Creating Caring and Nurturing Educational Environments for African American Children

By Curtis L. Morris; Vivian Gunn Morris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Alabama Politics and Scbool Desegregation: The Punting Syndrome

"The Alabama punting syndrome". . . a tendency to neglect constitutional problems in the political process until "the federal courts time after time have been required to step into the vacuum left by the state's inaction."

Judge Frank M. Johnson, 1976, p. 32


THE PEOPLE AND THE EVENTS

School desegregation in Alabama was probably more dramatic than in most states because of the political antics of former Governor George Corley Wallace. The struggle for school desegregation in Alabama might be considered a triangle involving three major characters/personalities: (1) the "Little Judge" from Barbour County, Governor Wallace, (2) the "Big Judge," Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., chief judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and (3) Attorney Fred D. Gray, one of two African American attorneys in Montgomery in the early 1950s. Ironically, Governor Wallace and Judge Johnson had been law school chums at the University of Alabama in the early 1940s ( Yarbrough, 1981).

Governor Wallace, with his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door," the "ring ins" around public school buildings (by state troopers), and the enthusiastic harangues against federal courts and federal officials, kept the spotlight of the nation on the school desegregation process in Alabama. His actions probably spurred the state public school system to become desegregated earlier and at a much faster rate than any other state in the Deep South. GOP Congress-

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