Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy

By James T. Patterson | Go to book overview

7
THE BURGER COURT SURPRISES

Rarely in American history has the membership of the Supreme Court changed as rapidly as it did in the next three years to the end of 1971. President Johnson, a lame duck in the summer of 1968, resolved to replace Earl Warren by elevating his friend and close adviser, Justice Abe Fortas, to the position of Chief. Republicans, however, anticipated victory in the angrily contested presidential election of 1968. Nixon, their candidate, had angrily denounced the Court for “coddling criminals” and was eager if elected to name a conservative Chief. His yearning to do so exposed a lasting legacy of the Warren years: appointments to the Court, which had come to play a key role in American life during Warren's tenure, were becoming ever more contested. A host of controversial constitutional issues—involving the Vietnam War, the death penalty, affirmative action, busing, abortion, and welfare rights, among others— might reach the Court in the near future. If Nixon could name a conservative, he might begin to banish the curse, as he saw it, of liberal judicial activism.1

For these reasons, Johnson's effort encountered unyielding opposition from congressional Republicans, who argued that Fortas, by privately advising the president, was guilty of conflict of interest. They also criticized Fortas for unethical financial behavior. Filibustering, they prevailed: at Fortas's request, Johnson withdrew the nomination. Further revelations in May 1969 then provided still more alarming evidence concerning Fortas's personal finances. Although Fortas denied any wrongdoing, he was unconvincing, and he left the Court in mid-May 1969

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Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Pivotal Moments in American History iii
  • Brown v. Board of Education - A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy v
  • Contents ix
  • Editors' Note xi
  • Preface - Contesting the Color Line xiii
  • 1: Race and the Schools Before Brown 1
  • 2: The Grass Roots and Struggling Lawyers 21
  • 3: The Court Decides 46
  • 4: Crossroads, 1954–55 70
  • 5: Southern Whites Fight Back 86
  • 6: Striving for Racial Balance in the 1960s 118
  • 7: The Burger Court Surprises 147
  • 8: Stalemates 170
  • 9: Resegregation? 191
  • 10: Legacies and Lessons 206
  • Appendix I - Key Cases 225
  • Appendix II - Tables and Figures 227
  • Notes 237
  • Bibliographical Essay 263
  • Acknowledgments 269
  • Index 271
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