October 5, 1964: Heart of Atlanta Motel asked Supreme Court for right to discriminate

October 5, 2015

PG posted this photo in one of his collections at Chamblee54:

Heart of Atlanta Motel, 1956 - Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library

Heart of Atlanta Motel, 1956 – Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library

I wondered whether this is the motel in the case testing the 1964 Civil Rights Act — and sure enough, it is.  The case was decided, finally, by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964, Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc., v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) .

This important case represented an immediate challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark piece of civil rights legislation which represented the first comprehensive act by Congress on civil rights and race relations since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. For much of the 100 years preceding 1964, race relations in the United States had been dominated by segregation, a system of racial separation which, while in name providing for “separate but equal” treatment of both white and black Americans, in truth perpetuated inferior accommodation, services, and treatment for black Americans.

During the mid-20th century, partly as a result of cases such as Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932); Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950); NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958); Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960) and probably the most famous, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the tide against segregation began to turn. However, segregation remained in full effect into the 1960s in parts of the southern United States, where the Heart of Atlanta Motel was located, despite these decisions.

The Atlanta Time Machine, a great collection of photos in the history of Atlanta and Georgia, has more photos, and this description of the site:

The Heart of Atlanta motel, located at 255 Courtland Street NE, was owned by Atlanta attorney Moreton Rolleston Jr.  Rolleston, a committed segregationist, refused to rent rooms at his hotel to black customers.  Upon passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Rolleston immediately filed suit in federal court to assert that the law was the result of an overly broad interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.  Rolleston represented himself in the case, HEART OF ATLANTA MOTEL, INC. v. UNITED STATES ET AL., which  went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  Rolleston lost when the Supreme Court ruled that Congress was well within its powers to regulate interstate commerce in such a manner.  The Hilton Hotel now stands on the former site of the Heart of Atlanta Motel.

Texts in law school rarely have illustrations.  I know the motel mostly as a citation on pages of text, great grey oceans of somnambulent text.  This case is important in civil rights, though it is mentioned almost never in history texts.  What are these cases really about?  These photos offer us insight.

The Heart of Atlanta Motel aspired to greatness in the late 1950s and 1960s — evidenced by this publicity flyer photo from the Atlanta Time Machine; notice the flag flying for the motel’s Seahorse Lounge (Atlanta is landlocked):

Heart of Atlanta Motel publicity photo - Atlanta Time Machine

Heart of Atlanta Motel publicity photo – Atlanta Time Machine; not just a podunk “motor lodge,” but a “resort motel.”  Click for larger image.

For the 1960s, this place offered great amenities, including two swimming pools and in-room breakfast service.

Flyer for the Heart of Atlanta Motel, circa 1960 - Atlanta Time Machine image

Flyer for the Heart of Atlanta Motel, circa 1960 – Atlanta Time Machine image

This photo is amusing — I can just imagine the difficulties of launching a motor boat of this size in one of the swimming pools, obviously for a publicity stunt.  The photo is dated February 27, 1960, in the Pullen Library Collection.

Boat in the pool at the Heart of Atlanta Motel, 1960 - Atlanta Time Machine image

Boat in the pool at the Heart of Atlanta Motel, 1960 – Atlanta Time Machine image

To compare how times have changed, you may want to look at this aerial photo of the area, including the Heart of Atlanta Hotel, and compare it with modern photos which show the Hilton Hotel that replaced the property.

Rolleston appears to have had a big ego.  As noted above, he represented himself in this case, and he argued it in the Supreme Court.  Here’s a picture from about that time, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School “Famous Trials” site:

Moreton Rolleston, Jr., owner of the Heart of Atlanta Motel and the attorney who argued the case at the Supreme Court - UMKC Law School image

Moreton Rolleston, Jr., owner of the Heart of Atlanta Motel and the attorney who argued the case at the Supreme Court – UMKC Law School image; photo: Wayne Wilson/Leviton-Atlanta

You may decide for yourself whether this fits the old legal aphorism that a lawyer who represents himself in a case has a fool for a client.  The Oyez site at the University of Chicago provides access to the audio of the oral arguments.  Did Rolleston argue ably?  Rolleston argued against Archibald Cox, who went on to fame in the Watergate scandals.  This appears to have been Rolleston’s only appearance before the Supreme Court; it was Cox’s ninth appearance (he argued 20 cases before the Court in his career, several well known and notable ones).

Heart of Atlanta vs. United States was argued on October 5, 1964The opinion was issued on December 14, 1964, a 9-0 decision against Rolleston and segregation authored by Justice Tom C. Clark (one of Dallas’s earliest Eagle Scouts).

This was a fight Mr. Rolleston picked.  He was not cited nor indicted for violation of the Civil Rights Act, but instead asked for an injunction to prevent the law’s enforcement; according to the published decision,

Appellant, the owner of a large motel in Atlanta, Georgia, which restricts its clientele to white persons, three-fourths of whom are transient interstate travelers, sued for declaratory relief and to enjoin enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, contending that the prohibition of racial discrimination in places of public accommodation affecting commerce exceeded Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause and violated other parts of the Constitution. A three-judge District Court upheld the constitutionality of Title II, §§ 201(a), (b)(1) and (c)(1), the provisions attacked, and, on appellees’ counterclaim, permanently enjoined appellant from refusing to accommodate Negro guests for racial reasons.

Oyez summarizes the case question:

Facts of the Case 

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade racial discrimination by places of public accommodation if their operations affected commerce. The Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, refused to accept Black Americans and was charged with violating Title II.


Did Congress, in passing Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, exceed its Commerce Clause powers by depriving motels, such as the Heart of Atlanta, of the right to choose their own customers?

The decision turned on the commerce clause, and the reach of Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce.

Decision: 9 votes for U.S., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II

The Court held that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to regulate local incidents of commerce, and that the Civil Right Act of 1964 passed constitutional muster. The Court noted that the applicability of Title II was “carefully limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the interstate flow of goods and people. . .” The Court thus concluded that places of public accommodation had no “right” to select guests as they saw fit, free from governmental regulation.

Good decision. As my law professors described it, Americans enjoy the right to travel, a penumbral right of the Constitution. Inherent in that right is the right to rest in a hotel or motel at the end of the day, especially along a federally-funded highway, part of the U.S. Highway system or National Defense Interstate Highway System.

Heart of Atlanta Motel is gone.  The site is occupied by the Hilton Atlanta, today.

Interstate travel, and sleeping in hotels, continues.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Politician’s phrase went viral, perhaps not as he hoped

November 17, 2014

Mexico’s Attorney General said he’s had enough.

(Reuters) – After weeks fielding questions about the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with drug gang members, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo has had enough.

He’s not the only one.

  Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Reuters caption: Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Facing a grilling over the details of the case, which has sent shockwaves across Mexico and triggered outrage at impunity, Murillo sought to wrap up a news conference on Friday evening, arching his eyebrows with the aside “Ya me canse”, or “I’ve had enough”.

The phrase came shortly after he told the press that the trainee teachers were apparently incinerated by drug gang henchmen and their remains tipped in a garbage dump and a river.

Murillo’s words have gone viral, with #YaMeCanse and #estoycansado (I’m tired) among the most trending hashtags on Twitter in Mexico.

Protesters who have railed against the government’s handling of the case sprayed the phrase “I’ve had enough .. of fear” on the entrance of the Attorney General’s office overnight.

Many Tweeters said that like Murillo, they were tired – but of impunity, injustice and corrupt politicians.

Some tweeted that if Murillo was so tired, he should resign.

That was over a week ago.

What’s happened since then?

In no particular order:

Protesters at Mexico City's National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Protesters at Mexico City’s National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Image from Fox News Latino

Image from Fox News Latino (photo actually prior to Mexico Attorney General’s press conference)

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

I wonder:

  • Who has had enough?
  • Enough of what?
  • Demonstrations are worldwide; it’s not an Arab Spring, but some of these actions are eerily similar to events in the summer of 1968.  Do we sit on the cusp of significant change?
  • Do parallels exist between the loss of the 43 students in Mexico, and the loss of one man in Ferguson, Missouri?
  • Do these events have any effect on, or are they affected by, education reform efforts in the U.S.?  Other political events in the U.S.?
  • What are we to make of these events?
  • Is this enough? Ya basta? #YaMeCanse?
  • What should we do, individually, and together?
Cartoon by Marent

Cartoon by Marent

Quote of the moment: Judge Richard Posner, on tradition and marriage

August 27, 2014

Judge Richard Posner, 7th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals

Judge Richard Posner, 7th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away.”

Federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner, balking when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

Two states attorneys general argued before a panel of judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago yesterday that marriage between members of the same gender should be stopped because of tradition.  AP’s story explains what happened.

While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away,” the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same-sex marriage, Posner said, derives from “a tradition of hate … and savage discrimination” of homosexuals.

Posner is one of those guys who gives us hope for the human race, and hope especially for that branch of the human race known as Homo americanus ssp. ordinarius.

Appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, Posner is widely recognized as one of the brightest and most engaging judges in the U.S. today.  That’s a sop to all the rest, to call him “one of ” the brightest — to avoid making everybody else give up hope.

But he’s outspoken enough that most legal scholars agree he’d never survive a hearing to take a place on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The late Sen. Roman Hruska’s revenge, that we can’t get the best and the brightest on our highest court.

Posner is not content to sit on the bench and make high pronouncements.  He pushes America, courts and lawyers, to be better.  He teaches at the University of Chicago Law School (in a position not unlike that the young Barack Obama had).  Posner’s high-flying comment-on-anything-important style got cut back in the past few months when his blogging partner died — Nobel-winning economist Gary S. Becker.

It must be agony to be a lawyer defending a pointless, silly and destructive law, to a panel that includes Richard Posner.

Arun With a View captured the reasons Posner strikes fear in conservatives, despite his being a Ronald Reagan conservative.

Sketch of Judge Richard Posner by the late David Levine

Sketch of Judge Richard Posner by the late David Levine

NPR has a delicious interview with Richard Posner. Money quote

“I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,” [Posner] said.

And this

“Because if you put [yourself] in [John Roberts’] position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

Listen to it here and enjoy.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Texas Freedom Network’s emails — probably on the blog sometime soon.

Yes, I read Posner despite his errors, getting hoaxed by the DDT/Rachel Carson hoaxsters. That just indicates the danger of the hoax and the need to correct it and stamp it out.


“Some there are”: Antonin Scalia, rock music, and high school graduation in churches

June 17, 2014

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting to the Supreme Court’s denying to hear a case about high school graduations held in religious facilities, the denial of the writ of certiorari to Elmbrook vs. John Doe et al., 573 U.S. ______.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in the dissent.

But, he argues, religion is protected by the First Amendment, our music choices are not.

Read the dissent (way down at the bottom).

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

I suppose to some, high school graduation ceremonies are a lot like being forced to listen to rap music at intersections.  To others, high school graduations may seem akin to religious experience.  Not sure either view means the ceremonies should be held in churches.

This case is 14 years in the justice system.


Remembering the worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead at Texas City

April 16, 2014

April 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.

It’s a day Texans, and all Americans should note.  It’s an event we need to remember, because every point of the disaster is something we forget at our very great peril.  Thinking such a disaster could not happen again, and failing to train for these same conditions, contributed to the disaster last year in West, Texas.

67 years ago, in the harbor at Texas City, a large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription may be required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Gun rights advocates stalking Texas women arguing for gun safety

November 12, 2013

You can’t find it much in Texas newspapers, though Steve Blow at the Dallas Morning News had a good piece about it today (he’s a columnist, not a news writer).

Texas “gun rights advocates” have been stalking people who argue for safety for school kids.  You could see photos of it in all sorts of blogs and websites — but silence from most Texas media.

Cops in Arlington, Texas, seem uninterested because, they say, it’s legal to wave guns around in Texas.

But it’s not legal to stalk, and the on-line photos and other coverage should be warning to those nuts giving gun owners a bad reputation:  Every dog gets one bite, every stalker gets one visit, and you just had yours.

Here’s the skinny:  Four women want to agitate for rational laws to protect their children and grandchildren.  They chat about it in even public places, like restaurants and Facebook.  Four of them met for lunch, at a restaurant in Arlington, Texas.  A bunch of gun idiots decided to show up to intimidate them, with guns “openly carried.”

It hit my e-mail inbox as “Wee Winkie Parade.”  Here’s the photo from Moms Demand Action:

Photo of the

Photo of the “Wee Winkie Parade,” posted at the Facebook site for Moms Demand Action.

Here are the photographs offered by the intimidating group, Open Carry Texas:

Open Carry Texas's Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

Open Carry Texas’s Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

What would a rational person think if a group of gun-carrying people showed up after announcing they were coming to crash your lunch?

Arlington Police, perhaps with some wisdom, didn’t make arrests (avoiding confrontations with people waving guns in public is often an act of good discretion).  They noted Texas law allows hunters and others to carry non-handguns openly, if no other violations of law are involved.

Arlington Police, and Open Carry Texas may want to familiarize themselves with Texas’s anti-stalking laws, as described by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Information on Stalking

You have the right to defend yourself against a stalker. This page lists strategies that can help shield you from stalking.  You do not deserve to be intimidated or terrified.

Questions About Stalking…

What is Stalking?

A stalker tries to control his or her victim through behavior or threats intended to intimidate and terrify. A stalker can be an unknown person, an acquaintance or a former intimate partner. A stalker’s state of mind can range from obsessive love to obsessive hatred. A stalker may follow a victim off and on for a period of days, weeks, or even years. A stalking victim feels reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to self or to a family or household member or damage to property. Stalking can be perpetrated by the stalker or by someone acting on her/his behalf. Stalking can take the form of verbal threats or threats conveyed by the stalker’s conduct, threatening mail, property damage, surveillance of the victim, or by following the victim.

How do I Know if I’m Being Stalked?

The stalker may, on more than one occasion:

  1. Follow the victim and/or victim’s family or household members, or
  2. vandalize the victim’s property, or
  3. inflict damage to property–perhaps by vandalizing the car, harming a pet or breaking windows at the victim’s home, or
  4. make threatening calls or send threatening mail, or
  5. drive by or park near the victim’s home, office, and other places familiar to the victim.

Terroristic Threat

What is a terroristic threat?

Terroristic Threat is a penal code offense (Section 22.07). A person commits the offense of Terroristic Threat if he or she threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with the intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.  Penalty: Class B misdemeanor.

Texas Stalking Law

The law on stalking can be found in Section 42.072 of the Texas penal code.

How is stalking proven?

  1. Intent of stalker: Stalker has the intent or the knowledge that his/her actions will instill fear of death or bodily injury to the victim or a member of the victim’s family or household. Threats can be explicit (e.g.-stating that he is going to kill the victim) or implied (e.g.-veiled threats, hurting the family pet). Threats have to be aimed at a specific person; they cannot be general threats. Threats may be conveyed by the stalker or by someone acting on behalf of the stalker.
  2. Conduct of stalker: Conduct has to occur on more than one occasion and be directed towards the victim and/or the victim’s family or household members. More than one police report is not required. The acts may include threatening contact by mail or by phone, or damaging the victim’s property.

Penalty: Third Degree Felony- unless there is a prior conviction for stalking, in which case the penalty is upgraded to a 2nd degree felony.

If You Are Being Stalked…

NOTIFY THE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTOR’S OFFICES. All stalking incidents should be reported to the police. Request that each incident be documented. Request a copy of the report from your local law enforcement agency. Give police any written correspondence and report any phone threats. Put dates received on all correspondence from the stalker. Know the name of the law enforcement officer in each incident.

KEEP A DIARY. Obtain the names and addresses of witnesses. Complete records are essential to the successful prosecution of stalking cases. Write a description of each incident.

GET A PROTECTIVE ORDER if you are related to the stalker by blood or marriage, if you ever lived together, or if you have a child in common. To get a Pro Se Protective Order Packet call 800-777-3247. This packet will help you obtain a protective order barring the stalker from certain areas near your home, your work, or your child’s school. You can also review our Domestic Violence Protective Order Kit.

RECORD TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS. Tell the stalker to stop calling and hang up. Screen your calls. Write down the time and date the stalker calls. Keep recorded messages and give them to law enforcement.

TAKE PICTURES OF THE STALKER. Take pictures of the stalker if it can be done safely and write time, date, and place on the back of each picture.

KEEP ALL CORRESPONDENCE. Make a copy of anything you receive from the stalker. Touching the letter as little as possible will preserve fingerprints.

TELL EVERYONE. Give friends, co-workers, and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to document each time the stalker is seen by them.

Important Safety Measures

BE ALERT and aware of your surroundings, the people and things happening around you.

VARY ROUTES of travel when you come and go from work or home.

PARK SECURELY and in well-lit areas. Ask someone to escort you to your car.

BE AWARE of vehicles following you. If you are followed drive to a police station, fire depart-ment, or busy shopping center and sound the horn to attract attention.

ALERT MANAGERS or security at your place of business. Provide a picture or description of the stalker.

HAVE A SECURITY CHECK MADE by law enforcement of your home to ensure your home can be locked safely. Secure all doors and windows in both your home and vehicle.

MAINTAIN AN UNLISTED NUMBER. If Caller ID is available in your area, obtain the service for your phone.

DO NOT DISMISS ANY THREAT, written or verbal. Call the police or sheriff ‘s department and save any documentation.

MAINTAIN PRIVACY, never give out personal information to anyone where the information can be overheard. Remove phone number and social security number from as many items as possible.

DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN for yourself and family members in case of emergency. Decide on a safe place to meet and someone to call if problems do arise.
Revised: November 08 2012

Dallas’s Mayor campaigns for an end to violence against women.  Perhaps Moms Demand Action should move their lunches to Dallas.


About Florida

July 14, 2013

I don’t know.  It seems a little extreme.

But I don’t see anybody trying to stop Bugs.  Bugs Bunny, Florida, Zimmerman Trial, Stand Your Ground

Bugs Bunny deals with Florida

Undoubtedly copyrighted by Warner Bros. This is fair use. Thanks to Coyote Crossing.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Clarke at Coyote Creek.


A depiction of Bugs Bunny's evolution through ...

A depiction of Bugs Bunny’s evolution through the years. Regardless how Bugs looks, he usually reflects some of the more popular views of the day. Wikipedia image


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