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The Cancelled

Little Rock, Arkansas

Concert, September 5, 1961


Supplement to

The Duke – Where and When

A Chronicle of Duke Ellington's
Working Life and Travels


Date of event Ending date
(if different)
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1961 09 05
Tuesday
.Little Rock, Ark.Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial AuditoriumStratemann:

'Ellington had canceled a Sept. 5 booking for Little Rock, Ark. when told by the NAACP that seating at this venue would be segregated. He made sure that audiences would be fully integrated in his next two locations. They were, for the first time in either hall's history.'



Disclaimer:
This is a superficial overview of the events as reported in the contemporary press from 1957 through 1963 and a brief review of various webpages as they existed in September 2019. While comprehensive, the webpages cited are not necessarily accurate or unbiased.

Historical background:

Summer of 1961

  • While the school issues were largely dealt with, in 1961 various city facilities such as parks, swimming pools, golf courses and the public auditorium were still segregated.
  • On July 18, 1961, attorney Wiley A. Branton wrote to Little Rock City Manager Ancil M. Douthit, following up an earlier meeting he and another attorney had had that summer about desegregating the public facilities, including the city-owned Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.
      "We offered to make some concessions if they would be reasonable," Branton said. "One concession was that we would not press the idea of integrating the swimming pools at this time if they would relax their ban (on integrated seating) at the Auditorium and the use of the tennis courts and the golf courses."
  • On July 27th, their suit said, the two attorneys met with Douthit and City Attorney Joseph C. Kemp and requested an end to segregation in public facilities. The city official said they would present the matter to the next regular meeting of the City Manager Board.
  • On August 14th, Kemp wrote Branton and Henderson to tell them the matter of racial discrimination had been referred to the Board of Directors at their August 7 meeting, but the Board had not reached a decision and had taken the matter under advisement.
  • On August 21, 1961, Associated Booking Corporation and promoter Beresford L. Church Jr. of Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc. entered into a contract booking Ellington and his orchestra for a concert September 5 in Robinson Memorial Auditorium.
  • The appearance was announced in the August 27 editions of Little Rock newspapers Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.
  • The NAACP then telegraphed Ellington, reportedly saying

    'that Negroes "do not believe that a world-famous artist who has contributed so much in the field of music and a recent recipient of the Springarm [sic] Medal (an NAACP award) would with advance knowledge give comfort and aid to the racists of this city to relegate the Negro to a second-class citizenship status."
      He said that Ellington's appearance on that basis would "do great harm to the Negroes program to gain recognition and decency in Arkansas's capital city." '

  • Al Celley called Church to cancel the concert.
  • The September 1 editions of the two newspapers reported Ellington had cancelled the show. The Gazette carried cancellation notices in its September 4 and 5 editions.
  • NAACP publicized the cancellation, with UPI and various newspapers across the country reporting it had announced Duke Ellington revealed a policy of refusing to play before segregated audiences.

Subsequent Events

  • Ellington's cancellation was widely reported and was referred to in the ensuing litigation.
  • By November 1961, Ellington's booking contracts began to include a rider giving Ellington the right to cancel an appearance if the audience was segregated because of race or colour.
  • The Auditorium and other city facilities remained segregated for another year and a half. In March 1962, 22 people including doctors, dentists and ministers, filed a class action against Little Rock's City Manager Board, the City Manager, the Auditorium Commission and the parks and recreation director in U.S. District Court, requesting an injunction barring them from enforcing "any law, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage" which prohibited Negro residents from using public facilities "in the same manner as white residents."
  • In February 1963 the Court ordered the city to desegregate the Auditorium, the municipal golf courses and playgrounds, tennis courts and facilities operated in connection with them.

RELATED PRESS COVERAGE


Arkansas Democrat 1961-09-01:

'Ellington Cancels Show Here After NAACP Pressure
  Famed Negro orchestra leader, Duke Ellington, has canceled his scheduled appearance in Little Rock's Robinson Memorial Auditorium, ostensibly because of the segregated seating policy of the auditorium.
  Ellington's cancellation became known yesterday after the orchestra leader was told of the seating policy by L. C. Bates, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  Bates said the cancellation may be a forerunner of a drouth of top-flight artists at the auditorium.
  He said the NAACP "knows" a lot of famous artists, both white and Negro, who refuse to perform before segregated audiences. "We will keep close watch to let them know what they are doing," Bates said.
  In his telegram to Ellington, Bates said:
  "Your presence here before a segregated audience will do great harm to the Negroes' program to gain recognition and decency in Arkansas's capital city."

Manager Cancels

  Bates said he did not get a direct answer from Ellington, but learned through the orchestra leader's road manager that the scheduled appearance has been cancelled.
  According to Bates, Ellington has scheduled appearances in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Dallas before racially-mixed audiences.
  L. Church Jr., secretary and attorney of Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc., promoter of the Ellington band's scheduled appearance, said his group had a contract with the orchestra leader and expects to recover its expenses now that the date has been canceled. He said expenses of advertisements and printing of tickets come to about $600.
  Church said several hundred dollars worth of tickets were sold for the Ellington show. He said ticket holders could get refunds by taking their tickets to Moses Melody shop, or mailing them to that address.
  The seating arrangement at the auditorium is set by the Auditorium Commission. E.E. Beaumont, chairman of the Commission, was asked whether the Commission will discuss its policy at its next meeting, September 12th. He said no discussion was scheduled.'

Arkansas Gazette 1961-09-01:

'Ellington Gets NAACP Criticism, Cancels
By BILL LEWIS
Of the Gazette Staff
  Duke Ellington cancelled yesterday a scheduled appearance of his orchestra at the Auditorium next Tuesday, signalling the start of an assault by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on the Auditorium's policy of segregated seating.
  Beresford L. Church jr., secretary and attorney of Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc., promoter of the famed Negro band leader's appearance, said that Al Celley, road manager for Ellington, had notified the promoters of the cancellation after Ellington had received a critical telegram from L. C. Bates, NAACP field secretary at Little Rock.
  Bates had sent a telegram to Ellington saying that the Negroes at Little Rock were "disappointed over your proposed appearance ... at Robinson Memorial Auditorium before a segregated audience."
  Bates said in the telegram that the Negroes "do not believe that a world-famous artist who has contributed so much in the field of music and a recent recipient of the Springarm [sic] Medal (an NAACP award) would with advance knowledge give comfort and aid to the racists of this city to relegate the Negro to a second-class citizenship status."
  He said that Ellington's appearance on that basis would "do great harm to the Negroes program to gain recognition and decency in Arkansas's capital city."

To Pursue Drive

  Bates said that the Negroes intended to pursue their campaign for desegregation seating at the city-owned auditorium. He cited neighbouring cities – Memphis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Dallas – as having already desegregated their auditoriums.
  Jim S. Porter Jr., president of Modern Music, said that several hundred tickets have been sold, most of them to white people. Refunds may be obtained either by mail or in person at Moses Melody Shop.
  After the tickets have been put on sale Monday at Moses, the music firm began receiving telephone calls from Negroes asking for their prices of the best seats. In line with the long-standing Auditorium policy, Negroes were to be confined to one section of the balcony, and this information was relayed to the callers.
  Bates called Church Tuesday to confirm the seating arrangement and Church, referring to the Auditorium policy, did so.
  Church said that the cancellation violated Modern Music's contract with Ellington and that this had been referred to the union, the American Federation of Musicians. He said the contract made no stipulation as to how the audience was to be seated.
  The auditorium manager, Arch W. Harville, refused to alter the proposed seating arrangement for the Ellington show (the policy is set by the Auditorium Commission, headed by E. E. Beaumont, vice president of the Commercial National Bank). To newsmen he declined comment.
  Recently, the Negro Junior Deputy Sheriff sponsored the appearance at the Auditorium of the Ray Charles Orchestra, an all-Negro group, appealing both to rock'n'roll and jazz enthusiasts. Normally this would have been confined to a Negro audience, but Beaumont said that members of the City Manager Board had urged the Auditorium Commission to make an exception and permit some whites to attend as spectators. The Negroes danced.

Link Not Clear

  Beaumont said that the appeal was tied in some way with an effort to increase support for a favorable vote for the Jacuzzi Brothers plant bond issue, subsequently overwhelmingly approved, by both white and Negro persons. Just what connection the two had Beaumont did not make clear.
  Modern Music is made up of 50 to 60 stockholders who have been sponsoring the Little Rock appearances of name performers and orchestras, principally in the jazz field. Porter said that their objective is not primarily to make money – although they did not wish to lose any – but to "bring the kind of music we like to Little Rock." The Ellington band was the first primary Negro attraction it had sponsored although Dave Brubeck used a Negro bass player in his jazz group when it performed at the Auditorium about three years ago, without incident.
  After Bates had sent his telegram but before Ellington had cancelled, Bates said that if he was successful in getting Ellington not to play at Little Rock, "we don't intend for it to stop. If this is cancelled, we hope we can get all you white people to help us."
  The cancellation raises the prospect that Little Rock might find its entertainment offerings considerably reduced. Theatrical producers' and actors' groups at New York agreed earlier this summer not to perform before segregated audiences as soon as existing contractural obligations would permit them to follow such a policy.
  Metropolitan Opera Company already has implemented that policy in annual appearances at Memphis and Dallas, among its formerly segregated stops.'

UPI wirestory:

'NEW YORK Sept.7 – (UPI)
– Bandleader Duke Ellington has revealed a policy of refusing to play before segregated audiences, the Natiuonal Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced.
  Ellington, who is on a tour of the southwest, canceled an appearance at Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday after the Negro bandleader learned that the band stadium was segregated.
  The NAACP said Ellington revealed his policy to the Negro organization after L.C.Bates, NAACP field secretary for Arkansas, told him about the Little Rock segregation.
  Ellington's tour includes scheduled stops in Dallas, Houston, San Angelo, Amarillo, Abilene and Midland, all in Texas.'

St. Petersburg Times 1961-09-11:

'Duke Ellington Won't Play Split Houses
  NEW YORK, N.Y.–Duke Ellington informed the NAACP this week that his band will not play before segregated audiences on his current Southwestern tour.
  This announcement followed his cancellation of a September 5th appearance in Little Rock's Robinson Memorial Auditorium after being notified of its Jim Crow policies by L. C. Bates, NAACP field secretary for Arkansas.
  THE ELLINGTON tour is slated for six Texas cities–Dallas, Houston, San Angelo, Amarillo, Abilene and Midland, all of which have traditionally provided segregated facilities.
  Al Celley, road manager for the Ellington band, notified Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc., promoters of the cancelled affair, of the band leader's decision.
  Ellington telephoned Bates and expressed appreciation for calling the discrimination to his attention and added that his contract was misleading.
  IN THE PAST, Negroes have been confined to one section of the balcony of Little Rock's city-owned auditorium.
  Bates later wrote the popular musician saying "cancellation of your personal appearance gave the racists of this city a setback in their nefarious scheme to abrogate the Negroes right to free assembly.
  "At the same time it gave the Negro added impetus in his campaign to win for himself recognition and human decency in this section of America," he said.
  ELLINGTON, WHO has been an NAACP life member since 1939, served as co-chairman, along with Margurite [sic] Belafonte, of the association's 1958 Fight for Freedom fund-raising drive.
  He was named the NAACP's 44th Springarn medallist for "outstanding musical achievements which have won for him not only universal acclaim, but also world-wide recognition of our country's contribution to the field of music." '

Arkansas Gazette 1961-09-13:

'Jazz Promoters Ask Auditorium: Will Segregation Policy Stay Intact?
By BILL LEWIS
Of the Gazette Staff
  Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc., appealed yesterday to the Auditorium Commission for some guidance in whether to try for future bookings, and got none.
  The Commission somewhat ruefully conceded that the looming issue of segregated seating was a problem, but that was the only concession.
  Beresford L. Church Jr., secretary and attorney for Modern Music, and Jim S. Porter Jr., president, appeared not to ask the commission to change its segregated seating policy but to ascertain whether any changes could be anticipated that would make it possible for them to continue to bring attractions which might have an appeal to both white and Negro patrons.
  They recently had contracted with the Duke Ellington orchestra ...
  Ellington's contract with Modern Music had no provision prohibiting segregation and his cancellation appeared afterward to have been motivated somewhat by financial reasons. The NAACP had threatened to boycott the remainder of his tour unless he conceded to its demands at Little Rock. Ellington's representatives said they preferred to pay Modern Music's expenses than to have the remainder of the tour boycotted.
  Modern Music, a group of some 50 stockholders whose prime interest is in bringing musicians, mostly jazz, to Little Rock and who say profit is secondary, faces an uncertain future because of the seating problem.

Commission's Fears

  The Auditorium Commission says it fears white patronage would drop if the segregation barrier were removed.
  Another factor is the agreement reached by producers' and actress' groups in New York this summer under which they will not perform before a segregated audiences in the future. . .
  Mrs. Grady Miller, a Commission member, perhaps summed up the group's attitude when she said she was "interested in keeping the Auditorium open, for the people, and making money."
  She said she didn't want to do anything that would upset the situation to the point that attendance would decline so much "that we lose money." The auditorium is self-sufficient, but barely so.
  Board member Ed Bennett told Modern Music representatives they were in a business that "doesn't look practical for Little Rock."
  He also claimed that desegregation "would be the end of the Auditorium."
  Porter asked what the commission would do in those instances where producers of shows coming to Little Rock insisted on desegregation.
  Said Mrs. Miller: "We'd be like Scarlett O'Hara - we'd take that up tomorrow." ...

Hope Star, March 9, 1962:

'Negroes Seek to Integrate Parks at L.R.
Little Rock (AP) – A group of Negro taxpayers has filed a suit to desegregate Little Rock parks and recreational facilities– only two years after the end of violence over school integration here.
  Wiley Branton, the Negro attorney who filed the suit in U.S. District Court Thursday, said he was certain the action would bring about desegregation of these facilities, since it is similar to suits filed in other Southern cities.
  "Without question the court has always ordered desegregation of all facilities" in such cases, he said.
  The group of 22 Negroes which filed the suit includes doctors, lawyers, clergymen and political leaders.
  The action asks for desegregation of the one white swimming pool, city parks, tennis courts, golf courses and even the municipal auditorium.
  There are separate swimming pools, auditoriums and tennis courts, but the city's two golf courses are for whites only. Negroes are not allowed to use the white swimming pool "by custom" said City Manager Ancit Douthit, but he added that the city enforces the custom.
  Negroes are allowed to use the five white city parks, and there is one all-Negro park. The zoo and a city-owned amusement park are not segregated.
  There was no immediate comment on the suit from city officials or segregationist leaders.
  Little Rock became synonymous with racial strife in 1957 when its high schools were desegregated.
  Gov. Orval E. Faubus sent National Guardsmen to keep Negroes out of Little Rock Central High School in 1959 after a federal court had ordered the school desegregated. Then President Eisenhower sent federal troops to get the students in.
  Violence followed at the school, then a year of enforced integration during which troops stood guard outside the building.
  Faubus closed the high schools in 1958 but in 1959 city voters voted out the three staunch segregationist members of the school board, and a group of moderates controlled the board and opened schools.
  A march on integrated Central High in August 1959 was stopped by club-swinging police and the organized resistance died on a street corner one block from the school building.
  Integration-linked bombings of school offices and city property followed and five men were sent to prison. Faubus later paroled them.
  The only racial incidents here in the past year were sit-in demonstrations, none of major proportions.
  Desegregation as an issue seemed a moot point in Little Rock, until Thursday.
  Members of the commission which controls the city auditorium said they feared white attendance at auditorium events might decline if the audience was desegregated.
  Branton said the auditorium would be able to book more big-name performers if the audience is not segregated. Duke Ellington canceled a concert here last September 5th when he learned his band would play for an all-white audience.
  Although the suit is not an action of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Branton said he had asked Jackie Greenberg of New York, general counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. to help in the case.
  Branton said the group of Negroes had discussed desegregation of public facilities with the city manager board, but had gotten nowhere. Douthit confirmed that the board had considered desegregation last summer, but had not acted.
  The suit asked for an injunction to bar enforcement of laws enforcing segregation.'

Arkansas Gazette 1962-03-09 pp.1, 2A

' U. S. Order Asked To Desegregate All City Facilities.
Branton Files Suit in Behalf Of 22 Leaders
By Jarell Garrison
Of The Gazette staff
  Twenty-two Negro residents of Little Rock filed suit yesterday in Federal District Court seeking to desegregate "the public parks, recreational facilities, Joseph T. Robinson Auditorium and all other public facilities at the City of Little Rock.
  The plaintiffs, who include six doctors and dentists and 8 ministers, said that segregation of these facilities violates rights rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
  The suit named as defendants the City Manager Board, City Manager Ancil M. Duthit, the Auditorium Commissioners, and William K. Amo, parks and recreation director. It asked that an injunction be issued barring them from enforcing "any law, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage" which prohibits Negro residents from using public facilities "in the same manner as white residents."
  Wiley A. Branton of Pine Bluff, the attorney who represents the plaintiffs, said the suit was similar to those that have been brought in other Southern cities.
  "Without question, the court has always ordered desegregation of all facilities," Branton said. "The day of separate but equal is out."

Previous attempts

  Branton said that he and Harold B. Anderson, a Little Rock attorney who also represents the plaintiffs, had negotiated with city officials last summer regarding desegregation of public facilities but heard nothing from them.
  "We offered to make some concessions if they would be reasonable," Branton said. "One concession was that we would not press the idea of integrating the swimming pools at this time if they would relax their ban (on integrated seating) at the Auditorium and the use of the tennis courts and the golf courses.
  Asked if he was still willing to make concessions in order to settle the case out of court, Branton replied: "Most lawyers are always willing to recommend to their clients that litigation be settled and to me this is another lawsuit."

The plaintiffs

  The suit is a class action "brought by the plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and other persons similarly situated." The plaintiffs in the order named, are Dr. Garmin P Freeman, a dentist; Dr. William Townsend, an optometrist; Virgil F. Gettis, an employe [sic] of the George Washington Carver YMCA; Ozell Sutton; I.S. McClinton, president of the Arkansas (Negro) Democratic Voters Association; Worth T. Long, a college student; Dr. M.A. Jackson, a physician; Rev. Charles C Walker; William Savory, a funeral director; Bishop O.L.Sherman of the AME Church; Dr. Jerry D. Jewell, a dentist; Dr. Oba B. White, a physician; Rev. N. Charles Thomas; Morris Fowler; Rev. J.B. Walker; W.L. Jarrett; Rev. O.B. Gillespie; Miss L. C. Reynolds; Andrew Jeffries, a mail carrier; Rev. C.R.Thompson, and Rev. James C. Jackson.

6 Municipal Parks

  Little Rock has six municipal parks. War Memorial, MacArthur, Rebsamen, Boyle, Allsopp and Gillam, the latter used exclusively by Negroes. There is also the Dunbar Community Center for Negroes.
  There are two municipal swimming pools, one at War Memorial Park for whites and one at Gillam Park for Negroes. Municipal golf courses for whites are at Rebsamen Park and War Memorial Park. There are none for Negroes. War Memorial Park and MacArthur Park have tennis courts for whites and the Dunbar Community Center has a tennis courts for Negroes.
  Douthit said that as far as he knew, Negroes may visit all the parks, but are forbidden by custom from using the swimming pool, golf courses at tennis courts that are intended for whites. He said this custom was enforced by the city.
  The city manager said that whites and Negroes already shared many facilities in the city parks. He mentioned the zoo and concession rides at War Memorial Park. He said the question of whether Negroes may use the picnic facilities at all the parks or the pistol range at Rebsamen Park never had been raised.
  Mayor Werner C. Knoop could not be reached for comment, but Douthit confirmed that the Board last summer had considered the matter of whether to desegregate all of the park and recreational facilities. "The board never did come to a decision that I'm aware of," Douthit said. He added that the Negroes had not contacted the city about the matter since August.

Request in July

  The Negro plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that part of their group and some other Negroes first contacted Douthit sometime prior to July 18 and complained of discriminatory practices in the use of the Auditorium and park and recreational facilities. The Negroes asked that the city "take the necessary steps to ease operating such facilities on a racially segregated basis," the suit said.
  According to the suit, the Negroes failed to get any action from the city, and employed Branton, who wrote a letter to Douthit on July 18 asking for a hearing. On July 27, the suit said, Branton and Anderson met with Douthit and City Attorney Joseph C. Kemp and requested an end to desegregation [sic] in public facilities. The city official said they would present the matter to the next regular meeting of the City Manager Board, the suit said.
  On August 14th, the suit said, Kemp wrote Branton and Henderson that the matter of racial discrimination "had been referred to the Board of Directors * * * at their official meeting on August 7, 1961," but stated that the said Board had not reached a decision and had taken the matter under advisement and promised to notify plaintiffs' attorney immediately when a decision had been reached.
  "Plaintiffs attorneys have heard nothing further from the said city attorney, city manager or any other public official of the city * * *," the suit said.
  Ozell Sutton, one of the plaintiffs and assistant director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, said that Negro leaders formed committees which called on various members of the city's Manager Board last July and August to present their case.
  "A lot of effort on the part of the Negro community has gone into trying to resolve this thing without litigation," Sutton said.
  Sutton said that on behalf of the Negro group he wrote a letter to the city [sic] Manager Board on August 24 asking what had happened to their proposal. He said that Douthit replied by telephone that the Board at not disposed of the matter and that he did he did not know when it would.
  "To us this simply meant that they did not plan to act on it," Sutton said.

'The Final Straw"

  Branton said that the Negro plaintiffs considered a number of factors in deciding to file the lawsuit, but that the "final straw" for many of them was Duke Ellington's decision to cancel his appearance at the auditorium.
  Modern Music of Little Rock, Inc., had contracted with Ellington's Orchestra to give a concert at the auditorium last September 5. In line with the Auditorium Commission's long-standing policy, the whites and Negroes in the audience were to be segregated. The Negroes were offered tickets in one section of the balcony.
  A few days before the concert, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent a telegram to Ellington criticizing his appearance before a segregated audience. The NAACP also threatened to boycott the remainder of Ellington's tour. Ellington canceled his Little Rock concert four days before he was to perform.
  The Auditorium Commission said afterward that it feared white patronage at Auditorium events would drop if the segregation barrier were removed. Mrs. Grady Miller, a Commission member, perhaps summed up the Commission's attitude when she said that she was "interested in keeping the Auditorium open for the people and making money." She said that she didn't want to do anything that would upset the situation. Other members of the Commission are E.E. Beaumont, Leo Byrne, Robert Carrick, Jr. and Ed Bennett.
  Branton said he thought a non-segregated seating policy at the Auditorium would help Little Rock groups to book big-name performers for the Auditorium. He said that some New York producers' and actors' groups had agreed last summer not to perform before segregated audiences.

What It Attacks

  Branton said the lawsuit "attacks racial segregation in anything that the City of Little Rock owns, manages or controls in any way." The case was assigned to Judge J. Smith Henley.
  Jack Greenberg of New York, general counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., is associated with Branton and Anderson in the case. Branton said he had asked Greenberg to participate.
  "If the litigation becomes involved we may call on his office for legal assistance," Branton said.
  Members of the City Manager Board, all defendants in the case, are Mayor Knoop, James F. Hewitt, H.L. Windburn, G.W. Blankenship, William F. Steinkamp, Byron R. Morris and Joe W. Brown.'

Arkansas Gazette 1962-03-14

'Board to Wait For Instruction On Auditorium
 The Auditorium Commission sat down to discuss its segregated seating policy yesterday but quickly decided to forego any discussion until it hears something further on how it stands in a suit filed last week in federal District Court asking for desegregation of the Auditorium, among other city facilities.
  The segregation policy was the first matter on the Commission's agenda.
  E.E.Beaumont, the Commission chairman, took note of this and reminded the Commission that the lawsuit has been filed.
  "It is my opinion," he said, "that there isn't anything we can do about it now that the suit is filed - either for integrating or for discussing."
  The others agreed and the Commission decided to wait to see what develops...
  Wiley A. Branton ... filed the suit for 22 Nicolas residents seeking to desegregate parks, recreational facilities, the auditorium and other public facilities of the city. The Auditorium is city-owned and is run by the Commission, which is appointed by the City Manager Board.
  Branton said Thursday that the final straw for many of the Negro plaintiffs in deciding to file the suit was Duke Ellington's decision to cancel his appearance at the auditorium last fall because his audience was to be segregated.
  The Auditorium also faces [the] possibility of not being able to obtain stage attractions because of a segregated seating policy...

Manager's Meeting

  The City Manager Board has not met since the suit was filed. Its members and other city officials are also defendants. There was no commitment yesterday that the subject would come up for discussion today at the Board's agenda meeting to determine what it will consider at its regular meeting Monday night. But several have expressed the belief that the matter probably will be discussed at the meeting, starting at 3 p.m.'

Arkansas Gazette 1963-02-14:

'Henley to Rule Against City
Suit Would Open Facilities to All
By JERRY JONES
Of the Gazette Staff
  Federal Judge J. Smith Henley said yesterday that he would issue a judgment in favor of 22 Negro residents who are seeking to desegregate the Auditorium and other public facilities at Little Rock.
  He said he had not decided how far the judgment would go in spelling out details of desegregating the facilities because he did not know who would want to use them in the future or which ones the city would own. For that reason, he said, the decree must be in general terms.
  A judgment ending discrimination is required as a matter of law, Judge Henley said.
  "There's no point in anyone deluding himself that the law is other than what it is on the matter," he told attorneys for both sides at a hearing in federal District Court yesterday.
  The hearing was on a motion by the plaintiffs for a declaratory judgment in their favor based on a response the city had filed admitting that the public facilities occasionally were segregated.
  The suit was filed May 8, 1962 and aimed at desegregating "the public parks, recreational facilities, Joseph T. Robinson Auditorium and other public facilities." The Negroes said that they had asked the city to take steps to end racial segregation of the facilities but that the city had not decided to do that.
  They complained that segregation of the facilities violated rights guaranteed ...
  City Attorney Joseph C. Kemp, who indicated that he had anticipated a judgment for the Negroes, asked that the judgment allow the city to give private groups permission to use the public facilities for private meetings. Such requests are made occasionally, Kemp said.

Cites Birmingham Ruling

  Kemp cited a ruling by a federal court in a similar lawsuit at Birmingham, Ala. That court said November 8, 1961, that although the city was not obligated to furnish recreational facilities to its residents any facilities owned, operated and/or leased by the city must be open equally "and on an identical basis" to all members of the public without discrimination.
  The court added in the Birmingham case that the city was not enjoined from "making a one event short term lease to a lessee who is sponsoring a wholly private meeting for its membership and their immediate friends." The injunction, however, barred "the leasing of public recreational facilites to a lessee to sponsor an event open to the public and permit said lessee to discriminate on the basis of race in the use of the facility or segregate in any manner on the basis of race those in attendance to such an event." The court said that "simulated invitational events" were withing the scope of its injunction.
  Kemp asked for a similar statement in the Little Rock case. Judge Henley said that would be no problem to the city, although he wouldn't "undertake to spell out all the details of what might happen in the future."
  As an example of what he was thinking about, Judge Henley noted that the Auditorium had some rooms and other facilities available for lease.
  "I don't see that the city would have any problem about renting one of those rooms or facilities, we'll say, to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for a meeting provided that the same facilities are available to other groups on similar terms and at a similar rate* * *."
  Judge Henley said that the fact the facilities might be rented, for example to a club that is opposed to damming the Buffalo River–a club, incidentally, that he said he might not be in favor of–does not mean that the city "has to inquire into the ultimate purpose or conditions of the association or membersip of that club."
  Kemp said that the city was "in a transitional period" and was trying to make desegregation more acceptable to some persons. Habits and customs are not changed by court decrees or legislation, he added.

'Encourage Acceptance'

  "We encourage the lawful acceptance of whatever decrees this court renders and hope that the public will accept it in the light that it is a law-abiding community," Kemp said. "Anything the decree spells out to encourage that would be helpful, but I don't wish to labor the point."
  Judge Henley replied tht the "status of the law" required a judgment for the plaintiffs but that "the extent to which the court can gauge the educational process in decrees is one that gives me somewhat more concern."
  "I doubt that I can undertake it to any considerable extent," he said. "However, these matters usually work themselves out and I think they will in this case."
  Harold B. Anderson of Little Rock, an attorney for the Negroes, said he assumed that the decree would cover the lessees or assignees of city facilities. Judge Henley said that was a fair assumption but he wouldn't try to cover any possible subterfuge that might be engaged in.
  "I'm not clairvoyant," the judge said. "I cannot assume that the city or its agents or lessees will undertake any simulations or subterfuge * * * I have no reason to believe that they would. Since the city fathers as well as you and the court know that these matters are always subject to judicial review, judicial attack, there wouldn't be much point in it."'

Arkansas Gazette 1963-02-16:

'City Is Ordered To Desegregate Most Facilities
Pools Not Covered; Auditorium, Areas For Play Included
By Jerry Jones
Of The Gazette staff
  Federal Judge J. Smith Henley yesterday ordered an end to racial segregation at the Auditorium and the city hall golf courses, tennis courts, playgrounds and the comfort facilities operated in connection with all of these.
  The decree apparently marked an end to segregation at virtually all public facilities except the swimming pool for whites at War Memorial Park and the one for Negroes at Gillam Park, were not named. Previous court decrees had struck down public school segregation, and the public library has been operated on an integrated basis for more than 10 years.
  The ruling permits the single - event, short-term leasing of the Auditorium for "wholly private meetings" for the membership of groups and their immediate friends but there must be no racil [sic] discrimination in the selection of the lessees or in terms of the leases.
  The ruling did not cover other facilities not identified in the record – including the swimming pools. It didn't because it was based on the pleadings in a lawsuit in which 22 Negro plaintiffs asked the city to say specifically whether the Auditorium and the city golf courses, tennis courts and certain parks, playgrounds and comfort authorities have been racially segregated. The city admitted that at times those facilities were segregated. No others were mentioned. The Negroes then asked for a judgment.
  Judge Henley said: "With regard to other facilities, not identified in the record upon which plaintiff's motion is based, and with respect to which no showing of actual controversy or injury has been made, the Court sees no occasion for the granting of injunctive relief. As to such other facilities the complaint will simply be dismissed without prejudice."
  "Without prejudice" means that another suit is not barred.
  Judge Henley said that the defendants and their successors, "their officers, agents, servants, employes [sic], or lessees" were perpetually enjoined and restrained from continuing, whether by ordinance, rule, regulation, custom or usage, the heretofore prevailing practice of racial discrimination, including enforced racial segregation, with respect to or in connection with the operation of the facilities" that were listed.

Pending since March

  The 22 Negro residents filed the lawsuit March 8th 1962 in federal District Court for themselves and "those similarly situated" asking for an immediate end to racial segregation in "the public parks, recreational facilities, Joseph T. Robinson Auditorium, and all other public facilities of the City of Little Rock." They complained that the segregation violated the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
  The suit ... mentioned swimming pools specifically only identifying Amo as supervisor of the pools and other parks and recreational facilities.
  Judge Henley had said after a brief hearing Wednesday that the law was such that the Negroes are entitled to a judgment.
  In a memorandum opinion yesterday he said "Ruling federal cases now establish beyond question that municipally owned facilities, whether cultural, recreational or otherwise, may not be operated constitutionally on a racially discriminatory basis, and the concept of discrimination includes forced segregation of races either with respect to facilities or with respect to accommodations, such as seating within particular facilities. This rule applies not only to facilities owned and operated by municipalities, but also to facilities owned by municipalites and by them leased to private concerns."
  He also said that it didn't mean that a city was required to maintain and operate such facilities for either whites or Negroes, or for both races.

Birmingham Case cited

  Citing a Birmingham case, Judge Hanley said, "The requirement is merely that if a municipality owns and operates or owns and leases a facility, that facility must be open 'equally and on an identical basis to all members of the public, devoid of discrimination in any form on the basis of race or color.'"
  Considering the pleadings and the city's admissions in the Little Rock case, he said, the Negroes thus are entitled to a summary judgment "with respect to facilities which are identified in the record with reasonable specificity."
  Those facilities, he said, appear to be the Auditorium, the municipal golf courses and playgrounds, tennis courts and comfort facilities operated in connection with them. He said an injunction would apply to that list.
  Little Rock has six municipal parks, War Memorial, MacArthur, Rebsamen, Boyle, Alsopp and Gillam. The latter has been used exclusively by Negroes. The city also has several playgrounds, and the Dunbar Community Center for Negroes. Municipal golf courses for whites have been operated at Rebsamen Park and War Memorial Park. None has been operated for Negroes.
  War Memorial Park and MacArthur Park have had tennis courts for whites, and the Dunbar Community Center tennis courts for Negroes.
  Douthit has said that as far as he knew Negroes shared many facilities in the city parks - including the zoo and concession rides at War Memorial Park.'
  • Associated Booking Corporation contract
    dated 21 August 1961, Archives Center, SI-NMAH, DEC301, Series III, Subseries A, Box 2, Folder 18

    Little Rock contract

    (click to enlarge)

  • Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Ark.,
    • 1961-08-27 p.10E
    • 1961-09-01 p.11A
    • 1961-09-04 p.13B
    • 1961-09-05 p.10A

      (click to enlarge)
    • 1961-09-13 p.13A
    • 1962-03-09 pp. 1, 2A
    • 1962-03-14 p.19
    • 1963-02-14 pp. 1, 2
    • 1963-02-16 pp.1,2A
  • Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Ark.,
    • 1961-08-27 p.14C
    • 1961-09-01 p.10
    • 1961-09-22
  • Hope Star, Hope Arkansas
    1962 03 09, pp. 1,6
  • UPI wirestory
    • The Record, Hackensack, N.J.
      1961-09-07 p.16
    • Oakland Tribune, Oakland, Cal.
      1961-09-07 p.E 3
    • St. Joseph Gazette, St. Joseph, Mo.
      1961-09-07 p.9
    • The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Ind.
      1961-09-16 p.13
    • St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
      1961-09-11 p.8-D
    • Other reports
      • Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Ark.
        1961-09-01 p.10
      • Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio
        1961-09-10 p.H4
      • Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
        1961-09-11 p.14
      • St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg,Fla
        1961-09-11 p.8-D
      • The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio
        1961-09-08 p.20
      • Alabama Tribune, Montgomery, Ala.
        1961-09-15, p.5
      • The Gazette and Daily, York, Penn.
        1961-09-30 p.16
  • Stratemann p.444
  • Vail II
...djp.