Dixie mostly calm after school desegregation ruling

ATLANTA, May 18, 1954 (UP) - The hard core of the South - especially South Carolina and Georgia - today still was in no mood to accept the Supreme Court's decision outlawing separate schools for white and Negro students. But even in those states there was an appeal by officials and newspaper leaders for a calm study of the problem.

To most Southerners yesterday's news was bad but it could have been worse. As soon as it became known that a long transition period was provided in yesterday's decision - some guessed it might be years - most explosive resistance faded.


States on the fringe of the Deep South expressed willingness to comply to the letter with the Supreme Court order, whatever it eventually may be. Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma were among them. Not so with the stronger segregation states like Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.

Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge charged the high court had turned to "low politics" and sociology in arriving at a decision he said had reduced the federal and Georgia constitutions to "mere scraps of paper."

He urged Georgians to "remain calm" and promised to preserve segregation as long as he is in office.


Southerners were generally agreed on one point. When segregation does end, Negro teachers will have a tough time finding jobs in the schools. There is little inclination in Dixie to permit Negro teachers to preside over mixed classes.

Here, state-by-state, is a summary of the situation and reaction in key southern states:

Georgia - Gov. Herman Talmadge said Georgia will change its laws if necessary to avoid non-segregated public schools. People will vote in November on a constitutional amendment authorizing creation of a private school system, with the state subsidizing individual pupils for attendance at "private" schools which in most cases would be the present public schools. The only difference would be they would get their money from the pupils instead of from the state.

South Carolina - The state constitution requires segregation. It has been amended to eliminate a requirement that the state support public schools. The legislature, which ratified this amendment last month, is likely to meet in special session to consider the Supreme Court decree when it comes this fall.

Gov. James F. Byrnes, "shocked" at the decision of the court where he once sat, said the legislature now must decide what to do. Byrnes is on the record that South Carolina will "reluctantly abandon" its public schools rather than mix the races.


North Carolina - The state constitution requires separate schools. No preparatory legislation has been enacted. The Legislature next meets in 1955 and no special session is likely. State officials and school authorities generally have adopted a "wait and see" attitude in view of the enforcement delay ordered by the high court.

Alabama - The constitution calls for separate schools and forbids children of one race from attending schools of the other race. It has no alternative statute prepared for private school operation. It has no formal state program for equalization of white and Negro facilities, although many local communities have.

Louisiana - Gov. Robert F. Kennon said there was "no change in the legal situation" in his state and "no emergency that demands any decision today or tomorrow." The Louisiana legislature, meeting at Baton Rouge, will consider the situation at the present session.

Florida - Acting Gov. Charley Johns said his present inclination is to call the legislature into special session to "cope with" the segregation decision.

Mississippi - Gov. Hugh White will appoint members of a newly created 25-member commission to submit proposed legislation to retain segregated public schools. "We're going to proceed cautiously, slowly and try to work out the problem," White said.


Virginia - Gov. Thomas B. Stanley said Virginia will comply with the high court ruling.

Tennessee - Gov. Frank Clement urged Tennesseans to accept the Supreme Court ruling with "calmness ... this is no time for snap judgment, quick decisions or demagogic excitement."

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