Houston Informer, December 21, 1946.  Used with permission of the Houston Informer

Archer Welshes, Marshall Argues, Sweatt Appeals


The facts may be told by saying the hearing in Austin Tuesday was Act Two, with three scenes. The first consisted of the activity of the students of the University of Texas. The second consisted of the mass meeting Tuesday night, and the third was the courtroom comedy scene, when Heman Sweatt and the Negroes generally had another pie slammed in their faces by the Judge of the District Court, who had been handed the pie by the Attorney General, the Governor of Texas, the Bi-Racial Committee, [word unreadable] the joint action of the A. & M. [word unreadable] the University of Texas President.

The judge was so busy carrying out his part of the scheme hatched by those who control the state, and are determined not to give Negroes equal educational opportunities, that many people failed to see that he was welshing upon his own decree as well as the Constitution of Texas, the United States, and of the Gaines decision. Here the matter was before him on his own writ, which was ignored and the whole discussion and action was pitched on the question of how to keep Sweatt out of the University of Texas and arouse the least feeling. The state had been given six months to set up a law school, substantially equal to that of the University of Texas. At the end of the six months they had no university, and they had no definite or factual evidence of their being able to establish such university.

In honor, the judge should have ruled that Sweatt was entitled to enter the University of Texas, and as to the contentions of the state, he would take up those when the next applicant came, and they would then have whatever they were talking about in being, or at least substantial evidence on it. By all laws of honesty and reality, Sweatt should have received a writ entering him in the University of Texas, on the showing made by the state. All that the state contended for its own defense was that the judge should limit his decree to Sweatt and give them a chance to get ready for the next one.

Those who understood the play saw the ghost, in rather clear image, of our good friend W.R. Banks. One could almost see him standing with that eager and alert grin, behind Grover Sellers, proud of his part in the dodge, and hoping that in some way he would be noticed by the whites and seen and given credit for his work. For it was our good old friend Dr. Banks who had come down to Houston to talk to "the competent Negro lawyers" who were cited as ready to head his makeshift law school on the first of February. Banks is reported to have told one of his former students, on a recent trip to Houston that he had helped in the Sweatt case, but everybody could see how he had helped in the Sweatt case when Assistant Attorney General Littleton said that two competent Negro lawyers were ready to head this school.

Now that the issues are clear and the Negroes and whites are divided, Dr. Banks’ double role of talking big to the Negroes, and then going up talking sweet to the whites, with neither side ever knowing what he said to the other, is ended. Also, now that the sides are split and he has to choose sides, everybody can see which side he has chosen.

Likewise, those in the know could see in their mind’s eye the clear images of old man W.M.C. Dickson, more than three score and ten, and H.S. Davis, who is young enough to have belonged to the liberalism in the new group of Negroes; here these men were, having seaped [sic] through and gotten over to the other side by some peculiar process of reasoning which nobody understands. These men, being lawyers, would be presumed to have known that any participation in the scheme to set up this makeshift law school could not help but be used by whites to escape meeting their obligation to establish a full-fledged law school for Negroes. If they had just had the courage to stay out of it, the whites would have had the burden on them, and would have bestirred themselves to do something more nearly in line with right, truth, and justice.

Everybody knows W.R. Banks by this time, but there are a lot of people who don’t know W.M.C. Dickson and H.S. Davis. W.M.C. Dickson finished Boston university in 1907. He is a native Texan of Crockett. He has practiced in Houston since finishing law school. He has a good reputation for conservatism and of being meticulously careful in the type of cases that he tries. He has a general practice, but he majority of his cases have been in the probate court, the divorce court, and in small property types.

It is he who is contemplated as the Dean of the law school. So far as is known he has not returned to school or taken any refresher courses since 1907 when he finished. His practice has not carried him into corporation law, or into any public organization suits, and scarcely into any of the newer developments of law. So it is this man, who finished in 1907, and who has a very small library in his office, who is to be pitted against the professors of law at the University of Texas, who are for the most part Ph.D.’s [sic] and men of long experience in teaching, to qualify Sweatt as an equal student to the graduates of the University of Texas. It is this man, who has not taught law, who is expected to walk into the classroom and master automatically the art of teaching, to such an extent that he can equal the experienced teachers of the University of Texas. It is the opinion of experts that it takes a lawyer, who is experienced as a practitioner, at least three years to get the point of view and the knack of teaching law. It is this man, who must be well past 70, who is expected to do the arduous study necessary to master the subjects that are to be taught, and to teach enough students by himself to qualify Sweatt to be equal with the students of the University of Texas.

As to Henry Stuart Davis, the [sic] dispose of him by saying that it is [sic] least said the better. But we might generally admitted [sic] that he went to California and had a bad experience with the Bar Association and returned to Texas to practice. His bad experience was allegedly in the attempt to pass the California Bar. Davis admits freely that he is not claiming to be qualified to teach law. These are the men whom Dr. Banks led his committee to see, and these are the men referred to before the court Tuesday, when Assistant Attorney General Littleton told the court they he expected to establish a school at Houston, under Prairie View, and have two competent, Negro instructors.

The case is farcical further because the Attorney General relied upon the act of the Legislature in creating Prairie View a university and held that he act made it mandatory upon the regents of A. & M. to establish a law school at Prairie View whenever there was demand. Nobody called attention to the fact that the Legislature appropriated no funds. It is our poor understanding of the law that no act is mandatory upon any official group, when the means to carry out the purposes are not forthcoming or supplied. Somehow the records got twisted with money in the Governor’s Emergency Fund, because the Governor had offered to use some of the money from this fund in establishing the law school. But the merest school boy would know that the Legislature could not appropriate any funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund, and therefore, there could not have been in the legislative act any mandatory act on the regents of A. & M. All of the lawyers in the room knew that the Constitution prohibits the Legislature from applying funds from the General Education fund for higher education in Texas. Therefore, the very basis of the judge’s assumption was on false premises.

Neither did anybody point out the absurdity of the Legislature’s requiring an agricultural and mechanical college, restricted by the provision in the Constitution in their scope of training, to set up a university at Prairie View or anywhere else. The regents of the University of Texas can set up any branch of a university, because their scope covers a university, but the regents of A & M’s scope cover agricultural and mechanical work.

Neither did anybody point out that it is rather peculiar in the practice of Texas to say that the Legislature has set up a university at Prairie View, without creating a board of regents for such a university. There are no universities in Texas, set up by the state, that don’t have their own regents established. But in this case this so-called mandatory act of the Legislature required the regents of an agricultural and mechanical college to function for Prairie View as a university. A "comedy of errors" is what this act two should be called.

Now it moves up to the Civil Court of Appeals, and the Negroes may be prepared to witness the next act in this comedy of errors. After all, Judge Archer is elected and not appointed. Judges are usually conservative, and it is expecting a lot to find a judge in a district court who will blaze the way and bring Texas back into the confines of the principles of democracy and of justice. Nothing needs to be said about Attorney General Sellers, who made his usual plea on segregation. That little man Littleton is a pretty good lawyer, but any impartial spectator would admit that the lawyers for Sweatt were the best lawyers in the court.