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Louis Christopher Pendleton, D.D.S.

Louis Christopher Pendleton, D.D.S.
Posted By: Roland Keller Jr on February 05, 2008

Louis Christopher Pendleton (October 13, 1931 - January 14, 2007) was an African American dentist, businessman, and civic leader in Shreveport, Louisiana, who organized the civil rights movement in his city through the formation of the interest group known as "Blacks United for Lasting Leadership", which successfully lobbied for racial justice.

Pendleton was born in Monroe, the seat of Ouachita Parish, to Joseph Anthony Pendleton, Sr., and the former Velda Leola Long. He was educated in the segregated public schools in Monroe. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the predominantly black Dillard University in New Orleans. Thereafter, he entered the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee, which most black dentists in the American South then attended. He received the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

In November 1956, Pendleton entered the U.S. Air Force with the rank of captain. He served for six years. He resigned his commission as a dental officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He and his wife, the former Barbara Chocolate (also born 1931), a Shreveport native, then took over the former dental practice of the civil rights activist, Dr. C. O. Simpkins, who left Shreveport when his life was threatened. Pendleton maintained the dental practice for forty-seven years. The Pendletons were married for fifty-two years and had two children, both doctors. Dr. Simpkins returned to Shreveport in 1988 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1990. He was defeated in the general election by the white Republican Hazel F. Beard (born 1930), a city council member and businesswoman from southwestern Shreveport.

In the early 1970s, Pendleton and other black leaders in Shreveport filed suits to establish single-member districts on the Caddo Parish School Board and the Caddo Parish Police Jury (the parish governing body, renamed the Caddo Parish Commission in 1984).

As a result, blacks soon gained representation on both public bodies.

Pendleton and the late Shreveport attorney Hilary Huckaby, III, formed BULL, which sued in federal court to abolish the former commission form of municipal government. Under the five-member commission system, the council members were elected at-large. At the time, Shreveport was majority white -- it became majority black in the 2000 census -- and no blacks won any of the commission positions. When an executive mayor and legislative council system was adopted in 1978, blacks began to win seats on the seven-member single-member-district council.

Dr. Pendleton was appointed by the late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Louisiana State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, an investigative body formed through the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and guided to passage by then Senate Majority Leader Johnson. Pendleton served on the committee for more than a decade. Pendleton was also active in the Shreveport branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized the NAACP Youth Council.

Pendleton was the founder of a Shreveport-area committee which lobbied for the employment of African Americans in the broadcasting industry. Pendleton was also the first president of the Caddo Community Action Agency, the anti-poverty program created through the Johnson administration's Great Society. Pendleton worked with such black leaders as Alphonse Jackson, Sr., a former Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and the late Dr. Jesse Stone to promote civil rights activities.

The Pendleton-Jackson alliance did not happen without effort. Jackson defeated Pendleton for the Democratic nomination for the District 2 seat in the Louisiana legislature in a hotly-contested runoff primary held on December 18, 1971. Pendleton in fact sued Jackson in a failed attempt either to reverse the results or to gain a new election.

Pendleton was a loyal Democrat. In 2004, he donated $500 to the presidential primary campaign of U.S. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and another $500 to the Democratic National Committee.
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