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Fair Ways

How Six Black Golfers Won Civil Rights in Beaumont, Texas

By Robert J. Robertson

Publication Year: 2005

In the summer of 1955, early in the modern civil rights era, six African American golfers in Beaumont, Texas, began attacking the Jim Crow caste system when they filed a federal lawsuit for the right to play the municipal golf course. The golfers and their African American lawyers went to federal court and asked a conservative white Republican judge to render a decision that would not only integrate the local golf course but also set precedent for desegregation of other public facilities, as well. In Fair Ways, Beaumont native Robert J. Robertson chronicles three parallel stories that converged in this important case. He tells the story of the plaintiffs—avid golfers who had learned the game while working as caddies and waiters—and their young lawyers, recent graduates from Howard University law school, and the Republican judge just appointed to the bench by President Eisenhower. Would the judge apply the new principles of Brown v. Board of Education to the questions before him? Would he use federal judicial power to override state laws and outlaw local customs? Fair Ways gives an uncommonly vivid picture of racial segregation and the forces that brought about its end. Using public case papers, public records, newspapers, and oral histories, Robertson has recreated the scene in Beaumont on the eve of desegregation, describing in detail the parallel white and black communities that characterized the Jim Crow caste system. Through this account, the forces at work in the South—education, military experience, rising expectations, the NAACP, and the rule of law—are personified dramatically by the golfers, the lawyers, and the judge.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University

Title page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, white Americans in southern states instituted the Jim Crow caste system; they established laws and customs that codified longtime racial prejudices against African Americans and relegated them to segregated and subservient positions in society. African Americans opposed this racial discrimination from the beginning and over the years have...

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pp. xv-xvii

This history of golf course desegregation in Beaumont, Texas, features ten key persons: six black golfers, Booker Fayson, Joe Griffin, Bill Narcisse, Tom Parker, Johnnie Ware, and Earl White; three black lawyers, Theodore Johns, Elmo Willard, and U. Simpson Tate; and one white judge, Lamar Cecil. All these men have passed...

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pp. 3-5

On the morning of Tuesday, June 14, 1955, five black men hurried up the wide front steps of city hall in Beaumont, Texas. They passed beneath the tall fluted columns of the neoclassical building and pulled open heavy double doors. Dressed in Sunday clothes, the men were on their way to a regular meeting of city council. People who saw the men might have guessed something unusual...

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CHAPTER 1. Beaumont, Texas, 1955

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pp. 6-28

Booker Fayson lived in “the Pear Orchard,” a “colored” section of Beaumont, while Mayor Elmo Beard resided in South Park, an area reserved for white people. Likewise for Judge Lamar Cecil and all the others, white and black, involved in the Tyrrell Park golf course lawsuit: They lived in single-race...

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CHAPTER 2. Black Beaumont

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pp. 29-46

Forsythe, Gladys, and Irving Streets and Washington Boulevard formed the backbones of four districts that thrived with businesses owned and operated by African Americans. These districts were the home territories of Beaumont’s black middle class, a small group of business and professional people who evolved out of...

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CHAPTER 3. “Joe Doakes” in Beaumont

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pp. 47-66

"Joe Doakes” is a figure well known in American culture: He is “the ordinary Joe,” “Joe Blow,” and “GI Joe.” He (or she) is the hard hat in the factory, the lineman on the football team, the dogface in the army—generally he does the hardest work and receives the smallest paycheck. During World War II, “Willy and Joe” of the Bill Mauldin...

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CHAPTER 4. White Golf, Black Golf

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pp. 67-89

When Fayson, Griffin, and the others filed suit against the city of Beaumont, they had a two-fold purpose: They wanted to play golf at the municipal course, and they wanted to start dismantling the southern caste system in their hometown. In a strategic sense...

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CHAPTER 5. Crusading Lawyers

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pp. 90-109

To break the color line at Tyrrell Park, Booker Fayson and his fellow golfers hired two black lawyers, Theodore R. Johns and Elmo R. Willard III. They were young men in the summer of 1955, Johns being twenty-seven and Willard only twenty-four. Also, they were newcomers to the local legal fraternity. Johns had...

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CHAPTER 6. Lawyer Lamar Cecil

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pp. 110-123

During the summer of 1955, Lamar Cecil suffered serious health problems, including hypertension and others, but otherwise he had many reasons to feel good about himself. He had a lovely and affluent wife, three handsome children, a comfortable home, ample income, private club memberships, and...

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CHAPTER 7. Republican Lamar Cecil

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pp. 124-144

After his surgery, Lamar Cecil resumed his busy life, attending to his family, working in his law firm, and enjoying himself at the clubs. But somehow he found time and energy to pursue a new interest—Republican Party politics. Texas then was controlled entirely by the Democratic Party, at all governmental...

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CHAPTER 8. Judge Lamar Cecil

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pp. 145-163

After the 1952 Eisenhower victory, Lamar Cecil continued working in the law business, but he also capitalized on his newfound power in the Republican Party. He played the patronage game, exploiting and cultivating new friendships to get benefits for himself and fellow Republicans. In June, 1953,...

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pp. 164-182

Six months after winning the desegregation of Central and Tyrrell Parks, lawyers Theo Johns and Elmo Willard returned to the court of Judge Lamar Cecil and renewed their attack on the southern caste system. This time they went after a bigger prize—the desegregation of Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas....


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pp. 183-213


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pp. 215-221


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pp. 223-232

Image Plates

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pp. 233-240

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446105
E-ISBN-10: 1603446109
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444427
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444421

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University

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Subject Headings

  • African American golfers -- Civil rights -- Texas -- Beaumont -- History -- 20th century.
  • Discrimination in sports -- Law and legislation -- Texas -- Beaumont -- History -- 20th century.
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