Thomas v. State, No. 42987

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtJoe T. Patterson, Atty. Gen.; RODGERS; TOM P. BRADY
Citation252 Miss. 527,160 So.2d 657
PartiesHenry J. THOMAS v. STATE of Mississippi.
Docket NumberNo. 42987
Decision Date17 February 1964

Page 657

160 So.2d 657
252 Miss. 527
Henry J. THOMAS
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 42987.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Feb. 17, 1964.

Page 658

[252 Miss. 529] Young & Hall, R. Jess Brown, Jackson, Leroy D. Clark and Jack Greenberg, New York City, for appellant.

[252 Miss. 530] Joe T. Patterson, Atty. Gen., J. A. Travis, Jr., Robert G. Nichols, Jr., Jackson, for appellee.

RODGERS, Justice.

An affidavit was lodged with the City Police Court of Jackson, Mississippi, charging defendant Henry J. Thomas with disorderly conduct. The ex-officio Justice of the Peace tried defendant and found him 'guilty.' He appealed to the Hinds County Court. The case was tried anew, with the aid of a jury, and the evidence was recorded. The jury found defendant guilty, and from the sentence of the County Court, he appealed on the record to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Judge entered an order affirming the judgment of the County Court, and from that judgment, the case has been appealed to this Court.

The defendant was charged with violating § 2087.5, Miss.Code 1942, Rec., the pertinent parts of which are as follows:

[252 Miss. 533] 'Section 2087.5 Disorderly conduct--may constitute felony, when,

'1. Whoever with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or under circumstances such that a breach of the peace may be occasioned thereby:

'(1) crowds or congregates with others in or upon * * * any other place of business engaged in selling or serving members of the public * * * and who fails or refuses to disperse and move on, or disperse or move on, when ordered so to do by any law enforcement officer of any municipality, or county, in which such act or acts are committed, or by any law enforcement officer of the State of Mississippi, or any other authorized person * * *.

'* * * shall be guilty of disorderly conduct, which is made a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars ($200.00), or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than four (4) months, or by both such fine and imprisonment * * *'.

The record in this case shows that defendant Thomas is a Negro who resides at St. Augustine, Florida. He is a student at Howard University in the City of Washington, D. C. He learned that CORE (an organization known as Congress of Racial Equality) was planning a series of bus rides for the purpose of testing segregation laws, and he volunteered his services as a bus rider. He then received instructions as to how he should act when violence erupted; that he should hold his hands by his side when he was being beaten with bicycle chains. Extraordinary advance publicity was given through the news media, advising the public that various racially mixed groups, calling themselves 'freedom riders', were enroute through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, with a 'stop over' at Jackson, Mississippi. The law enforcement officers of Alabama became apprehensive to such an extent that officers were assigned to [252 Miss. 534] meet the busses in Atlanta, Georgia, and to ride in the busses as they proceeded across Alabama.

On May 20, 1961, three groups of 'freedom riders' reached Montgomery, Alabama, and a race riot occurred on Sunday night, May 21, 1961. The Alabama officers testified upon the trial of the instant case that the racial situation in Alabama was extremely tense. Compare Abernathy v. State, 42 Ala.App. 149, 155 So.2d 586, where it is said 'fourteen hundred national guardsmen were on duty.'

When the busses in which defendant was a passenger reached Anniston, Alabama, a large group of angry people came up and

Page 659

beat on the bus and cursed the occupants, including the officers in it. People lay on the pavement in front of the bus, and others lay behind the bus, so that the driver could not move without injuring them. Finally, a sufficient number of police arrived to control the crowd. When the bus left, many automobiles followed it until the tires on the bus went down and it was brought to a stop. A large crowd of people went up to the bus and began to curse the occupants. A smoke bomb was thrown into the bus and it caught fire. The police arrived and after they fired their guns, the crowd retreated. The police directed defendant and other members of his party to move out to a place of safety, and they obeyed the officers. An ambulance was brought to the scene and defendant and other occupants of the bus were taken to the hospital. Bus drivers refused to operate the busses occupied by defendant and his group of demonstrators, and defendant went back to New York and regrouped under the leadership of another individual. Defendant again accompanied a racially mixed group of persons on two busses through Alabama and into Mississippi. This time they were accompanied by Highway Patrolmen and a contingency of Alabama National Guard to the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

In the meantime radios broadcast details of the disturbance in Alabama. Television broadcast actual scenes [252 Miss. 535] of the riots throughout Mississippi and Alabama, and newspapers left nothing undone in an effort to tell the Nation the progress of the so-called 'freedom riders.' A great many agents from the Justice Department preceded the busses and 'lined the highways.' The people of Mississippi became highly outraged and incensed at what they believed to be an invasion aimed at the tranquillity of the peace of the people of Mississippi.

The testimony of a banker and an automobile dealer and other prominent citizens of Jackson, Mississippi, indicated that a large percentage of the citizens of Jackson was uneasy, and apprehensive that the activity of the defendant and his companions was likely to incite a riot, particularly in view of the notoriety given the so-called 'freedom rider movement.'

The Mississippi National Guard and the Highway Patrolmen, armed with shotguns, and using helicopters to fly over the convoy, met the busses at the Mississippi-Alabama state line, for the purpose of protecting the caravan. Thus, this entourage moved from the state line along the highway, preceded by agents of the U. S. Justice Department, toward Jackson, Mississippi. In the meantime, the police department of the City of Jackson had been informed of the progress of the group of racially mixed out-of-state demonstrators, and also of the resentment, apprehension, and fear engendered in the minds of individuals by the invasion, heralded by news media. The police used the local radio to ask citizens to stay away from the area of the bus station. The station was isolated by the police, and a corridor was established around the block in which persons and traffic were required to 'move on.' Nevertheless, in spite of the precautionary efforts of the police, groups of men began to assemble outside the corridor; windows above the street in air-conditioned buildings were opened and it was observed that many persons were peering out of and leaning from the windows. Policemen, who [252 Miss. 536] could be spared from the picket line around the block, were stationed on the ramp outside the bus station and eight or ten within the station. Persons, who did not have a ticket, and those, who could not show that they had business at the station, were required to 'move on.'

The bus, in which defendant was a passenger, arrived at Jackson, Mississippi's Continental Bus Station at 4:45 P.M., May 24, 1961. The National Guard personnel debarked and moved to their appointed positions outside the bus station. Defendant, in company with his companions, proceeded up the ramp, passed by the colored waiting room, and entered the white waiting room. Nothing was done to prevent or

Page 660

obstruct the group from entering the white waiting room. Captain J. L. Ray was in charge of the police at the station. He followed the defendant into the white waiting room. He testified that many persons got up and moved toward defendant, and that he observed the people were in an ugly mood. He said some of the persons he had required to leave the bus station suggested 'if you let us handle this situation, we'll get rid of this out-of-town group coming here, causing all this trouble----'. And he further stated: 'As they entered the terminal, feeling that it would be best to get this defendant, Henry Thomas, along with the group he was with, out of the bus station, in order to prevent violence, I approached this group of which Henry was a part, ordered them to move on and move out of the terminal. They acted as though they did not hear me, even though I talked in a loud tone of voice----'. He further said: 'I definitely believe that there would have been possibly a riot or some disturbance, and that possibly bloodshed would have taken place.' He said: 'I gave the order twice, then I asked if they refused to obey the order, at which I received no response.' He said: 'I was trying to prevent violence', and when defendant refused [252 Miss. 537] to move on, he was arrested. The officer stated he would have been happy to have helped defendant get to wherever he wanted to go.

Testimony shows that Jackson was the destination of defendant, and there is no testimony as to why defendant would not move out of the bus station after having reached his destination, and after having asserted his right to enter the white waiting room.

There were fifteen persons in the group, including defendant, and their names and addresses were as follows: Rev. Grady H. Donald, 1423 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee; John H. Moody, Jr., 917 Wilcox Street, Petersburg, Virginia; John L. Copeland, 2715 Torgett Street, Nashville, Tennessee; Lucretia R. Collins, Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas; Peter M. Ackerberg, 5424 Arlington Avenue, New York City; Clarence L. Thomas, Jr., 407 East Bradley Street, Champagne, Illinois; Henry J. Thomas, Box 156-A, Elton, Florida; Earnest Patton, Jr., 1429 John Johnson Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee; James L. Farmer, 85 Bedford Street, New York...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • City of Greenwood, Mississippi v. Peacock Peacock v. City of Greenwood, Mississippi, Nos. 471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 20, 1966
    ...Court of Mississippi affirmed convictions in harassment prosecutions arising out of the May 1961 Freedom Rides. See Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 160 So.2d 657; Farmer v. State, Miss., 161 So.2d 159; Knight v. State, 248 Miss. 850, 161 So.2d 521. More than another year was to pass before ......
  • Vann v. Central Benefits National Life Insurance Company, Civil Action No. 1:96cv155-D-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
    • August 21, 2007
    ...States v. Dorrell, 758 F.2d 427 (9th Cir. 1985) (trespass on Vandenburg Air Force Base to protest MX missile system); Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 554, 160 So.2d 657, 669 (Miss. 1964) (black citizens on civil rights "freedom ride" arrested for breach of the peace); Knight v. State, 248 M......
  • Chinn v. Johnson, Civ. A. No. 3977.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 10, 1969
    ...Supreme Court does not suffer a similar infirmity. That Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 2087.5 in Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 160 So.2d 657 (Miss.1964), reversed on other grounds, 380 U.S. 524, 85 S.Ct. 1327, 14 L.Ed.2d 265 (1964). There the Court defined a "breach of the ......
  • Knight v. State, No. 42958
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • March 9, 1964
    ...case, the same alleged errors on the part of the trial court as were set out and argued in the case of Thomas v. State (1964), Miss., 160 So.2d 657. The opinion in that case deals with those several questions and cites the authorities on which the affirmance of that case was rested. See als......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • City of Greenwood, Mississippi v. Peacock Peacock v. City of Greenwood, Mississippi, Nos. 471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 20, 1966
    ...Court of Mississippi affirmed convictions in harassment prosecutions arising out of the May 1961 Freedom Rides. See Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 160 So.2d 657; Farmer v. State, Miss., 161 So.2d 159; Knight v. State, 248 Miss. 850, 161 So.2d 521. More than another year was to pass before ......
  • Vann v. Central Benefits National Life Insurance Company, Civil Action No. 1:96cv155-D-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
    • August 21, 2007
    ...States v. Dorrell, 758 F.2d 427 (9th Cir. 1985) (trespass on Vandenburg Air Force Base to protest MX missile system); Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 554, 160 So.2d 657, 669 (Miss. 1964) (black citizens on civil rights "freedom ride" arrested for breach of the peace); Knight v. State, 248 M......
  • Chinn v. Johnson, Civ. A. No. 3977.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 10, 1969
    ...Supreme Court does not suffer a similar infirmity. That Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 2087.5 in Thomas v. State, 252 Miss. 527, 160 So.2d 657 (Miss.1964), reversed on other grounds, 380 U.S. 524, 85 S.Ct. 1327, 14 L.Ed.2d 265 (1964). There the Court defined a "breach of the ......
  • Knight v. State, No. 42958
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • March 9, 1964
    ...case, the same alleged errors on the part of the trial court as were set out and argued in the case of Thomas v. State (1964), Miss., 160 So.2d 657. The opinion in that case deals with those several questions and cites the authorities on which the affirmance of that case was rested. See als......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT