1946, Austin American, c.1946. Reprinted with permission of the Austin American Statesman

Houston Man Refused For Law School

Attorney General Is Asked for Opinion On Admitting Negro

By MARGARET MAYER, The Austin American Capitol Staff

Heman Marion Sweatt, Houston negro, has been denied admittance as a student in the University of Texas school of law, university officials revealed Wednesday.

Acting Pres. T. S. Painter queried the state attorney general "whether or not a person of negro ancestry, otherwise qualified, may legally be admitted as a student in the University of Texas."

Dr. Painter's letter to Atty. Gen. Grover Sellers revealed the following facts:

Sweatt, scholastically qualified for admittance to the school of law, made application Tuesday. He pointed out that the University of Texas is the only state institution of higher learning offering facilities and instruction for the proper training in the law profession.

With Committee

Accompanying Sweatt was a committee of negroes from various parts of Texas. They stated their errand as "representing the interests of the negro citizens of Texas in procuring Immediate public; higher education facilities and instruction for negroes in the professional courses in the state, such as medicine, law, pharmacy, dentistry, journalism and others.

During a general discussion of the subject. Sweatt presented a transcript of his credits and asked to be registered in the law school.

A committee member said Sweatt was acting for himself and they had simply permitted him to accompany them to the general discussion of the subject.

Test Case

"It is apparent, however," stated Painter, "that this is to be a test case on the question of the admittance of negro students in the higher educational institutions of the state."

The committee told university officials present that negroes were entitled to the same facilities and advantages as white students in higher education and cited higher court opinions in support of their cause.

Registrar E. J. Mathews declined to accept Sweatt's transcript and refused to register him as a student pending the ruling by the attorney general. The registrar's action was with the consent and approval of Painter. "It has never been the policy of this institution to admit negroes as students," Painter stated in his letter. "In fact, to my knowledge, this is the first time a member of the negro race has presented himself for registration as a student in the University of Texas.

"Furthermore, it is our understanding that it has been the policy of the legislature of this state to of o provide for the separation of races for the purpose of higher education as well as separating the races in the public schools of the state."

Courses Authorized

While Sweatt was possibly the first negro to apply for admittance to the University of Texas, recent action of the legislature and university officials have contemplated such a move.

The 49th legislature passed a law providing that whenever there is any demand, the board of directors of A&M college (directors of Prairie View university) is authorized to establish courses in law, medicine, engineering, pharmacy, journalism or any other generally recognized college course taught at. the University of Texas In Prairie View university.

The emergency clause in the law stated "there is no adequate educational facilities for the education of the colored population of this state."

The board of regents of the University of Texas and the board of directors of A&M at their joint meeting in fort Worth appointed a committee to investigate "education for negroes in Texas and the responsibility of the University of Texas and A&M in this regard."

Move Unexpected

Dudley K. Woodward, chairman of the university board of regents, was questioned at that time as to whether the boards were considering admitting negroes to the two schools. His answer was that he was assured that the citizens of Texas had no fear that such a move was being contemplated.

The state constitution provides that the legislature "when deemed practicable" shall establish a college or branch university for negro youths, to be located by a vote of the people.

Prairie View university, not having been located by a vote of the people, is generally believed not the negro institution of higher learning provided for in the constitution.