|Houston Informer, May 17, 1947. Used with
permission of the Houston Informer
Attorneys For Sweatt and State Clash
AUSTINTuesday marked the second day of the court fight which not only will affect the matter of education for Negroes in Texas but throughout the South. Clashing in aims are the attorneys for the state and for Sweatt, the attorneys for the state are trying to show that they have indicated an attempt to establish a secondary school such as Lincoln university and thus come under the pattern of Missouri in the matter of education, while the attorneys for Sweatt are attempting to show that discrimination is inherent in the separate educational pattern in Texas, and thus force the Supreme Court of the United States to re-check the whole matter of segregation.
Tuesdays session began with W.R. Woodard [sic], chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas on the stand. Mr. Woodard testified that the board of regents had passed a resolution authorizing action to set up the abortive law school at Houston under Prairie View, even before the law itself had passed. His testimony showed that there had been consultation with the Dean of the Law School of the University of Texas, the Registrar of the University of Texas, with the legislators, and with the Attorney-General on their plan to make a record of what Texas would do for Negro lawyers some time in the future.
The testimony showed that the contemplated Negro law school in Austin is on 13th street, in the 400 block, about 100 yards from the Supreme Court library ,and about 8 blocks from the University of Texas, which is located on 21st street. Also that the permanent library for the Negro law school, consisting of 10,000 books, was merely on requisition, and had never been delivered to the building.
On cross-examination attorney Thurgood Marshall brought out that on March 10, when the school was supposed to open, there were only 150 to 200 books in the Negro school, It was also brought out on cross-examination that the privilege of using the capital law library which is the Supreme Court library, is open to everybody in Texas, and that the provision that Negroes attending the law school in Austin might use that library was nothing special and gave no particular advantage. Mr. Woodard, who is also a lawyer, was as evasive and elusive as A.D. Simmons, who testified for the state Monday. Mr. Marshall tried to make him answer the question as to whether or not on March 10, the date the Negro law school was supposed to have been ready, there were in equipment, in plant and facilities anything like facilities equal to the University of Texas, but to this good minute Mr. Woodard has never answered the question, despite the fact that Mr. Marshall finally appealed to the court to get a direct answer.
Repeatedly Mr. Woodard went into long discussions on the intent of himself and the board of regents to create a first-class, separate Negro law school, which would be the best for Negroes in the South. Constantly he refused to answer the question as to whether or not the school and dean, on March 10, were in any particular equal to or comparable to the law school at the University of Texas., open to all other citizens but Negroes. Most of his statement was on what was intended, and what would be done, and his belief that the passage of the law and the resolution to do these things meant that they would be done. But that they were not done at the time Sweatt was making application to enter the University of Texas because there were no facilities, he never would answer. Often when the questions got pointed, Mr. Woodard would deny any knowledge of the matter, despite the fact that on his direct examination he had professed knowledge of everything pertaining to the school. Little by little the cross-examination pulled the wind out of the tall claims of this witness, and had the attorney-General sweating and tense.
The next witness was Dean Charles C. McCormick of the Law School of the University of Texas. He had been dean for 7 years. On his direct examination before recess Tuesday, he showed that he was going to be very, very careful in his testimony and very cagy [sic]. But he also showed that he had some regard for his reputation in the legal world as an authority, and it was expected that on cross-examination he would be less free to make tall claims and so shamelessly evade answers. When this reporter left Austin court had adjourned for the noon recess Tuesday, Mr. McCormick had to finish his testimony direct and was to be cross-examined by Attorney James M. Nabrit.
Time after time the counsel to Sweatt made objection to questions put by the Attorney-General and was sustained by the court. The Attorney-General was so cocky Monday that he volunteered to put the states case in first, though normally it was the duty of Sweatts lawyers to put in their case first. By the time the session closed Tuesday, there was reason to suspect that the Attorney-General was not so happy at his choice. It was reliably reported that the Attorney-General, Mr. Woodard, the dean of the law school, and several others remained in the court room Monday for an hour after the session adjourned. Presumably, they were repairing their fences, which had been shaken considerably during the testimony Monday. Indications were that the state might finish its case in chief Tuesday afternoon. But there was great likelihood that the case would go most of the balance of the week, because Sweatts side had a number of witnesses, including experts, to testify.
It depended on the angle from which the evidence was reviewed as to the estimate that would be given and its effect. The Attorney-General was definitely trying to set up evidence that the state was in a position to establish, within a reasonable time, an adequate law school, and thus come within the decision which holds that if the state sets up adequate educational facilities within a reasonable time, that is sufficient. On the other hand, the attorneys for Sweatt are hammering teeth and toenail to show through every witness an inherent discrimination in the whole setup of Texas education as well as in the present scheme. Time after time, they left the states witnesses stuttering, on being asked if, as a matter of fact, the proposal being testified to was not obviously unequal and less than the facilities in the particular regard at the University of Texas. There will probably be the same sort of aggressive attack by the Attorney-General on the defenses attempt to bring in evidence showing fundamental discrimination under the segregation laws. Whether they can keep this testimony out will remain a question until the defense begins the case. But up to Tuesday noon the Sweatt case was in good shape from the standpoint of Negroes.