From the Shreveport-Times Newspaper
Funeral services are pending for the Rev. Danny Mitchell, a former Louisiana state representative and pastor of New Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport. He died Thursday at age 69 from complications of cancer.
Whether in the pulpit or the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, he was known as a gun control advocate, for his fight against crime, particularly gangs, and poverty and was involved in efforts to help erase racial divisions within the Baptist denomination. Mitchell served eight years as District 2’s voice in the Louisiana House of Representatives, having unseated Alphonse Jackson for the post. Mitchell suffered a heart attack in 1997 in his second term.
His church, with a multiracial congregation that numbered about 1,000 in the early 1990s, was known under his leadership for its attention to youths, offering summer programs and aiding youths in finding job opportunities. On one day, Mitchell pulled from his desk an envelope of guns and knives confiscated during a youth program.
Changing neighborhoods requires more than just a fancy, or even well-attended, program, he told The Times. “Until you change a person’s heart, you have not alleviated the problem. The church must become active in sharing the good news with people.”
Mitchell’s work drew attention. For instance, the keynote speaker at an observance May 31, 1992, celebrating the 11th year of his pastorship was then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards. Both preached messages of racial unity that Sunday afternoon.
“Last fall on the night of the election when I went to bed knowing that a majority of white people in Louisiana voted for David Duke, I knew things were not completely well,” Edwards told those gathered at the church. “But as I walked in here today and noticed how clean and well-kept this building is, it reminded me that if we lay aside our prejudices and problems and work together, things work out.”
Afterward, Mitchell, Edwards and Shreveport Councilman Joe Shyne toured the area near Lakeview Food Market, site of street violence the previous night. “As those of you who drove by last night know, it was frightening,” Mitchell said. “But we’re going to be out there trying to resolve conflicts without burning down our cities.”
Mitchell was born at Charity Hospital in Shreveport to Crabon Reed and Willie Mae Mitchell, according to his entry in R.W. Norton Art Gallery’s oral history project. He had several stepbrothers and sisters as children of both parents.
Mitchell was living with his great aunt and uncle in Leesville when his mother died “very young” of kidney failure. So his grandmother raised him in a “three-room shotgun house without a bathtub,” according to the account. To earn money, Mitchell caddied at a country club and picked and chopped cotton on a nearby plantation.
He recalled experiencing “a lot of racism” as a child. “I kind of went into a state of denial,” he is quoted as saying. “This was a bad dream and ‘poof’ I was going to wake up and it was going to be over.” Mitchell remembered Shreveport in the 1960s as “a very dangerous place.”
He served in the Air Force in 1964-68. On his way to his duty station in England, Mitchell was visiting family in Shreveport and wanted to swim in a local public pool. Police prevented him from doing so but, because of that incident, the facility later was opened to all, according to the account.
Mitchell entered the University of Maryland while he was in the service and later completed his education at Southern University. After his military service, he worked for Modern Clothing Store in downtown Shreveport and later purchased the business, changing the name to Modern Fine Men’s Clothing Store. He also opened The Jazz Workshop in 1970.
By 1976, Mitchell said, he had received his call into the ministry. He continued as pastor of his church during his tenure in the statehouse. “I was a licensed preacher. I used to be a street preacher, doing one on one,” he once told The Times.
When asked what he has given his church, he replied, “Bascially, my life.”
Divorced in 2000, Mitchell married Yvonne Moore on March 17, 2002. Together, they had six children and 10 grandchildren.
“He loved all of God’s creatures, and his goal in life was to have everyone have a home in glory,” she said.