Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama

Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama

Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama

Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama

Excerpt

In the struggle for racial justice, Dwight D. Eisenhower could hardly have been ranked as a stalwart. During the Little Rock school desegregation crisis, Ike for a time appeared no match for Arkansas's brand of massive resistance. Even as originally introduced, moreover, the Eisenhower administration proposal, which would become the Civil Rights Act of 1957, was more loophole than law. Thurgood Marshall exaggerated only slightly when he said of Eisenhower's second piece of racial reform legislation, "The Civil Rights Act of 1960 isn't worth the paper it's written on." As Daniel M. Berman aptly observed, "Mr. Eisenhower . . . chose equivocation and inaction rather than resolute leadership on civil rights."SUPSUP SUPSUP

In one respect, however, President Eisenhower had a profound impact on modern human rights reform in the South. Unencumbered by the dictates of senatorial courtesy under which his Democratic counterparts were expected to rubber stamp the choices of Democratic (and racially conservative) southern senators, Eisenhower had a relatively free hand in the selection of southern federal judges. And while their unreconstructed peers engaged in outright defiance or more subtle obstructionist tactics, many of the Eisenhower appointees to lower federal courts in the South withstood community pressure and vigorously enforced congressional policy and developing Supreme Court precedent in the civil rights field, gradually changing the complexion of human rights in the southern states.

In terms at least of his impact on human rights, Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., chief judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama until his elevation to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1979, was perhaps Eisenhower's most significant lower court appointment. Judge Johnson's selection to the bench in 1955 followed by only a few months the Supreme Court's second historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education. During his tenure, his court invalidated segregation and other forms of racial discrimination in Alabama's transportation facilities, voter registration processes, schools and colleges, administrative agencies, system of jury selection, prisons, mental institutions, museums, recreational centers, political parties, and government grant programs, among other institutions. In fact, most of the state's major racial crises -- from the Montgomery bus . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.