From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Gordon, James and Teresa (siblings)

September 7, 1956, Mrs. Louise Gordon attempted to register her children for classes at Clay Consolidated School in Webster County, KY, and was turned away by a crowd of 100 or more people. September 10, 1956, Mrs. Gordon again attempted to register her children for school and her car was surrounded and rocked by the crowd that included Mayor Herman Z. Clark. On September 12, 1956, James and Louise Gordon's children, James and Teresa, began attending the previously all white elementary school in Clay, KY. The children were escorted to school by the national guard, and there were hundreds of guardsmen patrolling the school grounds during the day. On the second day of classes, the Gordon children and one white child were the only students in the school, the others had walked out in protest. More than half the teachers did not report to work, and Minvil L. Clark resigned. Clark was a school teacher and he was pastor of the General Baptist Church.

In response to the attempt at integrating the school, it was ruled by the Kentucky Attorney General, Jo M. Ferguson, that the Gordon children should be denied admittance to the school because the Webster County Board of Education did not have an integration plan. Ferguson ruled the same applied to Sturgis, Union County, where Negro students attempted to enter the previously all white high school on the first day of classes and were turned away by a mob. To help keep the peace, Governor Happy Chandler had activated the Kentucky National Guard and the State Police. In Clay, KY, the Adjutant General of the National Guard, Major General J. J. B. Williams, was ignoring the news of the Attorney General's decision; until he heard from the governor of Kentucky, he planned to continue to take Mrs. Gordon and her children to and from school.

On September 18, 1956, based on the Kentucky Attorney General's ruling, the Union and Webster County school systems voted to officially bar Negro students from their schools. Governor Happy Chandler withdrew the National Guard troops. Louisville NAACP Lawyer, James A. Crumlin, Sr. filed suit against the Sturgis and Clay school systems in the Federal District Court: Gordon, et. al. v. Collins, et. al. and Garnette, et. al. v. Oakley, et. al. The cases were represented by Crumlin and J. Earl Dearing. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional. In December of 1956, the Sturgis and Clay school systems were directed by U.S. District Judge Henry L. Brooks to submit their desegregation plans by February 4, 1957. Both school systems complied and in September of 1957, Negro students were admitted to the schools.

For more see "Kentucky bars two Negroes at Clay School," St. Petersburg Times, 09/14/1956, p.1; "Some teachers join in boycott at Clay School," Louisville Courier-Journal, 09/14/1956, p. 1; and Wolfford, D. L., "Resistance on the border:  school desegregation in western Kentucky, 1954-1964," Ohio Valley History, vol. 4, issue 2, Summer 2004, pp. 41-62.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Webster County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Union County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Clay, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Sturgis, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Crumlin, James A., Sr.
NKAA Entry: Dearing, J. Earl
NKAA Entry: African American Schools in Union County, KY
NKAA Source: St. Petersburg times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ohio Valley history: the journal of the Cincinnati Historical Society (periodical)
NKAA Source: Sturgis and Clay : showdown for desegregation in Kentucky education

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  African American Schools in Webster County, KY

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Gordon, James and Teresa (siblings),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed December 13, 2018, http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/2772.

Last modified: 2017-10-28 14:35:35