Harvey Bernard Gantt (born January 14, 1943) is an American architect and Democratic politician active in North Carolina. The first African-American student admitted to Clemson University after attending Iowa State University, Gantt graduated with honors in architecture, earned a master's at MIT, and established an architectural practice in Charlotte with a partner.
Gantt entered local politics, where he was elected to the city council, serving from 1974 to 1983. He was elected to two terms as the first black Mayor of Charlotte from 1983 to 1987. In the 1990s, he ran twice for the United States Senate against Jesse Helms, losing both times.
Life and career
Gantt was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Wilhelminia and Christopher C. Gantt, a shipyard worker. He started to participate in civil rights activism in high school. In 1963, he was the first African American to be admitted to Clemson University in South Carolina. He received a degree in architecture with Honors from Clemson and a Master's degree in City Planning from MIT.
From 1974 until 1983, Gantt served on the Charlotte City Council. He was elected to two terms as the first African-American mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, serving in that position from 1983 to 1987. He was defeated for a third term as mayor in 1987 by Sue Myrick. A Democrat, in the 1990s, he staged two unsuccessful U.S. Senatorial campaigns against Republican Jesse Helms in 1990 and in 1996, gaining 47% and 46% of the vote, respectively. He was Charlotte's last Democratic mayor until Anthony Foxx was elected in 2009.
He manages a successful architectural practice, Gantt Huberman Architects, and remains active in politics. He served on the North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Council, the Democratic National Committee, and was appointed as chair of the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, DC.
In 2009, the Afro-American Cultural Center and the City of Charlotte honored Gantt by building the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, recognizing his contributions to the civil rights movement and as the city's first black mayor. The four-story, 46,500-square-foot building was built for $18.6 million, and is part the Levine Center for the Arts.
In 2016, PBS Charlotte and UNC-TV featured Gantt in their online series, Biographical Conversations. In this series, Gantt recalls his life experiences, ranging from his attendance at Clemson University to his inauguration as Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Gantt and his wife Lucinda (Brawley) Gantt, the second black student to attend Clemson, had four children: Sonja, Erika, Angela and Adam. Their daughter, Sonja Gantt, is a former news anchor at WCNC-TV in Charlotte.