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in the South is not likely to persist. It is the last spasm of a dying social order founded upon racial inequality and intimidation. If the Federal Government makes it plain that it will not permit violence to go unpunished, these murders will dwindle, for the men who commit them are as cowardly as they are despicable.
The fact that the three men who were accused of the murder of Mrs. Liuzzo and acquitted in a state court were subsequently convicted in a Federal court of conspiracy to deprive the dead woman of her civil rights is not a sufficient answer to the problem. A conspiracy statute is an awkward device with which to prosecute a capital offense, and the penalties possible under it are incommensurate with the gravity of the crime. A Federal law facing up to the full range and seriousness of these crimes is necessary. Murder can no longer go unpunished.
[From the Bostor. Globe, Dec. 11, 1965)
WHAT COULD WE EXPECT? The trial of three men in Selma, Ala., for the murder of the Rev. James J. Reeb of Boston has ended with the acquittal of all three. The jury's verdict was what had been expected.
Fifteen white spectators in the courtroom applauded, and 100 Negroes groaned.
This is not to say that the verdict was not necessarily in accordance with what evidence was presented. Perhaps it was. But when the defense counsel called it "a tribute to the jury system,” he should have said, "Southern jury system,” which allows the brother of a witness to be a juror,
The Reeb case, in any event, is not ended any more than the quest for justice is. Other recent cases in the South have shown that the Federal Government can invoke the new Civil Rights Act against acquitted defendants. It should do so now.
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Reverend Jones. One of these observers was Mr. Daniel B. Bickford, a former prosecuting attorney in the Boston area, and special counsel for the Unitarian Universalist Association. I was the other.
I would like to take up each title of the bill, in order, and comment on each.
TITLES I AND II.-FEDERAL AND STATE JURIES
We are in general accord with the provisions of titles I and II relating to insuring fair representation of a cross section of the community on grand and petit juries in Federal and State jurisdictions. However, we wonder if too much reliance is placed on the defendants or litigants to initiate action on discrimination in selection of jurors.
We suggest consideration be given an automatic triggering device similar to that enacted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 where, as you know, Federal examiners, or registrars, are authorized to be sent into
any State where that State's voter registration or total vote in the 1964 presidential election was less than 50 percent of the votingage population. This has proven to be a most effective way of getting the desired goal achieved, as witness the registration of thousands of new Negro voters in the Deep South.
Federal action to insure representative juries should be triggered upon a finding that, over a certain period of time, the jury selection failed to adequately reflect a cross section of the population of the district.
An acceptable formula is found in the Douglas-Case bill, S. 2923, providing Federal action "whenever it is shown that over a period of two years the ratio which the number of persons of any race or color within the county or other political subdivision bears to the total population of said county or other political subdivision exceeds by one-third or more the ratio which the number of persons of that race or color serving on grand and petit juries bears to the total number of persons serving on such juries, or the ratio which the number of persons of that race or color registered to vote bears to the total number of persons registered to vote * * *
TITLE III.--NONDISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OTHER
We are delighted that the administration is providing better enforcement tools for achieving desegregation of public schools and public facilities by giving the Attorney General power to institute civil actions in these cases. It was placing too heavy a burden on
individual persons, subject to extreme community pressures and intimidation, to take the initiative by written complaint as provided in the 1964 act. And it was a needless timewaster to require the Attorney General to sue only if he determines that the aggrieved person or other interested groups are unable to afford the burden of litigation themselves.
Adoption of title III should speed up the process of desegregation of the public schools and other public facilities. It is now 12 years since the Brown decision and, according to the U.S. Office of Education, only 7.5 percent of the Negro students in the 11 States of the Deep South are enrolled in school this year with white pupils. This is still tokenism and unfair to a generation of children.
TITLE IV.- PREVENTION OF DISCRIMINATION IN THE SALE OR RENTAL OF
President Johnson has thrown down a challenge to all of us to break the vicious circle of discrimination and segregation by attacking head on the problem of the ghettoizing of the Negro and other minority groups. This is a problem of increasing severity in our northern cities and metropolitan areas.
The Negro, the Puerto Rican, the Mexican-American has not, generally, been able to participate in the great post-World War II move to the suburbs of his white brother. The move outward from the core city, with its decaying slums and drab neighborhoods into the suburbs with their new homes and with new well-equipped and staffed schools to serve their children, has meant a liberation for many millions of our people. The members of minority groups have not shared in this liberation and instead have been kept confined to the least desirable neighborhoods by a "white noose" around the core cities.
If I may depart from my text for a moment I would like to cite a little personal experience here because in my local community I serve as the chairman of the real estate subcommittee on the fair housing committee in Charlottesville and Albemarle. For the past year we have been trying to find homes for Negro families outside of the ghetto area. These families range in economic status from a postal employee at one end of the scale to an executive of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare at the other. These persons by any fair standards would make good neighbors in any community. And yet we have been rebuffed place after place, not only by private owners, but by realtors.
I may say also that the persons coming to us for relief or help in this respect have in many cases long since exhausted all efforts to obtain housing through the realtors in the community. It is not that all realtors are unsympathetic. Several of them are sympathetic. But under the present circumstances they are unable economically to take the risk even of showing houses to these persons, although they are personally qualified as neighbors by any other standard.
I think that the passage of a law of this kind would remove the onus from these willing realtors, and open the door for a freer movement out of the ghetto into the suburbs where they would be perfectly good neighbors by any normal standards.
We are impressed with the broad coverage of this title and we think it extremely important that the Congress make manifest, as in section 401, that:
It is the policy of the United States to prevent, and the right of every person to be protected against, discrimination on account of race, color, religion, or national origin in the purchase, rental, lease, financing, use and occupancy of housing throughout the nation.
We are disappointed that the President did not see fit to do by executive means what he is now asking by legislative means. We would rather have had him extend President Kennedy's Executive Order No. 11063 on Equal Opportunity in Housing to include all mortgage loans made by financing institutions which are regulated or supervised by the Federal Government and to broaden coverage of the order to include all federally assisted housing, not just that built after November 20, 1962.
Also, we feel the housing title may have the same defect which is found in the equal employment opportunity title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; namely, that reliance for enforcement is placed on the courts and no administrative remedy is possible. This title would be greatly strengthened if an administrative agency—a commission on equal opportunity in housing, for example—were empowered to issue cease and desist orders when it finds cases of discrimination in housing. Of course, to safeguard rights of all parties, judicial review of administrative actions should be provided.
TITLE V.-INTERFERENCE WITH RIGHTS
This title is, perhaps, the most urgently needed civil rights reform at this time.
Tragically, as the advances in civil rights and equality under the law have been made, certain persons, feeling they can no longer preserve the old ways of segregation and subjugation by legal means, have resorted to terror and violence. The night rider and the bomber and sniper have made their reappearance in American life.
Striking in the nighttime on a lonely road, or even in broad daylight on a peaceful Sunday morning, these terrorists have sought to cow the Negro into acceptance of the second-class station in life which has been his for so long. And the white person who tries to aid the Negro in his cause finds that he, too, is in danger of life and limb from these same cowardly terrorist elements.
The list of the victims of terror is long and it is interracial—the four little Sunday school girls in Birmingham-Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Diane Wesley; the three civil rights workers, two white, one Negro, killed in Philadelphia, Miss.Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, Medgar Evers, shot and killed in front of his Jackson, Miss., home; Lemuel Penn, gunned down on a Georgia highway, and last spring, in fast succession, Jimmie Lee Jackson, fatally wounded by police in Marion, Ala., the Reverend James Reeb mortally clubbed in the streets of Selma, and Mrs. Viola Greeg Liuzzo, shot to death on Highway 50 following the Selma-Montgomery march, and last summer the Rev. erend Jonathan Daniels shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Ala.
Many more killings, physical assaults, and bombings could be listed. Most of these crimes are unsolved, and the killers and assailants have gone unpunished. It goes without saying that much of the violence has taken place because the perpetrators thought they could commit these crimes with impunity--they knew that southern white juries would acquit regardless of evidence and they knew there is no Federal crime for murder, and penalties under the old Reconstruction statutes are light.
Some 93 deaths attributable to race or civil rights activity have been documented by the Southern Regional Council from May 1957 to September 1965. Birmingham has had at least 29 bombings since 1957. Some 35 churches were burned and 31 homes and other buildings bombed or burned in Mississippi in a 4-month period of 1964.
This terror hit home to those of us of the Unitarian Universalist movement in the past year. James J. Reeb, a dedicated young man, a member of our Commission on Religion and Race, who worked hard in this city and in Boston to help the poor and defenseless and to bring the races together, was one of our ministers.
Donald A. Thompson, minister of our church in Jackson, Miss., active in the Mississippi Council on Human Relations, was struck down in a shotgun ambush last summer within a few days of the Jonathan Daniels slaying. Luckily, Mr. Thompson survived this unsolved shooting.
And, of course, we are all very well aware of the recent shooting of Mr. James Meredith.
Title V will do much to strengthen the defects found in both sections 241 and 242 of the U.S. Criminal Code, in that it specifies the rights protected by the Constitution and the 14th amendment.
Furthermore, it makes violations of these rights punishable by penalties that fit the crime. Whereas, sections 241 and 242 carry maximum sentences of 10 years and 1 year, respectively, this new title will carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for taking a life.
Here again I would like to make a parenthetical comment.
As a longtime opponent of capital punishment, I am very happy that this was made the supreme punishment for taking a life. It is my belief that State laws which prescribe capital punishment for these crimes actually work against the bringing in of verdicts against white persons accused of killing other persons in racial strife.
I am sure I cannot prove this, I feel this—that in the case of the accused slayers of James Reeb, this was a factor in the background of the jury's mind. There were other factors there which played a part in arriving at their verdict.
Again, I can only speak of my own opinion. I felt that the court tried very hard to execute the law justly, but there were some odd things. Although there were numerous Negroes in the original panel, none of them appeared on the final jury. One of the jurists turned out to be a brother of the defense star witness, and there were other peculiarities.
The whole climate of Selma argued against bringing in a verdict even if the evidence had been strong, which I must admit as a layman it did not seem to me to be very strong, although I felt (again as a layman) that the positive identification of one of the assailants had never been successfully shaken.