Bill Robertson (Louisiana politician)
Billy Henry "Bill" Robertson
Robertson mayoral photo on display at Minden City Hall
|Mayor of Minden, Louisiana, USA|
January 1, 1991 – June 27, 2013
|Preceded by||Paul Aaron Brown|
|Succeeded by||Joe Cornelius, Sr. (interim)|
|Webster Parish Police Juror|
|Minden Sanitation Commissioner|
|Preceded by||Lonnie L. "Red" Cupples|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished by new city charter|
|Born||May 5, 1938|
|Died||June 27, 2013 (aged 75)|
Bossier City, Louisiana
|Cause of death||Complications from back surgery|
|Resting place||Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Minden|
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Kimmer Robertson (married c. 1958-2013, his death)|
|Children||Beverly R. Waller|
Brenda R. Weeks
Billy Henry Robertson (May 5, 1938 - June 27, 2013), known as Bill Robertson, was the Former mayor of the small city of Minden, the parish seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, United States. He was first elected on November 6, 1990 and served for as mayor from January 1, 1991 until his death. With 22.5 years in office, Robertson was the longest-serving Minden mayor; the second longest-serving mayor, John T. David, held the position from 1946 to 1955.
On August 9, 2008, Robertson was elected president of the Louisiana Municipal Association at the annual convention in Lafayette. He succeeded outgoing LMA President Clarence R. Fields, the long-term mayor of Pineville.
A Democrat, Robertson won his sixth consecutive four-year term on October 2, 2010. He polled 1,885 votes (53 percent) against the Republican candidate, Alton Monroe "Al" Hortman, Jr., who had also run in 2006, and two "No Party" candidates, Deric Tate and Larry Botzong. Hortman finished with 737 votes; Tate, 749 (both 21 percent), and Botzong, 170 (5 percent). In the 2006 general election, Robertson polled 2,054 votes (56 percent) and carried nine of the city's fifteen precincts. Hortman then trailed with 1,596 ballots (44 percent) and led in the six other precincts. Hortman hence received less than half the support in 2010 that he had in 2006.
Minden will have another mayor [but] Bill Robertson will be 'the mayor.' That’s just the way it will be. - Marvin Thomas "Tommy" Davis, Minden city council member and Robertson's elected successor as mayor in the special election held on October 19, 2013
Robertson was born to Homer Floyd Robertson (1910-1981) and the late Marie Robertson, a clerk in a shoe store, in Batesville in Independence County in northern Arkansas. After a divorce, the senior Robertson married Imogene Kimmer Stanfield (1925–2008), who was formerly wed to Robert Stanfield, Sr. The couple had a son, Eddie Robertson (born 1962) of Minden, the half-brother of Bill Robertson and his brother, Bobby Gerald Robertson (born c. 1945) and wife, Lana, subsequently of Branson, Missouri.
Robertson's surviving wife, the former Barbara Kimmer, is the daughter of Dale Edgar Kimmer (1920-2006) and Virginia Martin Kimmer (1922-2013), also natives of Independence County, Arkansas. Dale Kimmer, a farmer in Batesville, raised cattle and chickens until he and Virginia retired and relocated to Minden in 1995. Robertson's stepmother, Imogene, and his father-in-law, Dale, were siblings. Bill and Barbara Robertson have three children, Beverly Jane Waller and husband, Mike; Brenda R. Weeks (1962-2017), a sales manager and counselor for Centuries and Hill Crest Memorial Funeral Home and Cemeteries in Haughton, who was married to Billy Weeks of Minden,  and Kyle Kimmer Robertson. In 2016, the Minden community raised $18,000 to assist Brenda Weeks, a lung cancer patient who lost the lower portion of her left leg a year before her death.
Robertson was an employee of Talbot's Shoe Store in Magnolia, Arkansas. He was sent to Minden to operate a Talbot's outlet and thereafter purchased the store from Ben Talbot and his father, D. O. Talbot, having renamed it "Robertson's Shoes", which he operated until 1979.
For a time, Bill and Barbara Robertson had another outlet in Minden, along with Robertson's Shoes, called the Purple Hippopotamus, which opened in 1972. The Robertsons had another store in Homer in neighboring Claiborne Parish, which opened in 1973, and a fourth outlet in Shreveport, which was launched in 1976. He opened the Shoe Box in Minden in 1978.
As a past president of the Jaycees, Robertson had been included in the 1965 edition of the publication Outstanding Young Men of America. He was named "Outstanding Young Man of Minden" in 1969. He was also a former chairman of the Minden Airport Authority.
Early political activities
In 1967, Robertson filed to run for one of four positions in the former Ward 4 on the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing body usually known as the county commission in other states. In this race, the incumbent police juror, John T. David, a former Minden mayor, was defeated for reelection but veteran jurors Leland G. Mims and W. Nick Love retained their seats. The newcomer elected to the jury to succeed David was not Robertson, who ran last among six candidates, but James Tenney "Jim" Branch, Jr., who subsequently lost a bid for mayor in 1982 to Noel Byars.
In September 1974, Robertson was elected to the Minden City Council. He defeated fellow Democrat Patrick Cary Nation (1918–2005), a retired educator, coach, and school principal, for the specific position of sanitation commissioner. Robertson was the last person to serve in that capacity. Nation's father, Abraham Brisco Nation, Sr. (1886–1933), had served as a city councilman from 1932 until he was shot to death on Armistice Day 1933, during a heated political argument, by John L. Fort (1906–1992), a son of then Mayor Connell Fort, with whom the senior Nation had quarreled.
Robertson took office on the city council in January 1975 and served until the abolition of the city commission government in 1978, when it was replaced by the current single-member-district mayor-council format.
Thereafter, Robertson was elected to the Webster Parish Police Jury in 1979 from the District 6 seat, a position that he held until 1990, when he resigned with a year remaining in his third term in order to become mayor of Minden.
In 1981, nearly a thousand constituents attempted to recall Robertson and some of his colleagues from the police jury in a dispute regarding the temporary removal of litter bins throughout Webster Parish because of the lack of recurring funds to sustains such services. When the petition was submitted, Robertson successfully appealed to enough voters to remove their names to avoid a recall election. "I think people are basically fair. If police jurors could sit across the table and explain on a person-to-person basis ... people could see a portion of the problem."
When Robertson successfully sought reelection to the police jury in 1983, he listed solid waste disposal and jail/penal farm issues as his top concern. Five new jurors won election in 1983, and Robertson was elected jury president early in 1984.
Losing mayoral campaign, 1989
Robertson ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the 1989 special election held to fill the remaining months of the term of another Democrat, Noel "Gene" Byars, who had been recalled from the position in a "Yes" or "No" vote after a citizens' audit revealed that he had charged personal expenses to his municipal credit card. Robertson and two preceding Democratic mayors, J.E. "Pat" Patterson and Jack Batton, contributed money to the recall. Byars hence left Minden and took a job in educational administration in Beaumont in Jefferson County in southeastern Texas.
African American City Councilman Robert T. Tobin filled in temporarily after Byars vacated the mayoral office. Tobin hence became Minden's first black mayor since Reconstruction. Tobin was unseated, however, in the November 7, 1989 special election by the GOP newcomer Paul A. Brown for the year remaining in Byars' term. Brown had been the executive director of the Minden Chamber of Commerce after relocating to the city to take a position as a counselor to alcoholics. Robertson, still on the police jury, ran unsuccessfully against both Brown and Tobin in the fall of 1989.
Though defeated for mayor in his first bid for the office, Robertson in January 1990, was elected to a seventh one-year term as president of the police jury.
In the 2010 census, Minden was 51.7 percent African-American. Based on the application of the 2000 census, in which African Americans were 52.1 percent of the Minden population, blacks constitute the majority in three of the five city council districts.
Toppling Paul Brown, 1990
Robertson entered the race for a full term as mayor in 1990. He and Minden businessman Billy Sherman Cost (born 1948) challenged Brown, who was seeking his first full term in the position. Cost and Thomas L. Hathorn (born 1951), another Minden businessman, had led the citizens' panel advocating the recall of Byars. Brown nearly won in the first round: 2,630 ballots (48 percent) to Robertson's 1,729 (32 percent), and Cost's 1,064 votes (20 percent). Robertson and Brown therefore advanced to the general election.
Before the primary, Brown was seriously injured on September 28, 1990, in an accident on the Minden High School football field while he was moving the yardage chains. Having no memory of the accident, Brown remained hospitalized throughout the campaign. Minden physician John Hill declared Brown's condition as "conscious and hopeful ... an answer to prayer". As concern persisted that the still disabled Brown could not discharge his duties in a full term, voters handily elected Robertson, 2,529 votes (59 percent) to 1,758 (41 percent). Brown hence polled 872 fewer votes in the second round of balloting than he had in the first. The 1990 general election hence launched Robertson into a long career as his city's chief municipal official.
Robertson's first two months in office were plagued by personal health issues. On January 9, 1991, a week after he presided over his first city council meeting, Robertson underwent successful triple heart bypass surgery at Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport. Problems developed, and he underwent a second operation on January 20 to reattach surgical wires in his lower sternum. Tubes were inserted to drain the buildup of post-operative fluids. He was released from the hospital on January 28 and returned to his mayoral duties on February 13.
In April 1991, Robertson sought federal disaster relief after floods overpowered the drainage system in Minden. Nine inches of rain fell in eight hours, and many homes were under three feet of water.
In 1994, Robertson ran for reelection citing the upgrading of utilities and development of the Interstate 20 service road as his campaign tenets. Robertson won his second term over fellow Democrat Douglas "Doug" Frye and the Independent Lydianne Vulliamy Scallorn Hammons (born 1936), the wife of Minden businessman Orville Hammons (1915–2011). Robertson received 2,019 (55 percent) to Frye's 1,285 ballots (35 percent), and 369 votes (10 percent) for Mrs. Hammons, a former city clerk who had certified the recall petition signatures against former Mayor Byars.
Defeating Benjamin Wright
In 1998, Robertson overwhelmed the Minden businessman, Benjamin Franklin Wright, Jr. (born 1959), a Claiborne Parish native who ran as an Independent. Robertson polled 2,697 votes (89 percent) to 331 votes (11 percent) in a low-turnout election.
In 2005, Wright was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for video voyeurism. He was found to have filmed female customers using the dressing room in his clothing store in Minden. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Shreveport upheld the conviction in June 2006 but vacated the sentence because of error. Wright was also arrested on March 18, 2004, on an allegation of having threatened to murder a child protection agent in connection with a child custody dispute. City police stopped Wright to arrest him for public intimidation; they also found videotapes inside his vehicle and later child pornography on Wright's computer disks. He was found guilty on November 14, 2006, of twenty-three of twenty-four counts of possessing child pornography.
No opponent filed against Robertson in 2002.
The first campaign against Al Hortman
Robertson faced three challengers in his 2006 reelection bid. Photographer John Edward Quade (born 1947), a Democrat, was eliminated in the primary. He is a 1966 graduate of Minden High School, the son of Stanley B. and Elnora Davis Quade and the great-grandson of Webster Parish pioneer William G. Stewart, a former president of the Webster Parish School Board for whom the former William G. Stewart Elementary School in Minden was named. Republican Al Hortman ran sufficiently strong to force Robertson into a general election. Hortman (born 1941) graduated in 1959 from Minden High School. He resided over the years in Dallas, St. Louis, and Atlanta but returned to Minden to care for his ailing mother, Katherine Marie Fish Hortman (1909–2003).
Hortman served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence operative. As part of his training, he attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he completed an intensive eight-month course in the Chinese language. He thereafter earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics, with a minor in Chinese, from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston in Lincoln Parish. He also received a master's degree from Louisiana Tech in education as well during the time of the mayoral campaign.
Hortman was the president of a concerned group of citizens who drafted the Minden 2020 Visionaries Master Plan, a 20-year proposal for long-range community progress. The plan was developed over a two-year period prior to 2000. Some 150 Minden citizens worked on the project which Hortman spearheaded.
A former peace officer and a Methodist pastor, Hortman said that he could work with all aspects of the Minden community. Hortman formerly taught math and coached soccer at Huntington High School in Shreveport.
Robertson as mayor
During Robertson’s tenure, some 85 percent of the city streets have been overlaid, and major upgrades have been completed on the electrical, wastewater, and water systems. Many of the projects were funded through state and federal grants. Robertson has pledged to keep electrical rates—the city operates its own power plant—among the lowest in Louisiana.
The city partnered with the Minden/South Webster Chamber of Commerce to establish an office to conduct economic development services. A new director was hired to work on the expansion of local businesses and to attract new employers. Robertson said that the city seeks to attract new industry and entice such new businesses as a movie theatre, skating rink, bowling alley, and additional restaurants. At one time, Minden had two sit-down theaters and a drive-in theater. The last theater closed in the 1970s. Studies show that communities which cannot sustain a theater have difficulty with growth and development.
Robertson was elected by his fellow mayors as first vice-president at the 2007 LMA convention in Monroe. A year later, he was elected president of the association. He is a former second vice-president and a district vice-president of the LMA. As mayor, Robertson was an ex officio board member of the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority. LEPA was established by the Louisiana legislature in 1979 as an action agency for the eighteen Louisiana cities and towns which maintain their own independent municipal power system. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic lodge, and the Shriners.
Robertson had major back surgery in April 2013 and underwent rehabilitation. He died some two months later at the age of seventy-five in the Promise Hospital in Bossier City. His services were held on June 30, 2013 at the First Baptist Church of Minden, where he was an active member. Pastors Leland Crawford of First Baptist and Richard D. Methvin of Eastside Missionary Baptist Church in Minden officiated.
At the funeral, city council member Marvin Thomas "Tommy" Davis described Robertson as "bigger than life. He was respected across the state by everybody. ... Minden will have another mayor [but] Bill Robertson will be 'the mayor.' That’s just the way it will be."
Dr. Richard Campbell, a Minden dentist, said that Robertson was able to bridge across political, religious, and racial lines and leaves a legacy of sound economic policy. Robertson-sponsored improvements include renovated roads, parks, low electricity rates, a state-of-the-art airport, festivals, and the city recreation center. "It's quite a legacy he leaves for his city and family," added Campbell.
Robertson is interred at Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Minden.
Robertson recommended Davis as his successor
The day after Robertson's funeral, a letter written by Robertson earlier in 2013 was released by Wanda Pittman, Robertson's executive assistant. It reveals that Robertson and his wife recommend that the city council choose Marvin Thomas "Tommy" Davis, the District D member, as the next mayor. First elected in 2006, Davis was until his election as mayor the only Republican on the current city council. A businessman, Davis is a native of Stephens in Ouachita County in south Arkansas.
On July 11, 2013, the Minden City Council ignored Robertson's request and instead named one of the three African-American council members, Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Burgess Cornelius, Sr., as the interim mayor. Cornelius was elected in District A in 2010. The vote to appoint Cornelius was three-to-two along racial lines. Joe Cornelius, Sr., as he is known, formerly resided in The Bronx borough of New York City and in Shreveport. On July 15, 2013, the council named Wayne Edwards, the runner-up to Cornelius in the 2010 primary election, to succeed Cornelius. Edwards then won the seat in the October 19 special election which brought Davis to the mayor's office for a term of just over one year.
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- "Robertson in ICU", Minden Press-Herald, January 24, 1991, p. 1
- "Robertson Home", Minden Press-Herald, January 28, 1991, p. 1
- Minden Press-Herald, February 14, 1991, p. 1
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- "Edwards named to city council", Minden Press-Herald, July 15, 2013, p. 1
Paul A. Brown
| Mayor of Minden, Louisiana
Billy Henry "Bill" Robertson
Joe Cornelius, Sr.
Clarence R. Fields
| President of the Louisiana Municipal Association
Billy Henry "Bill" Robertson
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