Supreme Court orders Memphis to desegregate parks, libraries

WASHINGTON, May 27, 1963 (UPI)-The Supreme Court unanimously directed the city of Memphis today to "promptly" desegregate its parks, libraries and museums and served notice that southern communities are moving too slowly toward integrating their schools. Today's ruling rejected a plan by Memphis which would have gradually desegregated the parks and other facilities over a period of time. The court held that the delay violated the constitutional rights of Negroes.

Justice Arthur J. Goldberg made the decision for a unanimous court. The federal courts in the past have approved gradual desegregation programs for schools.


Federal District Judge Marion Boyd approved the Memphis recreational plan on June 20, 1961. A year later, the Sixth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld him.

The city said it developed its plan to avoid violence and general disruption of playground programs. The Sixth Circuit Court noted that the chief of police said his men could not control the situation if all facilities were desegregated at one time.

But Goldberg said:

"Since the city has completely failed to demonstrate any compelling or convincing reason requiring further delay in implementing the constitutional proscription of segregation of publicly owned or operated facilities, there is no cause whatsoever to depart from the generally controlling principle that constitutional rights are to be promptly vindicated."

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court by a group of Negroes.

The city relied in a 1955 Supreme Court school decree, which said Negroes should be admitted to white schools "with all deliberate speed." They said this gradual desegregation could apply to the city's parks.

Today's ruling was applied only in the Memphis case.

Goldberg said Boyd had undoubted discretion in the fashioning and timing of equitable relief, but declared that under the facts of the Memphis case this discretion was not called into play.

"Rather, affirmative judicial action was required to vindicate plain and present constitutional rights," the opinion asserted. "Today, no less than 50 years ago, the solution to the problems growing out of race relations 'cannot be promoted by depriving citizens of their constitutional rights and privileges'."

In discussing Memphis' reliance on the school decision, Goldberg noted that it is now more than nine years since that landmark opinion was enunciated and almost eight years since the states were barred from enforcing segregation in public recreation facilities.

Thus the reasoning in those cases which took into account the need for "some limited delay" no longer "bear the imprint of newly enunciated doctrine," Goldberg said.

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