|©1946, Austin American. Reprinted with permission of the Austin American Statesman
December 18, 1946
Sweatt Case Heading For Highest Court
Mandamus Denied, Judge Gives State More Time to Act
The Heman Marion Sweatt case, in which the Houston Negro seeks admittance to the University of Texas law school, took its first step toward an admitted goal of the US Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon as attorneys for the Negro mail carrier filed notice of appeal of their case to the Third Court of Civil Appeals in Austin.
W.J. Durham of Dallas, counsel for Sweatt, whose mandamus proceeding to enter the University was denied in 126th District Court by Judge Roy C. Archer, said that he and his staff of lawyers had requested a final judgment in the state court in order that it could be started on its way to the Supreme Court.
Given Until February
"We intend," he said, "to take Sweatt's case to the Supreme Court if that action is necessary, and for that reason we did not leave jurisdiction of the case in Judge Archer's court, but asked a final judgment in order to serve notice of appeal."
Under Archer's ruling, given during a packed-house session of his court Tuesday morning, the state has until February to establish a "Negro law school of the first class" at Prairie View University. Failing that, according to the order, the matter is squarely open for his admittance into the University.
Action Filled Day
Notice of the appeal and a request for a list of papers filed in the long case wound up an action-filled day in Archer's court, which began at 9:48 a.m. Tuesday with arguments pro and con by Attorney General Grover Sellers, his assistant Jackson Littleton, Durham, and Thurgood Marshall of New York, chief counsel for the National Association of Advancement of Colored People.
A courtroom which was full at 9 a.m. and packed to the aisles by the time the case began, heard Archer declare his finding, which gave the state some seven weeks to establish the Negro law school.
Cites Board Action
Archer had given the state a six-month grace period June 17 in which to either comply with provisions of the State Constitution which guaranteed equal educational opportunities for Negroes and whites or have Sweatt's mandamus writ granted and his entrance into the university approved. A resolution, passed by the board of directors at Texas A&M College, governing board of Prairie View, which stated that a school would be put into operation there, constituted performance of the constitutional guarantee, he held.
"I am compelled to assume, and I do assume," Judge Archer said at the end of an hour's argument over the case Tuesday morning, "that the directors of A&M will put into operation a first class university teaching a first class law school in February. Feeling that they will, I am going to hold that that[sic] will comply with (Sweatt's) constitutional privileges.
"If that is not done," he continued, "the matter is then squarely open, on proper application, for an admission to the law school of the University of Texas."
'Only Piece of Paper'
Sweatt's attorneys, who withheld comment on the case until the final judgment was signed at mid-afternoon, termed the resolution "only a piece of paper" and not the law school which Archer's "do-something" order of June 17 said must have been established within six months.
"Your order," he told the judge "was given six months ago, and five months later the A&M directors got around to passing a resolution. It took them five months to pass a resolution to get started, and I fail to see, sir, how they can put into operation a first class school by February."
Sellers, who took the floor after Littleton's argument in which he took issues with cases on Negro education al equality in other courts, summed the state's case up by declaring that Texas is "due a reasonable time" in which to put the school into operation.
Sellers, whose summer campaign made a special issue of Sweatt's mandamus proceedings to enter the university, drew the grins of many Negro spectators when he declared, "I have nothing but the tenderest feeling for this applicant (Sweatt), and I would not be in court to oppose him today if prairie View failed to give him the law training he seeks.
"I want tot see the Texas Negro have educational opportunities equal to those offered the whites," he said, "but in the constitutional way,l which demand that the schools be segregated.
The A&M resolution, which provided that a Negro law student must obtain from the University of Texas law dean a certificate showing him as qualified to enter the law school, was scored by Marshall as "inequality, from which protection is given under the 14th Amendment" and said it "placed an added burden of entrance onto Sweatt or any Negro to take advantage of state-financed education."