584 F.Supp. 328 (E.D.Ark. 1984), LR-C-82-866, Little Rock School Dist. v. Pulaski County Special School Dist. No. 1

Docket Nº:LR-C-82-866.
Citation:584 F.Supp. 328
Party Name:LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT, Plaintiff, v. PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 1; North Little Rock School District; Arkansas State Board of Education; Wayne Hartsfield; Walter Turnbow; Harry A. Haines; Jim Dupree; Dr. Harry P. McDonald; Robert L. Newton; Alice L. Preston; Jeff Starling; Earle Love; Bob Lyon; John Ward; Judy Wear; Leon Barne
Case Date:April 13, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Eastern District of Arkansas

Page 328

584 F.Supp. 328 (E.D.Ark. 1984)



PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 1; North Little Rock School District; Arkansas State Board of Education; Wayne Hartsfield; Walter Turnbow; Harry A. Haines; Jim Dupree; Dr. Harry P. McDonald; Robert L. Newton; Alice L. Preston; Jeff Starling; Earle Love; Bob Lyon; John Ward; Judy Wear; Leon Barnes; Marianne Gosser; Steve Morley; Mac Faulkner; Bob Moore; Don Hindman; Shirley Lowery; Sheryl Dunn; David Sain; Bob Stender; Grainger Williams; Richard A. Giddings; George A. McCrary; Buddy Raines; and Dale Ward, Defendants.

No. LR-C-82-866.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division.

April 13, 1984

Page 329

Philip E. Kaplan, John M. Bilheimer, Janet L. Pulliam, Little Rock, Ark., for plaintiff.

Friedman & Koven, Chicago Ill., Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, W.H. Dillahunty, Steve Clark, Ark. Atty. Gen., Stephen Curry, Little Rock, Ark., for defendants.


HENRY WOODS, District Judge.




Nothing better illustrates the failure of the separate but equal doctrine 1 than the school situation in Pulaski County, Arkansas in 1930. There were 2500 black students in the Pulaski County School District, which embraced all of Pulaski County outside Little Rock and North Little Rock. Twelve of these students were attending senior high school. Eight were in the tenth grade, four in the eleventh and none in the twelfth. There was one black high school (if such it could be called)--the Pulaski County Training School. (PX 52) One of the justifications for this shocking fact was "any residents of the County who might want a 'city school education' would find the school systems of Little Rock and North Little Rock in easy reach." (PX 52) This statement was partially true, since Little Rock's Dunbar High School, which opened in 1930 with a 1600 student capacity, was "considered at that time the most modern and complete public high school building in the United States created specifically for negroes." (PX 52) Dunbar contained "thirty-four classrooms, physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, a library with 8,000 volumes, a commercial department, a foods laboratory, an auditorium and stage with modern lighting equipment, three clothing laboratories, a cafeteria, a laundry, and shops for carpentry, woodwork, plumbing, electricity, automobile mechanics, brick laying, and printing." (PX 52)

It is quite understandable that ambitious black students from Pulaski County and North Little Rock and indeed from the far corners of Arkansas would make a pilgrimage to Dunbar. The sad fact is that in few localities in Arkansas were blacks furnished a decent and acceptable high school education. Dr. Leroy M. Christopher, former principal of Dunbar and retired principal of Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, testified how he came to Little Rock from his family home at Forrest City, one hundred miles distant, to get a high school education in the Little Rock School District since none was available in his home community. (T 17-19) Going to Gibbs High School, the predecessor to Dunbar and located on the same site, was described by Dr. Christopher in these terms: "Well, in those days everybody knew that--well, we used to call the schools in Little Rock "Heavenly Schools" because everybody wanted to go--it's kind of like going to heaven, you know. I mean, when you're

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a child, when we were children everybody looked forward to something good, and so we all looked forward to what we called "Heavenly Schools" over here in Little Rock, Arkansas."

A study published in 1941 referred to the "influx of students to Dunbar from neighboring sections .... drawn to Little Rock because of inferior educational facilities in their own towns." (PX 52) In 1938-39 Little Rock was spending $39.54 for each black pupil, North Little Rock, $16.33, and Pulaski County, $13.74. (PX 52). From the 1938-39 school year until the 1946-47 school year, no more than three percent of all black students in the Pulaski County School District were enrolled in high school as compared to 9-12 percent in North Little Rock and 12-16 percent in Little Rock. (PX 52)

During this period schools in Arkansas were evaluated in descending order as follows. The highest rating was an accreditation by the North Central Association followed by an (A), (B) and (C) rating by the State Department of Education. An unaccredited school was given an (X) (T 160; PX 52). As late as 1950 Dunbar High School in the Little Rock School District was the only black high school in Pulaski County with a North Central accreditation. Jones High School in North Little Rock had a (B) rating in 1940 and an (A) rating in 1950. The Pulaski County District in 1950 had two black high schools--Pulaski County Training School at McAlmont and J.C. Cook at Wrightsville. The former had a (C) rating and the latter an (X) or unaccredited rating. (PX 52)

Before Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954), the only way a black student living outside the Little Rock School District could get a high school education from a North Central accredited school was to find some way to gain access to Dunbar High School or its predecessor, Gibbs High School. Fortunately, these schools did not look askance at the residence of those who appeared at their doors. Some like Dr. Christopher came from Forrest City (T. 17). Some like Mrs. Annie Abrams came from Arkadelphia (PX 52). Some came from North Little Rock and many came from the Pulaski County School District, which had not even the semblance of an accredited black high school.

As far as the education of blacks was concerned, school district boundaries in Pulaski County were ignored. There was interdistrict cooperation in the time period between the two World Wars as to busing and student transfers. The latter were freely made, both formally and informally, the largest volume being from the Pulaski County Special School District to the Little Rock and North Little Rock School Districts.

It cannot be seriously denied that the Little Rock School District's maintenance of the only North Central accredited black high school in the County and indeed in the entire area led to a concentration of blacks in this district. For almost half a century it has not only assumed the burden of giving a quality education to blacks in the County and from far corners of the State but has also been the object of racially motivated attacks by certain political and cultural groups.

Two years after the Brown decision, an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution was adopted which disinterred the discredited doctrine of nullification (and which still remains as Amendment 44). Section 1 of this amendment, sponsored by the political leadership of this state, reads as follows:

From and after the Adoption of this Amendment, the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas shall take appropriate action and pass laws opposing in every Constitutional manner the Un-Constitutional [sic] desegregation decisions of May 17, 1954 and May 31, 1955 of the United States Supreme Court, including interposing the sovereignty of the State of Arkansas to the end of nullification of these and all deliberate, palpable and dangerous invasions of or encroachments upon rights and powers not delegated to the United States nor prohibited to the States by the Constitution of the United

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States and Amendments thereto, and those rights and powers reserved to the States and to the People thereof by any department, commission, officer, or employee of such department or commission of the Government of the United States, or of any government of any Nation or Federation of Nations acting upon the apparent authority granted them by or assumed by them from the Government of the United States. Said opposition shall continue steadfast until such time as such Un-Constitutional [sic] invasions or encroachments shall have abated or shall have rectified, or the same shall be transformed into an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and adopted by action of three-fourths of the States as provided therein.

The spirit and letter of this amendment was invoked against the Little Rock School District when in September, 1957 it sought to admit nine black students to Central High School in conformity with an order of this court based upon Brown v. Board of Education, supra. Their entrance was barred by National Guardsmen on order of Governor Orval Faubus. The Little Rock School Board had formally stated its intention to comply with Brown three days after that decision was rendered: "It is our responsibility to comply with Federal Constitutional Requirements and we intend to do so when the Supreme Court of the United States outlines the method to be followed." Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 7, 78 S.Ct. 1401, 1404, 3 L.Ed.2d 5 (1958).

The tragic history of the Central High case is recited by the Supreme Court in Cooper v. Aaron, supra, pp. 8-12, 78 S.Ct. pp. 1404-1406. After adopting the above statement of policy, the Board instructed the Superintendent of Schools, Virgil Blossom, to prepare a plan for desegregation, which was approved on May 24, 1955, seven days before the Supreme Court's second opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ct. 753, 99 L.Ed. 1083 (1955). Desegregation of the Little Rock schools would begin at senior high level and would be progressively extended downward. "Following the adoption of this plan, the Superintendent of Schools discussed it with a large number of citizen groups in the City. As a result of these discussions, the Board reached the conclusion that 'a large majority of the...

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