Joe R. Gant, Jr.
Civil Rights

Joe was born at Charity Hospital in Shreveport as one of 12 children to Joe and Mattie Lee Ware Gant. The elder Gant was a sharecropper on Caspiana Plantation, where the family lived in a three-room shotgun house. While attending Magnolia School he walked five miles to his classes each day. "We'd be walking to school and the majority of the population would pass us, throwing things at us from the bus. That was my first experience with racial bigotry. I think that's one of the things that helped me decide at an early age that I wasn't going to live on a plantation, that I knew education was my way out," he recalls. By age six he was living part-time on the plantation, and with his aunt and uncle, Joe Leon and Daisy Lee Williams Gant, in Shreveport's Hollywood neighborhood. Joe attended all-black Union High School, where he graduated in 1968. He recalls the dreadful condition of the textbooks he was issued, as well as sitting in the back seats of trolleys and using separate water fountains. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he says, had a dramatic effect on his life. He says he felt a call to the ministry by age nine, and was preaching while in the seventh grade. Joe attended Southern University in Baton Rouge for a year, then transferred to Louisiana State University-Shreveport in January of 1969. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 9, 1970, and applied for the enlisted chaplains' assistant program. After basic training at nearby Fort Polk, he was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for clerical training, then to Fort Hamilton, in Brooklyn, New York for chaplain's assistant school. After a stint at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, he reported to European Command Headquarters in Germany. There his duties included preparing the chapel for services and managing financial records for the chaplain's office. He was discharged around April 13, 1972. Returning to Shreveport, he re-enrolled at LSUS on the GI Bill, made the Dean's List, and in 1975 became the school's first African-American graduate. Joe married Carl Glenn Ellis on February 23, 1974. They have two children and one grandchild. Joe began as pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in November of 1973. He later attended East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, and earned his doctorate at Louisiana Baptist University in Shreveport. Joe took up many social causes, including ridding Cedar Grove Park of drug dealers. He opened Premier Care Clinic in 2000.