|Succeeded by|| Five at-large winners|
J. Travis Taylor
|Preceded by||J. Travis Taylor|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished under new charter|
|Born|| December 16, 1913|
|Died|| April 8, 1996 (aged 82)|
|Resting place||Minden Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Alice Shurtleff Batton (died 1973)
(2) Louise Zeagler Jones Batton (divorced)
|Relations||John D. "J. D." Batton (brother)|
|Children|| Jackie Batton Reeves
Jimmy Batton (1943-1997) Dorothy Batton Smith
Jack Batton (December 16, 1913 – April 8, 1996) was a businessman and politician who served from 1978 to 1982 as the mayor of Minden, the seat of government for Webster Parish, in northwestern Louisiana.
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, 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, at which in the fall of 1931 he played football. 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 and near the football star David Lee of the former Baltimore Colts. The Battons had three children: Jackie Batton Reeves (born August 1938) and husband, Henry Rogers Reeves (born May 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) of Waynesboro Virginia. There were also five grandchildren. At the time of his death, Batton was divorced from the former Louise Zeagler Jones (1916-2004), the widow of retired United States Army police officer and Lieutenant Colonel Rosamond Roy Jones (1912-1980) of Natchitochnes and later Minden. A native of Caldwell Parish, Louise Jones Batton was heavily involved in the American Legion auxiliary and in various veterans causes. In 1993, she was named "Woman of the Year" in Minden. 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.
City council service
A Democrat, Batton served on the Minden City Council in the former position of streets and parks commissioner from 1946 to 1962 and from 1966 to 1978. He was defeated in the at-large city council races held on May 12, 1962, as were all sitting council members. The dry cleaners businessman J. Travis Taylor (1914–1995) became the new streets and park commissioner for a single term. 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. "Tom" Campbell (1895–1968), a native of Castor in Bienville Parish. 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 in 1946, 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. At the time, most city streets were unpaved, and the city had used mule-drawn equipment. Batton was the city council president at the time of his defeat in 1962. He stressed street paving, curbing and guttering, and improvements to parks in his unsuccessful reelection bid.
After a four-year hiatus, Batton returned to the council in 1966, when Mayor Frank T. Norman was unseated by the Republican Tom Colten and streets and parks commissioner Travis Taylor did seek reelection. 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), who had owned the former Star Furniture Company on the Shreveport Road in Minden.
In 1977, as a council member, Batton abstained on a proposal to increase the salary of the mayor from $16,000 to $19,000 annually, effective January 1979. City employees were given an 8 percent pay increase. Ironically, Batton benefited from the higher mayoral pay, as he assumed the office on January 1, 1979.
Tenure as mayor
In 1978, Batton ran for mayor, when the one-term incumbent J. E. "Pat" Patterson opted to run instead for a vacancy in the Louisiana House of Representatives. During the campaign, U. S. District Judge Benjamin Cornwell Dawkins, Jr., ordered the ciity commission government abolished and replaced by the mayor-council format, with five single-member council districts. Batton won the post by an 88-vote margin in nonpartisan blanket primary held on September 16, 1978. He defeated his fellow Democrat, the late Orris R. Long, former president of the Minden Chamber of Commerce. Batton polled 2,633 votes (50.8 percent) to Long’s 2,545 (49.2 percent).
Judge Dawkins ordered the mayor-council government in response to a civil suit filed by the NAACP, which sought the establishment of at least two black majority districts. In the same primary in which Batton defeated Long, Robert T. Tobin, a retired educator, became the first member of his race to sit on the city council; he defeated fellow African-American Democrat John D. "J. D." Hampton, Jr. (1935-2015), 519 votes (69.8 percent) to 225 (30.2 percent). On November 7, 1978, 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). And Republican Felix Roby Garrett (1922-1987), formerly the public utilities commissioner and a professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe who had vacillated over seeking another term on the council, became the first member of his party to fill a single-member district seat on the council. Batton did not seek reelection in 1982, when the educator, Noel "Gene" Byars, won the mayoral position.
As mayor, Batton advocated continued municipal ownership of the light and power plant, first procured by the city during the administration of Mayor Frank Norman, who served from 1958 to 1966. Batton worked to expand low-income housing and continued street paving.
Recall attempt over low-income housing
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 ieutenant governor. Holeman moved against Batton on the premise 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.
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. Batton's veto was tested in a ruling from state Attorney General William J. "Bill" Guste, who declared that the mayor could veto a 3-2 or 4-1 council vote but not a unanimous one.
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. After two lawsuits and months of delays, 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.
Other political activities
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.
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.
From 1936 until his retirement in 1991, Batton operated the former Batton's Grocery on Maiden Lane (since Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive) in an African-American section of the city. Four months after Batton's reelection in 1950 to the city council in the role of streets and parks commissioner, the store burned at an estimated loss of $22,000, partly insured. Fire Chief John T. David, the mayor from 1946 to 1955, determined that the blaze was caused by a faulty electric motor in the meat market of the store. Batton's Grocery was rebuilt but was since razed.
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. The facility was subsequently renamed the Jack Batton Arena. In 1950, he was named the second president of the new Webster Parish Cattleman's Association. Active with Batton in the riding club was his friend and fellow cattleman, Delna Russell "Cowboy" Drake (1905–1976). 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 his 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. Batton was a director of the Webster Parish Free Fair Board, since the Bossier/Webster Fair and Forest Festival.
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.
Batton was a member of the Masonic lodge and the First United Methodist Church of Minden. He died in 1996 at the age of eighty-two and is interred in the Batton/Shurtleff family plot in Section C of the historic Minden Cemetery.
- Minden Herald, October 24, 1947, p. 1.
- Minden Press-Herald, August 29, 1986, p. 24.
- Harold E. Smith obituary, Minden Press-Herald, November 3, 2011.
- "Jack Batton dies at 82," Minden Press-Herald, April 9, 1996, p. 1.
- Obit: Louise Jones. boards.ancestry.com. Retrieved on October 19, 2012.
- Minden Press-Herald, March 4, 1994, p. 1.
- Minden Press, May 14, 1962, p. 1.
- Minden Herald, May 17, 1962, p. 6.
- "Commission Posts Set for Council", Minden Herald, May 24, 1962, p. 1
- "Paving Program Announced by Mayor David", Minden Herald, August 2, 1946, p. 1.
- Batton advertisement, Minden Herald, May 3, 1962, p. 9.
- "Batton abstains on pay raises", Minden Press-Herald, October 4, 1977, p. 1
- Mike Poe, "Council to White: 'Draw up the Plan'", Minden Press-Herald, August 8, 1978, p. 1.
- "O. R. Long is new chamber president", Minden Press-Herald, December 12, 1977, p. 1.
- "Batton new Minden mayor; council runoff next", Minden Press-Herald, September 18, 1978, p. 1.
- "Garrett, Staples, McCowen, Kirk all gain city council seats Tuesday", Minden Press-Herald, November 8, 1978, p. 1.
- 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 near Baton Rouge.
- "Petition filed today to recall Mayor Batton", Minden Press-Herald, March 6, 1981, p. 1.
- "Holemon outlines reason for mayoral recall attempt", Minden Press-Herald, March 17, 1981, p. 1.
- "Mayor says building permit stands", Minden Press-Herald, December 10, 1981, p. 1.
- "Batton's interpretation of veto power upheld", Minden Press-Herald, February 26, 1982, p. 1.
- "Batton answers citizens' complaints", Minden Press-Herald, March 18, 1981, p. 1.
- "Mayor glad: Recall bid fizzles", Minden Press-Herald, September 3, 1981, p. 1.
- "Government and Politics", Minden Press-Herald, December 31, 1982, p. 1.
- "Shirley Drive project relocated to Cemetery Street 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.
- "Mayor Batton won't seek second term," Minden Press-Herald, March 29, 1982, p.1.
- "Mayor Byars in for second term", Minden Press-Herald, September 28, 1986, p. 1.
- Minden Press-Herald, April 25, 1970, p. 2C.
- Minden Herald, April 11, 1950, p. 1.
- "Batton's Store Burns Wednesday: Loss Estimated to Be $22,000; Building Gutted", Minden Herald, August 25, 1950, p. 1.
- "Jack Batton Is Named President of Webster Parish Cattle Group", Minden Herald, May 12, 1950, p. 1.
- Jack Batton Home. mindenmemories.org (Sherry Gresham Gritzbaugh of Bellaire in Houston, Texas). Retrieved on November 3, 2010.
- Hunter's Playhouse. mindenmemories.org. Retrieved on June 5, 2011.
- "Webster Parish, La., Picks New Directors of Free Fair", The Billboard, February 19, 1949, p. 53.
- "Former mayor shot during holdup try. Batton reportedly in stable condition at local hospital", Minden Press-Herald, November 27, 1990, p. 1.