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HandWiki. H. Lane Mitchell. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/34445 (accessed on 20 June 2024).
HandWiki. H. Lane Mitchell. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/34445. Accessed June 20, 2024.
HandWiki. "H. Lane Mitchell" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/34445 (accessed June 20, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 14). H. Lane Mitchell. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/34445
HandWiki. "H. Lane Mitchell." Encyclopedia. Web. 14 November, 2022.
H. Lane Mitchell
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public works life after retirement shreveport

1. Introduction

Henry Lane Mitchell, known as H. Lane Mitchell (August 17, 1895 – November 8, 1978), was a civil engineer who served from 1934 to 1968 as the elected citywide public works commissioner in his adopted city of Shreveport, Louisiana. Hailed during his tenure as a popular success, his life after retirement was marred by legal troubles which led to his imprisonment upon conviction of theft of multiple city properties under his domain.

2. Background

Though born in Dublin, Texas, the home of Dublin Dr Pepper, west of Waco, Mitchell came to Shreveport in 1900. He attended public schools and graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana . Mitchell was a sergeant in the United States Army during World War I and thereafter an active member of the American Legion.[1]

3. Municipal Career

3.1. City Improvements

Mitchell was in the private practice of engineering for fifteen years before he was elected in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression to the former position of Shreveport public works commissioner,[2] an office under the city commission government which was subsequently abolished effective November 1978, just a few days after Mitchell's death, with the implementation instead of the mayor-council form of municipal government.[1]

In 1946, Mitchell broke with his other council members to oppose a resolution by then Public Safety Commissioner L. K. Barney which ordered vendors off the sidewalks along busy Shreveport streets. Barney claimed that his motion would relieve traffic congestion; Mitchell said that the vendors, mostly small businessmen, could become wards of charity if unable to pursue their livelihoods.[3]

During his thirty-four years in office, Mitchell, a Democrat, worked for street and drainage improvements on Youree Drive (named for early city figure Peter Youree), Line Avenue, Hearne Avenue, East Kings Highway, 70th Street, Jewella Road, and Hollywood Avenue. He was instrumental in designating the route of Interstate 20 through Shreveport. He pushed to extend and widen Linwood Avenue, to construct the Allen Avenue viaduct, to pave Bayou Pierre, and to improve drainage in the South Highlands neighborhood. He had roses planted along city boulevards. Shreveport became known as the "Rose City"; Mitchell was honored for his efforts by the Shreveport Rose Society and the Shreveport Beautification Foundation. He insisted on backyard garbage pickup without an additional fee to make litter less likely to land on the streets while being collected. He worked to locate Shreveport Regional Airport off Hollywood Avenue with interstate access. He customarily acquired more land for projects so that space would be available for future growth.[1]

On March 8, 1955, at the prodding of the new mayor, James C. Gardner, Shreveport voters approved a $19 million municipal bond issue, double the previous bond which passed in 1947. Inflated to 2005 standards, the same bond would equal approximately $124 million. This funding made possible many of the improvements which Mitchell pursued in the Public Works Department.[4]

3.2. Affiliations

Mitchell was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Louisiana Engineering Society, the American Public Works Association, the American Road Builders Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives. He was honored for his work as city commissioner by the Junior Chamber International and the American Public Works Association. In 1966, as he sought his ninth and final term which he did not complete, his Shreveport City Council colleagues unanimously endorsed his reelection, an unprecedented action.[1] Citing ill health, Mitchell stepped down on December 31, 1968,[5] and was succeeded by an interim commissioner. In 1970, Don Hathaway won election as the last of the public works commissioners prior to the launching eight years later of the mayor-council government.

As commissioner, Mitchell's tenure corresponded with many well-known city figures, including future Governor Jimmie Davis, J. Earl Downs, and George W. D'Artois as public safety commissioner; Mayors Sam Caldwell, Clyde Fant, and James Gardner; public utilities commissioners L. E. "Ed" Phelps and Calhoun Allen, later Fant's second successor as mayor, and John McWilliams Ford, long-term municipal finance commissioner. These commissioners wielded both executive and legislative functions and had more political power at their disposal than the current executive mayor and single-member district city council members.[6]

In his private life, Mitchell was active in Kiwanis International, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Petroleum Club. He was Roman Catholic.[1]

3.3. Civil Rights Matters

In 1962, at the request of the former Civil Aeronautics Board, the Shreveport city commissioners were sued by the U.S. government for enforcing segregation at Shreveport Regional Airport, then under Mitchell's direction as public works commissioner. The city retained later U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., as its legal representative to defend the longstanding segregated practice. However, Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr., judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, ruled that the city could not compel segregation at the airport and enjoined the since defunct Dobbs House, Inc., restaurant from having separate seating and rest room arrangements at the airport location which it leased from the city. In his decision, Judge Dawkins decreed: "Racially segregated rest rooms and racially segregated dining facilities in an airport maintained for the use of passengers in interstate commerce by air carrier, which exist as a result of municipal action, impose an undue burden upon interstate commerce."[7]

The African American civil rights interest group known as Blacks United for Lasting Leadership, Inc., filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Shreveport to force an end to the commission form of government. In 1974, blacks constituted 32 percent of the Shreveport population, but no African American had served on the city council, which since 1910 had consisted of five commissioners, including the mayor. By the time of the 2010 U.S. census forty years later, Shreveport was nearly 55 percent black in population.[8] BULL alleged that the inherent at-large feature of the commission government operated unconstitutionally to dilute the votes of blacks. The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana agreed and declared the commission government unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The decision was affirmed in March 1978 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, by which time Mitchell had been out of office for nearly a decade.[9]

Shreveport hence was compelled to switch to the mayor-council form of government with the fast-approaching 1978 elections, when Public Works Commissioner Don Hathaway ran a strong but losing race for the revised position of mayor to an automobile dealer, William T. "Bill" Hanna, who made issue that he was an "outsider" to the troubles that had befallen City Hall during the preceding term of office.[10]

4. Postlude

Three months after he left office, Mitchell was indicted and convicted of four counts of theft of Shreveport city property. His appeal in 1971 was rejected in state court despite representation by high-profile attorneys Whitfield Jack and James E. Bolin, Jr., of Shreveport. Louisiana Attorney General Jack P. F. Gremillion, who subsequently had his own legal problems with the U.S. government, represented the state in Mitchell's appeal.[5]

The theft convictions, all with the complicity of municipal garage superintentendent Anthony J. Lucero, Jr.,[5] included:

  • Charging the city $640.60 for the purchase and installation of a kitchen sink, dishwasher, and cabinets at Mitchell's home on 350 Albany Street,
  • Taking $18,000 for the purchase of motor vehicle tires and chemicals, purportedly sold to the City of Shreveport by co-defendant Joe Walberg but never delivered,
  • Diverting another $10,500 for the purchase of motor vehicle tires never delivered to the city,
  • Channeling $55,000 from the proceeds of checks issued by the City of Shreveport to Adair Tire Company for motor vehicle tires never received by the city.[5]

Mitchell was tried separately from the other defendants and sentenced to four four-year sentences to run consecutively at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in East Feliciana Parish.[5]

Mitchell was out of prison at the time of his death, having first been stricken at his home and then pronounced dead at Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport. His death occurred the day after the general election for Shreveport municipal officials under the mayor-council system, when Bill Hanna defeated Don Hathaway for the new mayoral position. His services were held at the Roman Catholic St. John Berchmans Co-Cathedral in Shreveport.[1]

Mitchell and his wife, the former Lillian O'Brien (1896-1987), are interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Shreveport.[1] The couple had a son, Robert Lane Mitchell (1925-2008), a veteran of the United States Army in World War II and a Shreveport insurance agent with an interest in flying, art, and golf. Robert Mitchell and his wife, the former Martha Palmer, had seven children.[11]

Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions. Edit

References

  1. "H. Lane Mitchell dies, funeral Friday morning", Shreveport Times, November 9, 1978, p. 10-A
  2. In Shreveport and in other cities with the commission form of government, the commissioner exercises both legislative and executive duties, on the city council and as a department head. This position should not be confused with a county commissioner, most of whom were and still are elected by single-member districts. County commissioners are the "legislators" of a county (called parish in Louisiana), with the county judge normally in the role of the "executive" head of the county. In Louisiana, the executive of the parish can be the police jury president, the president of the parish, or a parish "administrator", depending on the structure of the parish government. City commissioners could not be chosen on a district basis, as their administrative duties affected the entire city. African Americans were not then elected to city government in most parts of the South. Soon an outcry in the Civil rights movement raised legal challenges to the city commission governments.
  3. Shreveport bans vendors from walks. Billboard. April 20, 1946. https://books.google.com/books?id=9BkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA129&lpg=PA129&dq=H.+Lane+Mitchell+of+Shreveport,+LA&source=bl&ots=KFd6XvHiEO&sig=k_7eglZvzSJ2QvUYUrePkxYIi6c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3rK4U7avA-zisASa_YCQDQ&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAzgU#v=onepage&q=H.%20Lane%20Mitchell%20of%20Shreveport%2C%20LA&f=falserl=. Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  4. Mary Jimenez (March 6, 2005). "The $19 million solution Bond election sets up 1950's Shreveport for growth". The Shreveport Times. http://www.ritzpublications.com/1954-58-shreveport-city-council.html. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  5. "State v. Mitchell". leagle.com. May 3, 1971. http://www.leagle.com/decision/19711060246So2d814_1915.xml/STATE%20v.%20MITCHELL. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  6. Brad Kozak (October 19, 2011). "When Cops Go Bad I: The Tale of George D’Artois". thetruthaboutguns.com. http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/10/brad-kozak/when-cops-go-bad-i-the-tale-of-george-dartois/. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  7. Benjamin C. Dawkins, Jr., chief judge (November 2, 1962). "United States of America v. City of Shreveport, Louisiana". justia.com. http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/210/36/1963435/. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  8. 2010 General profile of housing and population characteristics for Shreveport from the U.S. Census
  9. "Blacks United for Lasting Leadership, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, vs. the City of Shreveport, Defendants-Appellants". openjurist.org. March 29, 1978. http://openjurist.org/571/f2d/248/blacks-united-for-lasting-leadership-inc-v-city-of-shreveport. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  10. James C. Gardner, Jim Gardner and Shreveport, Vol. II, (Shreveport: Ritz Publications, 2006), pp. 224–225
  11. "Robert Lane Mitchell". Osborn Funeral Home. June 11, 2008. http://www.meaningfulfunerals.net/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=234644&fh_id=10282. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
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Name: H. Lane Mitchell
Born: Aug 1895
Died: Nov 1978
Birth
Location:
Dublin, Erath County, Texas , USA
Title: Civil engineer
Affiliation: Unknown
Honor: Unknown
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Subjects: Others
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