Decision Date12 June 1962
Docket NumberNo. 14662.,14662.
Citation303 F.2d 863
PartiesI. A. WATSON, Jr., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Derrick A. Bell, Jr., New York City, A. W. Willis, Jr., Memphis, Tenn., Constance Baker Motley, Thurgood Marshall, New York City, on brief; Elwood H. Chisolm, New York City, B. L. Hooks, C. O. Horton, B. F. Jones, H. T. Lockard, R. B. Sugarmon, Jr., Memphis, Tenn., of counsel, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Thomas R. Prewitt and Frank B. Gianotti, Jr., Memphis, Tenn., J. S. AllenWalter Chandler, Memphis, Tenn., on brief, for defendants-appellees.

Before McALLISTER and O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judges, and STARR, Senior District Judge.

McALLISTER, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the district court denying a permanent injunction restraining the Memphis Park Commission and others from operating and maintaining certain public recreational facilities on a racially-segregated basis; approving a plan proposed by appellees for a gradual desegregation of certain of these facilities; and ordering the Memphis Park Commission to file, within a six-months' period, a further plan for the desegregation of all recreational facilities of the City.

In the complaint filed in this class action on behalf of appellants and others, it was alleged that the City of Memphis had denied certain of the appellants access to the Pine Hill Golf Course, the McKellar Lake Boat Dock, the Brooks Art Gallery, the John Rogers Tennis Court, and the Pink Palace Museum, solely because of the fact that they were Negroes. Prior to the hearing of this case in the district court, the City of Memphis had already desegregated the McKellar Lake Boat Dock and the Brooks Art Gallery; and the Pine Hill Golf Course had been desegregated prior to the time of the argument of this appeal. At the time of the hearing in the district court, the City of Memphis was undecided whether it would sell the John Rogers Tennis Court, because it was such valuable property. However, it has since been desegregated. As to the Pink Palace Museum, it was given to the City on the condition that it should be used only by white people, with a provision of reverter in the deed, in case of violation of this condition; and the district court ordered the City, within ninety days, to file suit in the courts of Tennessee for a declaratory judgment in order to secure a full adjudication of all matters that might affect the use, and reversion, and to determine what effect integration of the races at the Museum would have upon the title of the City of Memphis to the property.

It may be generally said, then, that the complaint of appellants as to the refusal of the City to permit them to use the parks specified in their allegation on the ground of racial discrimination has been remedied by the City through its action in desegregating the recreational facilities in question. However, appellants rest their claim on the other allegation of their complaint to the effect that the City of Memphis is violating their constitutional rights in maintaining and operating all of its other parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities upon a racially-segregated basis. It was in regard to these facilities that the district court issued an order requiring the City to submit, within a six-months' period, a plan for the total desegregation of all of its recreational facilities.

Appellants' contention is that the law permits of no delays on the part of the City of Memphis in effecting the desegregation of all its parks and recreational facilities, and that the district court was in error in not ordering all of the parks and recreational facilities of the City of Memphis to be immediately desegregated. Specifically, appellants claim that the district court committed reversible error "in holding that the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 75 S.Ct. 753, 99 L.Ed. 1083, which contemplates allowing a delay in the desegregation of public elementary and secondary schools, where certain conditions exist, is applicable in any action involving public recreational facilities." As contended by appellants, "logic as well as law requires limiting approval of delay to litigation involving public elementary and secondary schools, for attendance in such schools is compulsory almost everywhere whereas no one is compelled to utilize public recreational facilities."

The background of the case is as follows: The City of Memphis has a population of approximately 500,000 people, of whom 63% are white, and 37% are Negro. Approximately 100,000 children participate in one or more of the recreational activities sponsored by the Memphis Park Commission and carried on through its Recreational Department. This is a remarkable civic achievement on the part of the City of Memphis and its citizens. Of the 100,000 children participating, approximately 65,000 are white, and 35,000 are Negro. The Department sponsors many and varied types of recreational activities, including, but not limited to, competitive sports, such as baseball and basketball, as well as dancing and similar activities. The Recreational Department headquarters is itself operated on an integrated basis. All Negro Supervisors and Directors are paid on the same salary schedule as the white Supervisors and Directors; and the qualifications of white and Negro Supervisors and Directors are the same. The Recreational Department of the Memphis Park Commission is rated by competent authorities as the best in the South; and its recreational program for Negroes as the finest in the country.

Upon the trial, it appeared that the City of Memphis, through its Park Commission, operates and maintains 131 parks and facilities, of which 108 are developed, and 23 are undeveloped, or "raw" land, that 25 of the developed facilities are restricted to Negroes; 25 are open to both races; and 58 are restricted to white persons; that the facilities operated on a racially-segregated basis include 40 neighborhood playgrounds for white persons, and 21 for Negroes; 8 white, and 4 Negro community centers; 5 white, and 5 Negro swimming pools; 5 white, and 2 Negro golf courses; and 2 "city-wide" white stadiums. It appears that, over the years of the past, it has been the policy of the Park Commission to designate parks and playgrounds as white or Negro, according to the racial character of the neighborhood. Pursuant to this policy, at the time of the trial, the district court found that 6 facilities would be changed from white to Negro use in the near future and that, as a result, the ratio for community centers would be changed from 8 white and 4 Negro centers to, 1 integrated, 7 white, and 4 Negro centers; and for swimming pools, the ratio would be changed from 5 white, and 5 Negro swimming pools, to 4 white, and 6 Negro swimming pools. It appeared on the trial that the Park Commission had recently removed all racial restrictions at 3 "city-wide" facilities, namely: Overton Park Zoo, the Art Gallery in Overton Park, and the McKellar Lake Boat Dock. In June, 1961, the Park Commission's plan, which was approved by the court in the instant case, proposed to desegregate Fairgrounds Amusement Park at the end of 1961. This park, at the time of the hearing of this appeal, had already been desegregated. The Park Commission's plan also proposed, beginning in January 1962, to desegregate all 7 public golf courses on a three-year schedule. Four golf courses had already been desegregated at the time of the hearing of this appeal.

From the testimony of the Director of Parks of the City of Memphis, it appeared that, as each park and facility was desegregated, more recreational directors and supervisors were necessary and were appointed, and more policemen were required to patrol the parks and playgrounds. As an instance, the opening of the zoo on a desegregated basis made it necessary to increase the police protection there. The Director of Parks further testified that if there were immediate desegregation of all parks and playgrounds, the City would be obliged to reduce the number of available playgrounds in order to give the children full protection, and that such action would result in a denial of recreational facilities to a great number of children, both white and Negro. The Director also testified that one of the chief purposes of the recreational program was to cut down on juvenile delinquency of all children; and that one of the objectives, in this regard, was to keep as many children as possible "off the streets," during the summer vacation period. This objective would obviously be frustrated if numerous playgrounds were closed.

The Superintendent of the Recreational Department of the Memphis Park Commission, with thirty-six years of experience in the field of public recreation, testified that if there were immediate and total integration of parks and playgrounds of Memphis, "many, many of the playgrounds would have to be closed down"; more supervisors would be needed; there would be much additional violence and confusion; and, in his opinion, the playground system would be ruined. He had previously studied the matter of desegregation of golf courses in a number of southern cities, including Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, and New Orleans, where he had learned that there had been some trouble during the integration progress but no bloodshed or violence. However, he did state that with regard to the playgrounds in Memphis, they had been obliged, on occasion, to call the police because of rowdies and trouble-makers, at the Negro parks, as well as at the white parks.

In explaining what he meant by "confusion," the Superintendent alluded to an experience which they had in Memphis where, because of the large numbers congregating for certain events, at "one of the closing exercises for Negroes at Lincoln Park, we had bloodshed, and shootings, and knifings, and it became...

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3 cases
  • Evans v. Newton
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 17 January 1966
    ...speedy desegregation of parks in that city, concerned recreation facilities concededly owned or managed by the city government. See 303 F.2d 863, 864 865.4 The only Fourteenth Amendment case5 finding state action in the 'public function' performed by a technically private institution is Mar......
  • Watson v. City of Memphis, Tenn
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 27 May 1963
    ...a plan providing additional time for desegregation of the relevant facilities.1 The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 303 F.2d 863. We granted certiorari, 371 U.S. 909, 83 S.Ct. 256, 9 L.Ed.2d 169, to consider the important question presented and the applicability here of the......
  • Brown v. South Carolina State Forestry Commission
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • 10 July 1963
    ...integration of all facilities. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Order of the District Court was affirmed. 303 F.2d 863. The United States Supreme Court Reversed. Mr. Justice Goldberg in his opinion for the court "* * * Solely because of their race, the petitioner......

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