Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do you know who Ura Bernard Lemon was?

Know your Bossier Parish history?  Do you know who Ura Bernard Lemon was?
In 1964 suit was filed on behalf of Ura Bernard Lemon to integrate the schools of Bossier Parish.  After fighting for three years, and arguing that the school board did not have to offer education to children from Barksdale Air Force Base, that they only did so by sufferance, in 1967 the system finally exhausted its last appeal.
The school system thereafter integrated all schools.

United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Reports
BOSSIER PARISH SCHOOL BOARD v. LEMON, 370 F.2d 847 (5th Cir. 1967)
BOSSIER PARISH SCHOOL BOARD et al., Appellants, v. Ura Bernard LEMON et
al., Appellees.
No. 22675.
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
January 5, 1967.
Rehearing Denied February 6, 1967.
Page 848

Page 849

J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., Shreveport, La., Jack P.F.
Gremillion, Atty. Gen., State of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, La.,
William P. Schuler, Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Louisiana, Louis
H. Padgett, Jr., Dist. Atty., Bossier Parish, La., for

Norman C. Amaker, New York City, St. John Barrett, Albert S.
Pergam, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., Jesse N.
Stone, Jr., Shreveport, La., Jack Greenberg, Sheila Rush, New
York City, for appellees.

Ford E. Stinson, Benton, La., amicus curiae.

John Doar, Asst. Atty. Gen., Edward L. Shaheen, U.S. Atty.,
Harold H. Greene, David Rubin, Joel M. Finkelstein, Attorneys,
Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for appellee-intervenor.

Before BROWN, BURGER,[fn*] and WISDOM, Circuit Judges.
[fn*] Of the District of Columbia Circuit, sitting by

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:
This Court has had to deal with a variety of reasons that
school boards have managed to dredge up to rationalize their
denial of the constitutional right of Negro school children to
equal educational opportunities with white children. This case
presents a new and bizzare excuse. Here the alleged reason for
the admitted discrimination is that the Negro children are
"federal children"; they are children of parents in uniform who
are stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base. Barksdale is a United
States defense base in Bossier Parish — a federal enclave. The
hair-splitting argument the Board has to live with is that the
Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall "deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the
laws" (emphasis added); since the children live at Barksdale,
they are not persons within the jurisdiction of the state. As a
corollary, Negro children of fathers stationed at Barksdale have
no right to attend Bossier schools; they are merely permitted to
attend schools (Negro schools) by sufferance, permission that may
be withdrawn at any time. The Board contends also that since the
plaintiffs do not reside in Bossier Parish, they cannot file a
class action representing all Negroes who reside in Bossier
The district court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss.
The court granted the plaintiff's motion for a summary judgment
and issued an injunction ordering the school authorities to
submit a desegregation plan for Bossier public schools. We
The district court found that the United States Department of
Health, Education and Welfare provided financial aid to the
Bossier Parish school system to the amount of nearly two million
dollars between 1951 and 1964 under the provisions of
20 U.S.C. § 631-645. In return the school board gave various "assurances"
to the United States that children of personnel stationed at
Barksdale would be admitted to the schools "on the same terms,
in accordance with the laws of the State in which the school
district of such agency is situated, as they are available to
other children in such school district. * * *" (Emphasis added.)
20 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(F). The court found also that subsequent
to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the school board
accepted payments from the United States amounting to half a
million dollars for operation of its schools during the year
The able trial judge, in an opinion we adopt as part of the
opinion of this Court, held that the plaintiffs have standing to
"[Although] these assurances do constitute a
contractual agreement * * * [a]ll Louisiana laws
providing for segregation in public schools were
declared unconstitutional in Orleans Parish School
Board v. Bush, 242 F.2d 156, (5 Cir. 1957) cert.
denied, 354 U.S. 921, 77 S.Ct. 1380, 1 L.Ed. 2d 1436
(see also Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board,
188 F. Supp. 916 (E.D.La. 1960), aff'd per curiam
365 U.S. 569, 81 S.Ct. 754, 5 L.Ed.2d 806). These Louisiana
laws subsequently were repealed. See La. Acts 1960,
1st Ex. Sess., Nos. 39 and La. Acts 1962, No. 128, §
1. We find no Louisiana law presently in effect
which requires the school boards of this State to
maintain segregated schools * * *. Defendants by
their contractual assurances have afforded rights to
these federal children as third-party beneficiaries
concerning the availability of public schools. Such
rights are identical in weight and effect to those
rights possessed by children who are entitled to
attend Bossier Parish schools simply because of
residence instead of by contract. Having thus
obligated themselves defendants are now estopped by
their contractual agreement, and their acceptance of
federal funds paid pursuant thereto, to deny that
plaintiffs are entitled to the same rights to school
attendance as are resident children. * * * We must
further find that the board's acceptance of funds for
maintenance and operation of schools during the
1964-65 school year shows that defendants intended to
abide by that contract by continuing to provide
education for federal children. This acceptance
constituted a further ratification of the contract by
which defendants agreed to provide such education,
and, therefore, it acted as a ratification of the
assurances given when the construction funds were
The court distinguished United States v. Bossier Parish School
Board, W.D.La. 1963, 220 F. Supp. 243, aff'd per curiam, 5 Cir.
1964, 336 F.2d 197 and United States v. Madison, 5 Cir. 1964,
326 F.2d 237 holding that the United States could not force
desegregation of a school system by specifically enforcing the
assurances extracted under
Page 851
20 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(F) from school boards receiving federal funds:
"Both bases for these decisions were changed by the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. By Section 601 of that Act
Congress expressly prohibited racial discrimination
in any program receiving federal financial
assistance, thus negating its original intention to
provide funds without disturbing racial
classifications. When defendants received and
accepted federal funds for maintenance and operation
of their schools under 20 U.S.C.A. §§ 236-244 after
the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they
became bound by Section 601 and now are obligated
to provide the education for which the payments were
received, without racial discrimination. (Emphasis by
the Court) * * * Consequently, plaintiffs are
entitled to bring this class action either under
Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or under
the contractual assurances by which defendants are
estopped to deny them the same rights to attend
desegregated schools as are possessed by children of
Negro residents of Bossier Parish."
For good measure, we add a few observations to the district
court's opinion.
A. Even if the school board were under no legal obligation to
provide public education to children of military personnel on the
air base, it could not provide that education subject to an
unconstitutional condition. See Hanover Fire Ins. Co. v. Harding,
1926, 272 U.S. 494, 47 S.Ct. 179, 71 L.Ed. 372; Wheeling Steel
Corporation v. Glander, 1949, 337 U.S. 562, 69 S.Ct. 1291,
93 L.Ed. 1544. The plaintiffs here had been admitted to the school
system, but had been denied the opportunity to transfer from a
Negro to a white school. Once the plaintiffs had been admitted to
the school system, they had a constitutional right to a
desegregated education, and have standing to enforce that right —
free of any unconstitutional condition precedent.
B. United States v. Madison County Board of Education has a
narrow scope. Here the plaintiffs rely on the "assurances" only
to establish their right to attend the Bossier Parish school
system. They do not rely on this frail reed to establish their
right to a desegregated education. To establish that right,
they rely on the Constitution. We think it clear that once the
parish has accepted funds under these federal programs, it may
not then deny the plaintiffs' right to attend school. Simkins v.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, 4 Cir. 1963, 323 F.2d 959, cert.
denied 376 U.S. 938, 84 S.Ct. 793, 11 L.Ed.2d 659; cf. Flagler
Hospital, Inc. v. Hayling, 5 Cir. 1965, 344 F.2d 950; Smith v.
Holiday Inns of America, Inc., 6 Cir. 1964, 336 F.2d 630; United
States v. Sumter County School Dist. No. 2, E.D.S.C. 1964,
232 F. Supp. 945. And once the plaintiffs have established their right
to attend school in the system, their standing to assert their
constitutional right to equal protection follows automatically.
The key point is that here individuals are suing to enforce a
national constitutional right. In the Madison County case, on
the other hand, the United States sued to desegregate the
schools. The United States was either 1) attempting specifically
to enforce the assurance demanded by 20 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(F),
or 2) attempting to protect the constitutional rights of persons
not parties to the suit. The suit was brought before Title IV of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided the necessary statutory
foundation for the Attorney General to sue to assure individuals
of the constitutional right to a desegregated education. The
Court's ruling therefore was limited in scope to the proper
method for the assertion of contractual, not constitutional,
rights. Contract rights are not involved in this case.
C. Finally, section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
No person in the United States shall, on the ground
of race, color, or national
Page 852
origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied
the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination
under any program or activity receiving Federal
financial assistance. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.
The defendants argue that this section is a mere statement of
policy, and that section 602's administrative remedies are the
only means by which it may be enforced. Section 601 states a
reasonable condition that the United States may attach to any
grant of financial assistance and may enforce by refusal or
withdrawal of federal assistance. But it also states the law as
laid down in hundreds of decisions, independent of the statute.
In this sense, the section is a prohibition, not an admonition.
In the absence of a procedure through which the individuals
protected by section 601's prohibition may assert their rights
under it, violations of the law are cognizable by the courts. See
Texas & Pacific Ry. v. Rigsby, 1916, 241 U.S. 33, 36 S.Ct. 482,
60 L.Ed. 874, Steele v. Louisville & N.R.R., 1944, 323 U.S. 192,
65 S.Ct. 226, 89 L.Ed. 173. The Bossier Parish School Board
accepted federal financial assistance in November 1964, and
thereby brought its school system within the class of programs
subject to the section 601 prohibition against discrimination.
The Negro school children, as beneficiaries of the Act, have
standing to assert their section 601 rights.
For the reasons given by the district court and for additional
reasons, any one of which is sufficient to dispose of the Board's
opera bouffe motion, we hold that these plaintiffs have standing
to assert their right to equal educational opportunities with
white children. "Negro children in the public schools have a
constitutional right to have the public school system
administered free from * * * segregation." Bush v. Orleans Parish
School Board, 5 Cir. 1962, 308 F.2d 491, 499.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.


  1. Jim, that is a fascinating read. I vaguely remember those days...started elementary school in 1965.

    I remember my folks talking about integration about that time. I lived in the school district that the BAFB kids were assigned to. So, I really don't remember a time when there were not black kids in class with me. There were not a lot, but it seemed like always some.

    Very interesting. A Google Search on Ura Bernard Lemon turns up nothing but the mention in this particular suit...well, at least for the two or three pages I went deep looking.

    Interesting read. Really. I can see the legal thinking laid out by the Judge. Hey, if you're gonna take the cash, you gotta go by our rules. That's true in darn near everything.

    Thanks for the little history lesson.

  2. I was 20 years old in 1967 when that final ruling came through. People your age on up (especially on up!) remember all of that very well.
    I've thought about doing a post on the 1950's and 1960's when I was growing up - from a racial perspective, just day to day stuff. A lot of younger people know there was segregation, but they don't really understand what it was like. One day I might tackle it.

  3. Tackle it! It would be an interesting read. I've explored some of the 1965ish to the days through graduation myself.

    With family notes, and the remembrances of those that preceded me. I'd read it...

    But, I know it's kinda hard to find time when you are the #3 ranked Louisiana blogger...

  4. Heh. I love statistics when they are in my favor!

  5. I know what it was. The blogmeisters picked up your old post on Foster running for Lt. Goober, and it made a big splash in the stat world.

    Be sure and call Foster up to thank him...

  6. Yep, everytime I mention him I get anywhere from 5 to 7 hits . . .

  7. Well, he's got a big family.

    Just sayin'...

  8. Talked with someone who was in and around that deal back in the day they said it was funny because bossier got the better end of the deal than all the other parishes and that Padgett did all the work only for j.b.j to bill the parish for legal feas and didnt do any of the work. They said that padgett got threats from the kkk but what they didnt know was he prior to being the da was a cia guy and he knew bossier wouldnt win so he worked for the best deal for the parish. Very cool stuff here Jim.


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