For Missing Civil Rights Hero, a Degree at Last: In a Final Salute, University of Missouri School of Law Honors First Black Applicant

By Asquith, Christina | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, May 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

For Missing Civil Rights Hero, a Degree at Last: In a Final Salute, University of Missouri School of Law Honors First Black Applicant


Asquith, Christina, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


If Lloyd Gaines is alive, his law degree is waiting for him. The University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law has decided to award an honorary degree to Gaines 70 years after the university denied him admission because of his race. It is sad, but few expect Gaines to show up at the May 13th graduation. He disappeared mysteriously in 1939 and hasn't been seen since.

"What happened to him is one of the great unsolved mysteries," says law school dean Lawrence Dessem. "It's somewhat extraordinary to give this to an individual who we presume is no longer around."

A former high school valedictorian, Gaines was only 24 years old when he was last seen in Chicago in 1939. Months earlier, he had been the victorious plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case, Gaines v. Canada, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Gaines' fight to equal protection under the law was violated when the University of Missouri School of Law rejected his application because he was Black.

The Gaines victory was the first Supreme Court test of the "separate but equal" clause and helped open the door to the historic Brown v. Board of Education case 17 years later. But the personal victory for Gaines was short-lived. The court case drew national headlines, and the NAACP moved Gaines to Chicago after he received death threats. But before he could attend law school, he vanished.

"We know that he would have been an outstanding attorney because he had the courage to fight this unjust decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Tim Heinsz, former Missouri law school dean, at a 1995 dedication ceremony in which a $100,000 scholarship for minority law students was announced in Gaines' name. "Although 'separate but equal' remained the law, the decision that Lloyd Gaines won was one of the first successful assaults, which would lead to the eventual destruction of this noxious doctrine."

The University of Missouri School of Law did not graduate a Black attorney until the 1970s. Today, in efforts to fight past wrongs, the university renamed the Black culture center in Gaines' name in 2000, and the law school offers a scholarship in his name to minority students. Granting Gaines an honorary degree would be the final salute.

"It's the highest honor we have," says Michael Middleton, who in 1985 was hired as the law school's first Black professor. "He was an outstanding student dedicated to public service and a man of great integrity. The Lloyd Gaines story has inspired me since I first learned of it as a student."

A PIONEER FOR EQUALITY IN EDUCATION

The Gaines case came amid a surge in litigation in the 1930s on behalf of Black education rights in the South. Fueled largely by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall attacked legally sanctioned segregation by teaming up with ambitious Black students who'd been denied entry into graduate schools. While working on the Gaines case, Houston and Marshall were also arguing on behalf of University of Maryland law school applicant Donald Gaines Murray, who was also denied entry because of his race, and Lucile H. Bluford, who was seeking admission to the University of Missouri's school of journalism. In Murray's case, the Supreme Court agreed, and in 1938, Murray became the first African-American to graduate from the University of Maryland School of Law. However, Bluford's case was denied.

At the time, many graduate and law schools in the South were avoiding integration by paying the tuition of Black students to attend out-of-state schools. This, they argued, complied with the Supreme Court's requirement that an education be provided to Black students in a 'separate but equal' setting. The crux of Houston and Marshall's argument was that separate Black schools were never equal and that forcing students out of state for an education put an unfair burden on them.

Gaines was an honor student at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

For Missing Civil Rights Hero, a Degree at Last: In a Final Salute, University of Missouri School of Law Honors First Black Applicant
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.