Holt v. City of Richmond, Civ. A. No. 151-71-R.

Citation334 F. Supp. 228
Decision Date20 November 1971
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 151-71-R.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
PartiesCurtis HOLT, Sr., etc., et al. v. CITY OF RICHMOND, etc., et al.

334 F. Supp. 228

Curtis HOLT, Sr., etc., et al.
CITY OF RICHMOND, etc., et al.

Civ. A. No. 151-71-R.

United States District Court, E. D. Virginia, Richmond Division.

November 20, 1971.

334 F. Supp. 229
334 F. Supp. 230
W. H. C. Venable, E. G. Allen, Jr., Richmond, Va., for plaintiffs

Matthew N. Ott, Jr., Conard Mattox, Jr., Daniel Balfour, Horace H. Edwards, Richmond, Va., for defendants.


MERHIGE, District Judge.

This class action brought by plaintiff, Curtis Holt, Sr., a member of the Negro race, a resident of that portion of the pre-annexed area of the city, in his own behalf and in behalf of all others similarly situate, seeks an adjudication of the rights of the plaintiff and members of his class arising from alleged actions of the individually named defendants who are, with one exception, elected officials of the City of Richmond, the municipal corporate defendant.

The Court has heard five days of testimony, much of which has been of conflicting nature, and has examined the exhibits introduced, and concludes as follows:

Jurisdiction of the Court is attained pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3), (4), 1344, 2201, 2202; Title 42 U.S.C.A. § 1971 et seq.

334 F. Supp. 231

This action is a prolongation of what appears to be the sad saga of the City of Richmond, the capital of Virginia, to cope with problems arising from its alleged lack of certain material and human needs of a viable city. In order to put the Court's factual conclusions in appropriate perspective it is necessary to recite in some detail the background of events leading up to and including a decree of the Chesterfield Circuit Court entered on July 12, 1969, the consequences of which allegedly violated constitutionally protected rights of the class of which the plaintiff is part.

Richmond is a distinct and separate political entity as are each city and county in Virginia. Virginia law provides for the merging of two political entities under certain conditions, and permits likewise, under certain conditions and circumstances, the taking by a city of a county, or a portion thereof, by appropriate annexation proceedings—which are heard by a specially constituted annexation court consisting of three Circuit Judges of the Commonwealth.

The evidence discloses that in 1961 an unsuccessful attempt was made to merge the city and the County of Henrico. Immediately subsequent to the unsuccessful merger efforts, the city on January 2, 1962, filed annexation suits against the County of Henrico and the County of Chesterfield—both contiguous counties to the city. The city sought the acquisition of approximately 152 square miles of Henrico and 51 square miles of Chesterfield.

It is perhaps an understatement to describe the respective law suits as bitterly and vigorously contested.

The Court is satisfied from the evidence that the initial proceedings against each county were not motivated by any effort to dilute, deny or disenfranchise the vote of Negro citizens. In short, at the time of the institution of the respective actions, while the Negro population of the city was increasing and the white decreasing, the vote of the city's Negro citizens was not so material a factor as to give rise to serious political considerations —the Negro citizen was then, as was historically true, hampered by restrictive laws and conditions, some of which were obvious and others of more subtle nature, but nevertheless effective impediments to fully exercising and utilizing rights accorded all citizens under the Constitution of the United States.

The city's suit against Henrico was finally culminated some three years later (March 1965) by rejection by the city (a right accorded it under Virginia law) of the court's award to it of approximately 16.16 square miles of Henrico County, populated by approximately 45,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were white, conditioned on the city's expending sums of approximately 55 million dollars.

Within months thereafter the city attempted to vitalize its still pending but dormant annexation suit versus Chesterfield County. Circumstances, the details of which are not necessary for the purposes of these findings to elaborate upon, finally led to a trial of the action commencing in the Spring of 1969. The period ensuing from the date of the filing of the original annexation suits against the counties had brought vast changes in the voting strength of the Negro community —the poll tax had been removed as a requisite to voting and much encouragement had been accorded the Negroes to exercise their right of franchise—the evidence shows an increase in Negro voting strength ranging from 4,000 qualified voters in 1956 to more than 35,000 at the present time.

The early and middle 1960's brought with them two emerging political forces in the city—one of which was known as Richmond Forward, a successor to Richmond Citizens' Association, a predominantly white organization, an effective group of civic minded citizens who solicited, encouraged and assisted candidates for the City Council which was and is composed of nine members elected at large; the other force was a group of civic minded Negro citizens, known as the Crusade for Voters, who encouraged and assisted qualification of Negro voters and who, while not soliciting citizens to

334 F. Supp. 232
run for Council, did and do endorse certain announced candidates

The strength of the latter organization is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that in 1968 two Negro members of Council failed to receive the Crusade's endorsement and were defeated. The record abounds with evidence pointing to a dramatic awareness, certainly by 1968, by any reasonably knowledgeable person, of the increasing political effectiveness of the Crusade.

While in 1968 there were more whites than Negroes registered to vote, about 50% of the registered Negroes voted as against approximately 30% of the white registered voters.

It is obvious that the annexation of a part of Chesterfield County, which came to pass effective January 1, 1970, and which brought to the city approximately 47,000 additional people 97% of whom were white, resulted in a dilution of the Negro vote just as a dilution of the Negro vote would have resulted had the city accepted the Henrico Annexation Court's decree. Perhaps the simple and inevitable consequence of such a dilution as occurred, in light of a failure on the part of the city to conform to the requirements of Title 42 § 1973c—which requires certain action on the part of a political subdivision before voting procedure changes are effective—effectively concludes this law suit. Annexation has been held by the United States Supreme Court to come within the Congressional mandate.1

If, however, that issue were all there is to the case, then motivation would be of no consequence.

In light of the Court's admitted doubt that good fortune would indeed permit the Court to fulfill its obligation by so simple an answer as a pronouncement either that failure on the part of the defendant municipality to follow the mandate of § 1971c ends the case, or, in the alternative, that the inevitable and consequential dilution of the voting strength of the plaintiff class ends the litigation, it follows that the parties are entitled to a full exploration by the Court of all reasonably contemplated essential facts.

Motive and actions of legislatures smacking of racial considerations triggers a judicial demand that same be examined.

Obviously all racial considerations are not automatically forbidden. Indeed there may be many situations in which race may well and appropriately be taken into consideration. However, when it appears that race has been taken into consideration in connection with so basic and fundamental a constitutional grant as voting, coupled with Congress' concern as apparent from the enactments of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts, then it is required that an examination be made as to the use of any forbidden purpose.

Here plaintiffs complain that the defendants have disadvantaged the members of one racial group—just at the moment in which the plaintiff class emerged as a strong and viable influence in reference to the legislative body of the city their strength was dissipated. Examination is mandated.

During the trial, unfortunately, much conflicting testimony emerged. Nevertheless, there are many facts and conclusions from same which may reasonably be drawn which appear to the Court to be beyond a mere preponderance.

In the context of the instant consideration, the gist of plaintiffs' complaint is a so-called compromise agreement of which the principal architects were the legislative heads of the city and Chesterfield County.

The facts are reasonably ascertainable —the city, for reasons its legislative body without any specific intent to dilute the voting strength of what was at that period of time (1961) a not immediately foreseeable force, felt the need for expansion. An attempted merger had failed; litigation against Henrico County had not borne fruition. If the legislative

334 F. Supp. 233
intent at that period of time encompassed as its sole objective the dilution of the Negro vote, the acceptance of the Henrico Annexation Court award would have and could have been accomplished. Only one Negro had up to that time been elected to the City Council, and that in 1948. The Negro voters were generally opposed to any merger or annexation, obviously recognizing the consequential dilution of their anticipated emerging solidarity of voting strength. Nevertheless, at the time of the city's rejection of the Court's territorial awards there was still pending the Chesterfield suit seeking annexation of 51 square miles containing an even larger percentage of whites than would have been contained in the Henrico award

During the pendency of the lawsuits versus Henrico and Chesterfield, efforts were made to effectuate a compromise...

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4 cases
  • Holt v. City of Richmond
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • May 3, 1972
    ...City of Richmond in agreeing with officials of Chesterfield County upon a settlement of an annexation proceeding. The District Judge, 334 F.Supp. 228, did not invalidate the annexation, which occasioned the plaintiff's appeal, but he ordered a councilmanic election on the basis of a divisio......
  • City of Richmond, Virginia v. United States, Civ. A. No. 1718-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 29, 1974
    ...turn to an examination of the Master's report and the facts of this case. The parties stipulated to the record in Holt v. City of Richmond, E.D. Va., 334 F.Supp. 228 (1971), reversed, 4 Cir., 459 F.2d 1093, cert. denied, 408 U. S. 931, 92 S.Ct. 2570, 33 L.Ed.2d 343 (1972), a previous Fiftee......
  • City of Richmond, Virginia v. United States 8212 201
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 24, 1975
    ...court in Virginia challenging the annexation on constitutional grounds, and the District Court issued a decision, Holt v. City of Richmond, 334 F.Supp. 228 (Holt I), holding that the annexation had an illegal racial purpose, and ordered a new election. The Court of Appeals reversed. In the ......
  • City of Petersburg, Virginia v. United States, Civ. A. No. 509-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 5, 1973
    ...effect on voting rights. Therefore, under the Voting Rights Act we must register objection to its implementation. See Holt v. City of Richmond 334 F.Supp. 228 (E.D.Va., Civil Action No. I wish to stress that this ruling relates only to the voting changes occassioned by the annexation. This ......

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