Frank T. Norman

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Submitted by Billy Hathorn, Class of 1966

 
 
Francis Toadvin Norman

In office
1958 – 1966
Preceded by Jasper Goodwill
Succeeded by Tom Colten

Minden City Council member
In office
1952 – 1958
Succeeded by Jack Crisler

Born November 21, 1914(1914-11-21)
Homer Claiborne Parish,
Died November 20, 1994 (aged 79)
Minden, Louisiana
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse Mildred Bryant Norman (born 1913, married until his death)
Children Frankie Norman Thompkins (1939-1975)
Occupation Businessman
Religion Baptist
(1) Norman led the move to establish a municipally-owned power plant in his small city of Minden, rather than reliance on a private company supplying electricity. (2) Norman became one of the first Democrats in Louisiana to be unseated by a Republican, as the two-party system slowly began to emerge in the 1960s.
(3) Norman was particularly active in the
Masonic lodge and the Baptist Church.
(4) Norman became the first student to enroll at the Ringling School of Art in
Sarasota, Florida, where he studied under Ben Earl Looney, a Minden native.
 
 
Francis Toadvin Norman, known as Frank T. Norman (November 21, 1914 November 20, 1994) was a Democratic mayor of the small city of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, from 1958-1966. From 1952-1958, Norman had served on the Minden City Council as the then public safety commissioner under the since disbanded city commission form of government. He was also a high official in the Louisiana Masonic lodge.
 
 

Contents

               1 Early years and family

 

Early years and family

Norman was born in Homer, the seat of nearby Claiborne Parish, to Bertram Allen Norman, M.D. (March 5, 1886December 6, 1949), and the former Pearl Toadvin (January 17, 1892&ndash'May 4, 1941). Dr. Norman was a first lieutenant in the Louisiana Medical Corps in World War I.[1]Frank Norman was reared in Minden and graduated in 1931 from Minden High School.[2] He attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish, but did not graduate. Norman also became 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.[3]
 
Norman was a first
cousin of Minden optometrist, Carter B. Norman (born July 1, 1922), the son of Frank Norman's uncle, Justin Carter Norman. Frank Norman had two sisters, Sybil Edwina Norman (1919-1983) and Juanita Norman Leach of Gainesville, Texas. He married the former Mildred Bryant (born September 3, 1913), and the couple established permanent residence in 1945 at 901 Park Highway in Minden near Victory Park, where Mrs. Norman still resides. They had one daughter, Frankie Norman Thompkins (November 3, 1939May 23, 1975), later of Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish. Frankie and her son, Norman Ray Thompkins (1960-1975), perished in an automobile accident south of Alexandria.[4] Frankie also had a daughter, later Jan Thompkins Burke of Shreveport, who in turn gave birth to Norman’s two great-grandsons.[5]

 

Election as mayor

Norman, who owned a use-car dealership, entered the mayor’s race while he was serving on the city council. One of his council colleagues was future Mayor Jack Batton, then the streets and parks commissioner. The interim incumbent Jasper Goodwill, who had followed the scandal-plagued John T. David, declined to seek a full term. In the then closed Democratic 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, who initially received 788 votes (34.5 percent). Wallace was making his third unsuccessful race for mayor. Two other candidates 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.[6]
 
During the Norman administration, Minden approved the purchase of the municipal light and power plant, which it still maintains to provide city residents with electricity. Norman also initiated one-way streets running east and west through the downtown. Minden won a "Cleanest City" contest during his tenure too.[5]

 

The election of 1966

Norman’s political prospects began to unravel in 1966. First, he faced an African American challenger, J.D. Hampton, Jr., in the Democratic primary for nomination to a third term as mayor, Hampton, on behalf of his daughter, Beverly, was a plaintiff in the school desegregation suit against the Webster Parish School Board. The first black ever to seek the position of mayor in modern times. Hampton called for improved working conditions for city employees, more recreational facilities, and a vigorous industrial recruitment effort. Norman, who had served as president of the Louisiana Municipal Association in 1964, 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 Farmer, a cofounder of the Congress of Racial Equality, who came to Minden to lead a civil rights march. Farmer's interest in Minden had been spurred by a dispute with the city and its sanitation workers.[7]
 
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.[7] 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.[8]At the time Colten and Jack Breaux of Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish were the only Republican mayors in the entire state.
 
Colten ran a "reform" campaign, claiming 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).[9]

 

The 1970 challenge

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 Republican 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. He had first considered running as an independent in the general election but chose in the end to remain a Republican. Perhaps he had doubts that any Republican could win in Minden that year. In their 1970 rematch, Colten defeated Norman 2,381 votes (58.9 percent) to 1,661 ballots (41.1 percent).[10]
 
Norman did not again seek office but remained active in the lodge and as deacon of the large First
Baptist Church of Minden. Norman died a day before his eightieth birthday. He is interred in Section G of the Minden Cemetery.[5]
 
Preceded by
Jasper Goodwill
Mayor of Minden, Louisiana Francis Toadvin Norman
1958–1966

 
Succeeded by
Tom Colten

 

References

Earlene Mendenhall Lyle and Ann Mays Harlan, Minden Cemetery records, Minden, Lousiana

Minden High School, Grig yearbook, 1930s

Time/magazine/article/0,9171,74241

Frank T. Norman obituary, Minden Press-Herald, November 22, 1994

Minden Press-Herald, then Minden Herald, April 10, 1958, p. 1

wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_T._Norman"



 
Submitted by Billy  Hathorn, Class of 1966



 
Re:  Frank Norman
 
Frank's home wasn't across the street from the park.  It was at least half a block past the intersection where the park is located.  I lived at 919 Park Hwy, at the end of the block.  Frank was our neighbor, in about the middle of the block.  I guess his house number was 901 simply because there were no other homes in the first half of that block.
 
This was such an interesting article to me, since I had never really tied Frank Norman and Carter Norman into the same family.
Earlene Mendenhall Lyle, Class of 1956