Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, No. 48304

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLARSON
PartiesRICE v. SIOUX CITY MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY, Inc., et al.
Decision Date22 September 1953
Docket NumberNo. 48304

Page 110

60 N.W.2d 110
245 Iowa 147
RICE

v.
SIOUX CITY MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY, Inc., et al.
No. 48304.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Sept. 22, 1953.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 20, 1953.

Page 112

Neil R. McCluhan, Winnebago, Neb., and Kindig & Beebe, Sioux City, for appellant.

Shull & Marshall and Harper, Gleysteen & Nelson, Sioux City, for appellees.

LARSON, Justice.

Plaintiff commenced her action for damages against the defendants by filing a petition in three counts, which was later twice amended and still later ordered recast. In a case of the same entitlement found in D.C., 102 F.Supp. 658, the petition is set out in full. In this opinion by Judge Graven the case was remanded to the state court for final adjudication on the issues, due to a jurisdictional question. The action against the individual defendants was dismissed below and no appeal is taken from that decision of the court.

Plaintiff in her petition alleges that on or about August 17, 1951, she entered into a written contract 'Exhibit A' for the purchase of three cemetery lots belonging to defendant corporation, one lot to be used for the burial of her deceased husband, Sergeant Rice, whose body was being shipped home from Korea. This contract contains a racial restrictive clause and provides in part as follows:

'M. No. 1335.

'Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc.

'This contract, made at Sioux City, Iowa, on this 17th day of August, 1951, between the Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery Inc. (owners and developers of Sioux City Memorial Park, its successors and assigns, Party of the First Part (seller) [245 Iowa 150] and Mrs. Evelyn Rice, of Winnebago, Nebr. Party of the Second Part (purchaser), Witnesseth:

'That the said Party of the Second Part agrees to purchase from the said Party of the First Part the following: Right of Sepulture in and to So. 1/2 (spaces 4-5 & 6) Lot 58 in Section Veterans, Sioux City Memorial Park, a burial ground with permanent care as hereinafter provided, a plat of which has been or will be recorded with the Recorder of Deeds in Woodbury County, Iowa, with privilege to exchange said lot before Sepulture for any other unsold lot of the same price and privilege at time of transfer * * *

'This agreement is assignable only with the consent of seller, and burial privileges accrue only to members of the Caucasian race, and before any burial can be made the grave space or spaces so used shall be paid in full.

'This contract is subject to the rules and regulations and by-laws of the Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc. The Party of the Second Part agrees to purchase any grave markers necessary from the Party of the First Part. Only bronze markers may be used in said cemetery, and must be purchased from the Party of the First Part subject to its rules and regulations.

'No condition, regulation, or agreement other than those printed hereon or contained in Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc. rules and regulations shall be binding upon the seller, and this agreement shall not become effective until executed and approved by an executive officer of the Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc.'

Plaintiff alleged that her deceased husband, Sergeant John Rice, killed in combat on active duty in Korea, had 11/16 Winnebago Indian blood and 5/16 white blood, and that defendant cemetery refused to permit the body of her deceased husband to be lowered into the ground, after graveside services were held, caused the body to be

Page 113

removed from the grave site and advised her that the refusal was because 'he was not a Caucasian.'

Plaintiff further alleged that defendant cemetery published a pamphlet explaining its action in refusing the burial, which caused her humiliation and suffering. In each count she asked judgment in the sum of $60,000. The pamphlet filed as Exhibit C is in part as follows:

[245 Iowa 151] 'The Truth about the Sgt Rice Incident.

'In fairness to our Lot Owners and the citizens of Sioux City and vicinity, who are interested in the Memorial Park, we feel that the many false statements that have been published about this incident should be clarified by a frank statement of the truth:

'1. Contrary to general belief and newspaper publicity the Sioux City Memorial Park did not solicit the burial of Sgt. Rice.

'Mr. D. T. Boyd, the undertaker of South Sioux City, Nebraska, called and made the appointment to meet Mr. Ben Willey, Sales Manager, at the Park on August 17, 1951, after, as we were later informed, they had been turned down by two or three other cemeteries. Mr. Boyd, Mrs. Rice and her sister (Mrs. Rice and her sister are both white but married to Indian brothers) met Mr. Willey at the Park and Mrs. Rice purchased three spaces on an installment basis and arranged for the burial of Sgt. Rice. Nothing was said about Sgt. Rice being Indian or that Mrs. Rice lived on the Indian Reservation when the lot was purchased, or prior to the funeral. On the 18th day of August a copy of the contract signed by Mrs. Rice was mailed to her containing the restriction limiting burial to members of the Caucasian race. The funeral was not held until August 28th. Mrs. Rice had had her copy of the contract for ten (10) days, which was ample time for her to inform herself of its contents and restrictions. Mr. Boyd knew, or should have known, about the restriction, as an undertaker of this community whose business is dealing with cemeteries, especially as we have been informed that the burial was turned down by two or three other cemeteries before coming to the Memorial Park. Contrary to publicity, the service by the Catholic priest at Memorial Park was not interrupted and the family had already left the grave site when Mr. Willey asked the undertaker and was informed that the deceased was an Indian. The body was never lowered into the ground. The first notice the Park had of the fact that the deceased might be an Indian was that practically all of the mourners at the funeral were Indians.

'2. The present Owners and Officers of the Park have no [245 Iowa 152] racial prejudice and were not responsible for the restriction to only members of the Caucasian race.

'3. Every contract and deed since the cemetery was started carries this restriction.

'4. Dr. R. S. McNeish of the National Museum at Ottawa, Canada, and other Canadian archaeologists have reported definite proof that American Indians are descended from Wild Mongolian Nomads that came to North America from Asia by way of Alaska. In other words, the American Indian is not of Caucasian descent, to the best of our available information.

'If the burial of Sgt. Rice had been permitted, every Lot Owner in the Park could have recourse against the corporation for damages for breach of contract. The officers of the Park are legally bound to enforce and protect its contracts and contract holders--such proceedings could have financially wrecked the Park. Any removal of this restriction would have to be by agreement of all lot owners, which would be a practical impossibility.

'5. The officers of the Park have never at any time retracted from the position first taken, as they could not legally do so.

'6. The apology so publicized was simply an expression of regret that the officers were legally bound to take the position they did.

'7. Contrary to reports in the press, the officers of the Park did not offer Mrs. Rice

Page 114

any lot in the Memorial Park. The City Council of Sioux City offered any lot in any Sioux City owned cemetery. Mrs. Rice had already contracted for space in Memorial Park which made such an offer on behalf of the Memorial Park unnecessary. As she could not legally use the space already contracted for, you can see such an offer would be meaningless. We have had many inquiries as to why we did not publicly defend our position during the height of the publicity that was given to this incident. Our failure to do so was in deference to the request of many business men and citizens of Sioux City who wished to end the publicity as quickly as possible, and also to our knowledge of the fact that under this mob hysteria, any statements made by us, as had been demonstrated, would not be fairly reported.

'8. The restriction to members of the Caucasian Race is [245 Iowa 153] almost as old as the cemetery business and has come down with the development of the cemetery business. This restriction is in probably 90 per cent of the private cemeteries in the United States, including Forest Lawn in California and Graceland Park in Sioux City. Private cemeteries have always had a right to be operated for a particular group such as Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Negro, Chinese, etc. not because of any prejudice against any race, but because people, like animals, prefer to be with their own kind. * * *

'We submit the above for your fair and unbiased appraisal.

'The Memorial Park

'Sioux City, Iowa.'

Both defendants and plaintiff moved for an adjudication of substantially the same points of law under Rule 105 R.C.P., 58 I.C.A. and the court ruled:

That the social restriction clause in the contract Exhibit A is not void but is unenforceable as a violation of (a) The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution; (b) The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and (c), Sections 1 and 6 of Art. I of the I.C.A. Constitution of the State of Iowa; (d) Public policy of the State of Iowa and of the United States Government;

That the restrictive clause in the contract Exhibit A refers to the race of the person or thing to be buried, rather than to the race of the owner of the lot;

That a person alleged to be of 11/16 Winnebago Indian and 5/16 white blood, is not, as a matter of law, a person of the Caucasian race within the meaning of the term as used in the contract;

That the action of a state or federal court in permitting a defendant to stand upon the terms of its contract and to defend this action in court would not constitute state or federal action contrary to the...

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18 practice notes
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...Rice case, see Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, D.C.Iowa 1952, 102 F.Supp. 658; Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Iowa 60 N.W.2d 110. The defendant's motion to dismiss is based upon the claim that under the rules of Iowa law relating to compensatory and exemplary damages ......
  • Lynch v. Uhlenhopp, No. 48862
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 18, 1956
    ...doubted. This is not a case in which the contract is merely used as a defense, as was true in Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, 245 Iowa 147, 154, 155, 60 N.W.2d 110, 115. In the case before us the court is actively enforcing the provisions of the decree. The Supreme Court of the U......
  • Fire Association of Phila. v. Allis Chalmers Mfg. Co., Civ. A. No. 775.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 14, 1955
    ...S.Ct. 112, 89 L.Ed. 647; Smith v. Weber, 1944, 70 S.D. 232, 16 N.W.2d 537. See also Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Iowa 1953, 60 N.W.2d 110, 119, affirmed, 1954, 348 U.S. 880, 75 S.Ct. 122, 99 L. Ed. ___, citing Smith v. Weber, supra. In the case of Peitzman v. City of Illmo, su......
  • Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, No. 28
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 9, 1955
    ...United Nations Charter 'have no bearing on the case' and that none of the grounds based on local law sustained the action. 245 Iowa, 147, 60 N.W.2d 110, 117. We granted certiorari, 347 U.S. 942, 74 S.Ct. 938, 98 L.Ed. 1091. The basis for petitioner's resort to this Court was primarily the F......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...Rice case, see Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, D.C.Iowa 1952, 102 F.Supp. 658; Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Iowa 60 N.W.2d 110. The defendant's motion to dismiss is based upon the claim that under the rules of Iowa law relating to compensatory and exemplary damages ......
  • Lynch v. Uhlenhopp, No. 48862
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 18, 1956
    ...doubted. This is not a case in which the contract is merely used as a defense, as was true in Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, 245 Iowa 147, 154, 155, 60 N.W.2d 110, 115. In the case before us the court is actively enforcing the provisions of the decree. The Supreme Court of the U......
  • Fire Association of Phila. v. Allis Chalmers Mfg. Co., Civ. A. No. 775.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 14, 1955
    ...S.Ct. 112, 89 L.Ed. 647; Smith v. Weber, 1944, 70 S.D. 232, 16 N.W.2d 537. See also Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, Iowa 1953, 60 N.W.2d 110, 119, affirmed, 1954, 348 U.S. 880, 75 S.Ct. 122, 99 L. Ed. ___, citing Smith v. Weber, supra. In the case of Peitzman v. City of Illmo, su......
  • Rice v. Sioux City Memorial Park Cemetery, No. 28
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 9, 1955
    ...United Nations Charter 'have no bearing on the case' and that none of the grounds based on local law sustained the action. 245 Iowa, 147, 60 N.W.2d 110, 117. We granted certiorari, 347 U.S. 942, 74 S.Ct. 938, 98 L.Ed. 1091. The basis for petitioner's resort to this Court was primarily the F......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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