The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

A Tribute to the late Robert Avant, a Great Champion for the Delta

Posted on August 11, 2008 at 06:02 PM

The Mississippi Delta region has lost a great champion with the passing of Robert Avant, a historic leader in the movement for social, economic and racial justice in the Delta, and executive director of the North Delta Mississippi Enterprise Community. I began working with Robert Avant in the Clinton administration in the national Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community program, where he stood out not just in the region but nationally as one of our finest community and economic development leaders. He will be greatly missed, and below in this email we attach a message from Ms. Lasha Hunter of the North Delta Mississippi Enterprise Community, headquartered in Sardis, Mississippi, about the memorial services for Mr. Avant.

Over the years, I can remember the many friends of Robert Avant saying that he was admired and loved by many, many people in the Delta. We extend our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues on this deeply sad day for our region.

Robert Avant was born the son of a sharecropper outside of Crenshaw, Mississippi, and raised during the worst years of segregation. When I first met him in the 1990s, he had already been working for many, many years to expand the economic and political horizons for many of the Delta’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens.

Robert Avant made history in 1988 when he joined the Panola County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors and became the first African American in modern times to be elected in that area of the state, as the Petra Foundation and countless others have recorded. Since 1996, he has been elected and served as President of the Board of Supervisors.

Over the decades, Robert’s leadership persuaded the federal government to award his community millions of dollars in grants and tax credits. After years of tireless dedication and work, in 1996 Robert obtained federal funding for the county to build low-income housing that enabled many low-income families to move from dirt floor shanties into clean, modern homes, using “sweat equity.” A good deal of that sweat came from Robert himself, as he frequently delivered the pre-packaged building materials to sites in his truck, then helped families to unload and construct the new home.

In 1993, he led a 6-month community-based effort to obtain the Enterprise Community designation, bringing with it $22 million in investments to three counties over a period of ten years. I well remember working with him then, and he continued to work with the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus and came to several of our conferences in the years after 2000. I spoke with him on the phone about economic development issues in our region as recently as three weeks ago, and he sounded as dedicated to his work as ever.

Many people recalled that Robert justifiably took particular pride in having gained another federal grant to bring public water to nearly 300 families, some of whom had never had running water in their homes. Robert was appointed by President Clinton to be on the President’s Water 2000 Board.

Robert was also a great champion of racial justice. He registered many voters with the NAACP, empowered parents at the local public schools, organized 45 community meetings in 40 days to mobilize support for the Enterprise Community Initiative, Robert worked to give people the motivation they needed to change the political and economic landscape of their lives. Recognizing that one of the major barriers to progress facing poor African Americans in rural Mississippi was lack of credit, Robert was committed to creating local credit unions that will enable those who have been traditionally shut out to get much needed affordable loans and credit.

Robert Avant was happily married for 30 years to his wife Vernice. They are the proud parents of Robert Jr., Issac Lanier, and Albert Hosea Jerriod.

Today, we are saddened by his passing, but let us also celebrate the great life of Robert Avant and remain steadfast in working for his vision of a brighter future for the Delta. Lee Riley Powell, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347


DATE: 8/11/08



The board and staff of the North Delta MS Enterprise Community are saddened to announce that Robert Avant, Director of the North Delta MS Enterprise Community passed away Friday, 8/8/08.


DATE: Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TIME: 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

WHERE: McIvor Creek M.B. Church, Hwy. 315 - Sardis, MS

DIRECTION: At the intersection of highway 51 and 315, go down highway 315 West approximately two (2) miles. The church will be on your right on highway 315 before you get to the Old Panola Rd. intersection.


DATE: Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TIME: 11:00 AM

WHERE: The Batesville Civic Center, Hwy. 6 - Batesville, MS

DIRECTION: The Civic Center is off Highway 6. South of LOWE’S and East of Wal-Mart at the red light.

Delta Burial - 491 First Street, Marks, MS are in charge of the arrangements - (662) 326-2271.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that all contributions be made to the North Delta Enterprise Community - P.O. Box 330 - Sardis, MS 38666.

If additional information is needed please contact: Verna Lasha Hunter - North Delta Mississippi Enterprise Community, 662-487-1968 or 662-487-7316