U.S. v. State of Ala.

Decision Date06 October 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-7090,86-7090
Parties44 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 37,507, 41 Ed. Law Rep. 871 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, John F. Knight, Jr., et al., individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Intervenors-Appellees, v. The STATE OF ALABAMA; George C. Wallace, Governor of the State of Alabama; and the Alabama Public School and College Authority; the Alabama State Board of Education; Wayne Teague, State Superintendent of Education; Auburn University, a public corporation; the Board of Trustees for the University of Alabama, a public corporation; Troy State University, a public corporation, Defendants-Appellants, Board of Trustees for Alabama State University, a public corporation; the Board of Trustees for Alabama A & M University, a public corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Jeffrey A. Foshee, Dept. of Postsecondary Educ., Montgomery, Ala., for Alabama State Bd. of Educ. & Wayne Teague.

Ira DeMent, DeMent & Wise, Ronald W. Wise, Montgomery, Ala., for George C. Wallace, Gov. and The Alabama Public School and College Authority.

Richard F. Calhoun, Brantley & Calhoun, Troy, Ala., J. Frederic Ingram, Burr & Forman, William F. Murray, Jr., Birmingham, Ala., for Troy State University.

T.W. Thagard, Jr., Balch & Bingham, Montgomery, Ala., Edward S. Allen, Balch & Bingham, Birmingham, Ala., for Auburn University.

Robert L. Potts, Office of Gen. Counsel for University of Alabama System, C. Glenn Powell, Stanley Jay Murphy, Tuscaloosa, Ala., John O. Cates, The University of Ala. in Huntsville, Robert W. Rieder, Huntsville, Ala., for Bd. of Trustees--University of Alabama.

Frank W. Donaldson, U.S. Atty., Caryl P. Privett, Birmingham, Ala., Mark Gross, U.S. Dept. of Justice, William Brad Reynolds, Jessica D. Silver, Miriam Gisenstein, Michael A. Carvin, Washington, D.C., for U.S.

Solomon S. Seay, Jr., Law Offices of Solomon S. Seay, Jr., & Terry G. Davis, Montgomery, Ala., Armand Derfner, McClain & Derfner, Charleston, S.C., for Bd. of Trustees--Alabama State University.

J.U. Blacksher, Mobile, Ala., for intervenors John F. McKnight, Jr., et al.

Joe R. Whatley, Falkenberry, Whatley & Heidt, Birmingham, Ala., Donald V. Watkins, Watkins, Carter & Knight, Montgomery, Ala., for Bd. of Trustees--Alabama A & M University.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before VANCE and KRAVITCH, Circuit Judges, and BROWN, * Senior Circuit Judge.



This case presents claims of racial discrimination in the State of Alabama's system of public higher education. Complaints filed by the United States and a class representing students, graduates, faculty and staff at Alabama State University allege that defendants have failed to take affirmative steps to remove the vestiges of the dual system of higher education that resulted from the State's past policy of racial segregation. The nature of the claims--calling for an analysis of the racial character of public higher education in Alabama since the first public college was organized in 1831--raises a number of difficult and novel questions. Similarly, the nature of the relief sought--including a demand for increased funding and the transfer of programs to the historically black public universities--poses serious problems. By its very nature, this case cries out for a solution reached among the parties themselves. The United States, State of Alabama, Governor of Alabama, Alabama State Board of Education, the governing boards of the ten public universities, and the concerned members of these educational communities are surely in the best position to resolve the important issues this case presents for the future of higher education in Alabama. Their failure of leadership, however, leaves by default the responsibility with the courts. Faced with claims that the defendant institutions have engaged in racially discriminatory practices, the judicial system must examine plaintiffs' claims and, if meritorious, vindicate the constitutional and statutory rights of black Alabamians.


A. The Complaint of the United States

In January 1981, the United States Department of Education notified the Governor of Alabama of its finding that there remained vestiges of a prior, racially dual system of higher education in Alabama in violation of title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000d. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in federally assisted programs. After unsuccessful negotiations over a statewide remedial plan, the Department of Education referred the matter to the Department of Justice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000d-1.

The United States filed this action on July 11, 1983. The complaint named as defendants the State of Alabama, its Governor, the Superintendent of Education, the State Board of Education, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, the Alabama Public School and College Authority, and ten public colleges and universities. The complaint charges violations of title VI and the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. According to the United States, prior to 1953 the defendants had "established and maintained a racially dual system of public higher education." The complaint alleged that the enrollment of students and hiring of faculty at all schools in Alabama had been segregated by state law or by policy and practice. The complaint also contended that the two historically black schools, Alabama State University ("ASU") and Alabama A & M University ("A & M"), were continually given less financial support than the white institutions.

The United States alleged that the defendants have perpetuated that racially dual system. The complaint charged that since 1953, the defendants have continued to pursue policies and practices that have resulted in a public higher education system in which the institutions' student bodies, faculties, and governing boards are still substantially segregated by race. The United States requested that defendants be required to develop and implement plans eliminating the vestiges of this racially dual system of public higher education.

B. The Complaint of the Knight Intervenors

In January 1981, John F. Knight, Jr., and others described as students, graduates, faculty and employees of Alabama State University ("Knight intervenors"), filed an action under 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1981 and 1983 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. They claimed that the continued existence of vestiges of past racial segregation in public higher education in the Montgomery area violated title VI and the fourteenth amendment. These plaintiffs complained of the duplication of the programs at ASU, an historically black institution, by two predominantly white institutions, Auburn University at Montgomery and Troy State University at Montgomery. They argued that the State had failed to carry out its duty to dismantle the dual system of higher education in Montgomery. Their complaint sought merger of these two white institutions into ASU.

On September 15, 1983, the named plaintiffs in Knight v. Wallace moved to intervene in the present action on the ground that its outcome would be determinative of the issues in their case. The district court granted the motion to intervene and certified them as representatives for a class including graduates of ASU; black adults or minor children in Alabama presently attending, or eligible to attend now or in the future, any public institution of higher education in the Montgomery area; and black citizens who were, are or will become eligible to be employed by such institutions. 1

C. The District Court's Ruling

After extensive discovery and numerous pre-trial motions, 2 a month-long trial took place before Judge U.W. Clemon in July 1985. 3 On December 9, 1985, the district court issued its memorandum opinion, 628 F.Supp. 1137, which held that the state had never fully eliminated the vestiges of its prior, racially dual system of higher education. The lengthy opinion began by discussing the historical development of the dual system of higher education. The court examined the history of each public college in Alabama up to 1965 and found that the colleges were segregated by law and by custom. The court found that during this period black schools were given far less state funding than white colleges. The court also described how "[t]he Board of Education and State of Alabama took various actions which had the effect of stymieing the growth and development of both Alabama A & M and Alabama State College [ASU]."

The opinion then reviewed the status of each institution of higher education in Alabama in the period between 1965 and 1975 and listed a series of actions undertaken by defendants which continued the racially dual system. The court found that the expansion of the University of Alabama at Huntsville into a full degree-granting institution and the course duplication of Athens State--Calhoun Community College interfered with A & M's ability to recruit white students and faculty. The court also noted that the development of the Montgomery campuses of Auburn University and Troy State University served to duplicate ASU's programs and thus had a negative impact on white enrollment at ASU. In addition, the opinion found that the State's allocation of funds and programs further reinforced ASU and A & M's historical status as second class black institutions.

The court then made detailed findings as to the vestiges of the prior, racially dual system that presently exist in Alabama's institutions of higher education. The opinion examined the student enrollment, faculty employment, and governing boards at each institution. The court found that the student bodies at Auburn, Auburn University at Montgomery, University of Alabama at Huntsville and Athens State College, in addition to those at ASU and A & M,...

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