Gantt remembered for courageous steps 50 years ago today - | WBTV Charlotte

Gantt remembered for courageous steps 50 years ago today


From the intersection at Eighth Street that carries the name of his architectural firm to the corner at Stonewall where a cultural arts center honors him, Tryon Street is a place where the Gantt name looms large.

Anthony Rose is an executive with Duke Energy who graduated from Clemson University 21 years after Harvey Gantt first crossed the color line at the South Carolina College.

"A lot of credit goes to Harvey and because of his efforts that paved the way for a lot of African American students to have an opportunity to go to a university like Clemson," Rose said.

The headlines and datelines from the Carolinas to the New York Times detailing his court fight and eventual admission were created 50 years ago on this very date.

These days he doesn't speak much about the first days at Clemson, and those who know him understand why.

Gerald Johnson is on the board of the Gantt Center, and admires his modesty.

Johnson said,  "One of the things that you will never hear Harvey talking a lot about is Harvey."

It was photographer Cecil Williams of Orangeburg South Carolina who perhaps captured one of the most memorable images of that day.

The picture shows Gantt surrounded by a wall of photographers.

"I remember that being a very cold cold day," Williams said. "I think as we go forward in the future, this picture would be looked at with a lot of curiosity. I would also be like a man from another planet or an alien had arrived on earth and is doing something for the first time, whereas simply an African American the first of his race to really go to college."

Johnson says Gantt has created footprints.

"Harvey is a great hero for this city. He should be recognized as such on a day like today for what he's done."

Heroics that includes becoming Charlotte's first African American Mayor, and inspiring those that attended his college Alma Mater.

"I personally met Mr. Gantt about five years ago and I had the opportunity to say to him. Just thank you for the opportunity of paving the path," Rose said.

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