David Gantt: Friends recount the personal side of a great politician

Deanna Dewberry
Created: July 02, 2020 07:36 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The city is grieving the passing of David Gantt.  

It's appropriate that Assemblyman Gantt's first name is David. Like the Biblical David, Gantt took on the Goliath of government—from suing to have racist districting lines redrawn to assuring the children of RCSD had school nurses.  


But News10NBC wanted to talk to those who knew David Gantt, the man. We didn't have to look far.

Perhaps those who best speak to the depth and breadth of David Gantt's legacy are not those who knew the assemblyman with a spine of steel who kicked down the doors of discrimination in the fight for the needs of his district. Perhaps David Gantt's legacy is best expressed by those who knew him personally like his tenant and neighbor, Wayman Harris. 

"Sometimes I'd go over just to talk to him, and he would always give advice," Harris said. "He said that I should never give up, always persevere."

To Harris, Gantt was a mentor and friend who loved Clementines and his Cleveland Browns with equal passion.  

"He was a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. Even when they were one and 15, he rooted for them," Harris said.

Gantt’s loyalty extended to his constituents, his friends, and those he inspired to take into a path of public service like Rochester City Councilman Malik Evans.

"As a kid, I knew him as Mr. Gantt," Evans said. "Gantt was a close family friend Evans has known for most of his life."

"I was around the political process as a kid watching him run for assembly, watching him help other candidates, and then I ended up working in his office," Evans said.

And the David Gantt he knew wasn't just a great politician. He was a great man who took serving his constituents to another level, like when Gantt stepped into the middle of a domestic incident.

"The woman was going go after the guy with a knife because he was doing something he had no business [doing],” Evans said. “And David Gantt—to the day she died, she said he [Gantt] saved my life because I probably would have been in jail if he had not intervened."

The stories of his personal impact are endless, and it's that impact that has so deeply affected those who loved him.

"Sometimes you have to peel the onion back and get to know the man, and I was lucky in that I was able to do that,” Evans said.

That's the man who inspired Evans into a life of public service, first on the school board then the city council.  And that's the man Evans says he’ll dearly miss.

"I think the guy had one of the toughest exteriors, but when it comes to helping people the list is innumerable.  I mean the list is just too long,” Evans said.

Evans says it may be the things Gantt did behind the scenes that may be the measure of the man, from helping countless kids go to college to sending birthday cards to the elderly in his district. All say his life is indeed his legacy.

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