Harvey Gantt Comes Back Home to Tell His Story


Darricka Richardson, Staff Writer

On April 4, 2017, Mr. Harvey Gantt walked back onto the campus he once attended as a student and into the building he later designed as an architect to visit with Burke’s Parvenue Staff members. In a rare interview, Mr. Gantt shared shared with us his life’s greatest accomplishments.

A Burke alumnus, civil rights activist, politician and architect, Mr. Gantt has displayed the standards of what a leader is and the changes a leader can make. His first historical achievement was organizing and participating a protest by Burke students at the Kress department store lunch counter on April 1,1960.

“All we wanted was a hot dog and a coke,” Mr. Gantt reminisced. Back then, though, blacks were not allowed to eat at the local department store’s eatery. So Gantt, along with some other classmates, decided to do something about that.

“A group of kids got together and said we don’t like this and will do everything in our power to change it,” stated Mr.Gantt. participated in activities that helped them to develop leadership and skills in order to handle the taunting or abuse that could have potentially happened during the protest.

The sit in at the Kress counter taught Mr. Gantt that civil rights was a cause worth fighting for. It also gave him the strength and experience he needed to take on Clemson University. At that time, Clemson was not yet integrated; Mr. Gantt changed that. He decided to take Clemson to court, and on January 16,1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to allow Mr.Gantt to attend their school as the first African American man in their student body.

“I felt good about getting in and about the fact that I was predicted to succeed, and I felt good because of what I thought it was going to mean in terms of the future when African American students can go to Clemson, USC, Coastal Carolina, etc.” stated Mr.Gantt.

Harvey & Cindy GanttGantt didn’t stop there. While at Clemson, he met and later married Lucinda (Brawley) Gantt, the second African American and first African American woman to attend Clemson University.

“They really took good care of us at Clemson. I recall going to football games; Cindy and I would go together. We sat in the student section and there always seemed to be those two seats there for us and I know the administrators must have had something to do with it.”

Gantt graduated from Clemson University with honors in architecture in 1965. In 1970 he graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) with a Masters in City Planning, and the same year co-founded his architectural firm, Gantt Huberman Architects.

In 1992, Gantt oversaw his firm’s refurbishment of his alma mater, Burke HS. Today he manages a successful architectural firm and continues to participate in political activities to maintain equality.

Mr. Gantt replaced the seat of Fred Alexander as a Democratic representative on Charlotte’s City Council in 1974 and served until 1983. Later that year he ran for and was elected the first black mayor of Charlotte. Gantt served in this historic role for two terms.

In 2009, The City of Charlotte and the Afro-American Cultural Center honored Mr. Gantt for his contributions to civil rights movement and as the city’s first black mayor by by building the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. The impressive Harvey B. Gantt Center is part of the Levine Center for Arts.

Today Mr. Gantt and his wife continue to live in Charlotte. Together they had four children: Sonja (former news anchor at WCNC-TV in Charlotte), Erika, Angela and Adam. Mr. Gantt continues to be involved in his architectural firm and continues to participate in politics from time to time.