Opinion - Briggs - Supp.529

Dissent: WARING, District Judge (dissenting).

This case has been brought for the express and declared purpose of determining the right of the State of South Carolina, in its public schools, to practice segregation according to race.

The plaintiffs are all residents of Clarendon County, South Carolina which is situated within the Eastern District of South Carolina and within the jurisdiction of this court. The plaintiffs consist of minors and adults there being forty-six minors who are qualified to attend and are attending the public schools in School District 22 of Clarendon County; and twenty adults who are taxpayers and are either guardians or parents of the minor plaintiffs. The defendants are members of the Board of Trustees of School District 22 and other officials of the educational system of Clarendon County including the superintendent of education. They are the parties in charge of the various schools which are situated within the aforesaid school district and which are affected by the matters set forth in this cause.

The plaintiffs allege that they are discriminated against by the defendants under color of the Constitution and laws of the State of South Carolina whereby they are denied equal educational facilities and opportunities and that this denial is based upon difference in race. And they show that the school system of this particular school district and county (following the general pattern that it is admitted obtains in the State of South Carolina) sets up two classes of schools; one for people said to belong to the white race and the other for people of other races but primarily for those said to belong to the Negro race or of mixed races and either wholly, partially, or faintly alleged to be of African or Negro descent. These plaintiffs bring this action for the enforcement of the rights to which they claim they are entitled and on behalf of many others who are in like plight and condition and the suit is denominated a class suit for the purpose of abrogation of what is claimed to be the enforcement of unfair and discriminatory laws by the defendants. Plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to bring this case and that this court has jurisdiction under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and of a number of statutes of the United States, commonly referred to as civil rights statutes.1  The plaintiffs demand relief under the above referred to sections of the laws of the United States by way of a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction.

It is alleged that the defendants are acting under the authority granted them by the Constitution and laws of the State of South Carolina and that all of these are in contravention of the Constitution and laws of the United States. The particular portions of the laws of South Carolina are as follows:

Article XI, Section 5 is as follows: 'Free public schools.- The General Assembly shall provide for a liberal system of free public schools for all children between the ages of six and twenty-one years * * *.'

Article XI, Section 7 is as follows: 'Separate schools shall be provided for children of the white and colored races, and no child of either race shall ever be permitted to attend a school provided for children of the other race.'

Section 5377 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina is as follows: 'It shall be unlawful for pupils of one race to attend the schools provided by boards of trustees for persons of another race.'

It is further shown that the defendants are acting under the authority of the Constitution and laws of the State of South Carolina providing for the creation of various school districts,2  and they have strictly separated and segregated the school facilities, both elementary and high school, according to race. There are, in said school district, three schools which are used exclusively by Negroes: to wit, Rambay Elementary School, Liberty Hill Elementary School, and Scotts bRanch Union (a combination of elementary and high school). There are in the same school district, two schools maintained for whites, namely, Summerton Elementary School and Summerton High School. The last named serves some of the other school districts in Clarendon County as well as No. 22.

It appears that the plaintiffs filed a petition with the defendants requesting that the defendants cease discrimination against the Negro children of public school age; and the situation complained of not having been remedied or changed, the plaintiffs now ask this court to require the defendants to grant them their rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and they appeal to the equitable power of this court for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that they are suffering irreparable injuries and that they have no plain adequate or complete remedy to redress the wrongs and illegal acts complained of other than this suit. And they further point out that large numbers of people and persons are and will be affected by the decision of this court in adjudicating and clarifying the rights of Negroes to obtain education in the public school system of the State of South Carolina without discrimination and denial of equal facilities on account of their race.

The defendants appear and by way of answer deny the allegations of the complaint as to discrimination and inequality and allege that not only are they acting within the laws of the State in enforcing segregation but that all facilities afforded the pupils of different races are adequate and equal and that there is no inequality or discrimination practiced against these plaintiffs or any others by reason of race or color. And they allege that the facilities and opportunities furnished to the colored children are substantially the same as those provided for the white children. And they further base their defense upon the statement that the Constitutional and statutory provisions under attack in this case, that is to say, the provisions requiring separate schools because of race, are a reasonable exercise of the State's police power and that all of the same are valid under the powers possessed by the State of South Carolina and the Constitution of the United States and they deny that the same can be held to be unconstitutional by this Court.

The issues being so drawn and calling for a judgment by the United States Court which would require the issuance of an injunction against State and County officials, it became apparent that it would be necessary that the case be heard in accordance with the statute applicable to cases of this type requiring the calling of a three-judge court.3  Such a court convened and the case was set for a hearing on May 28, 1951.