Harvey B. Gantt
Architect & Politician
Harvey Gantt has spent his life breaking new ground. In 1963, he became the first African-American student to attend a previously all-white institution of higher learning in South Carolina when he was admitted to Clemson University. Twenty years later, he became the first African-American mayor of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Gantt has a formula for success, "Successful people have a strong sense of their own selfworth, and that sense of self-esteem is the foundation on which they reach out and move forward," he says. Born in Charleston in 1943, Gantt was educated in the public school system of that city. He graduated second in his class from Burke High School and attended Iowa State University on a merit scholarship.
In 1961, he applied to Clemson University and was admitted under court order. In 1965, he graduated with honors with a bachelor of architecture degree. In 1970, he earned a master of city planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The following year, Gantt started Gantt Huberman Architects, a Charlotte architectural firm co-founded with Jeff Huberman. The firm grew tremendously and became an award-winning design organization. In 1986, he was made a fellow in the American Institute of Architects, which is the highest honor granted to practicing architect. He devotes time to speaking and lecturing nationwide at colleges and universities on current architectural and political issues.
Harvey Gantt is also known for his political activities. He served more than three terms on the Charlotte City Council during the late 1970s. He was mayor pro tem of the city in 1981 and 1983, and later was elected mayor of Charlotte, an office he held for two terms. During his tenure, the city of Charlotte underwent one of its greatest periods of prosperity. More than 21,000 new jobs were created and investments reached more than a million dollars. In 1990, Gantt, a Democrat, decided to run for national office and contested Jesse Helms in the North Carolina US Senate race. In a much publicized and controversial campaign, Gantt lost the election but won national acclaim and respect. for positions he took on education, health care and the environment.
Today, he remains active in politics, serving on the North Carolina Executive Council and Democratic National Committee. With more than 15 years of service to the public, he remains an active participant in dozens of civic cultural and professional organizations. Gantt's awards and honors are numerous and include honorary doctoral degrees form six colleges and universities. Gantt's spirited bid to dislodge Helms typifies his belief that no challenge is too great. His motto can be found in the works of Booker T. Washington, who said, "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which one has to overcome while trying to succeed."
Young people should never give up on their dreams and vision to become somebody," Gantt says. "We all possess the potential to become successful in life, and I challenge every student to settle for nothing less."