Box 17, Folder 13, Document 35

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S. 1732



July 26, 1963

MAYOR OF ATLANTA July 26, 1963

WV.r. Chairman and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:

Iam honored to appear before your Committee.

At the beginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualified
to speak on the subject under discussion which is the elimination of racial
discrimination, on what I have learned from personal experience and
observation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia, As perceptive men of
wide experience I feel confident that you will agree with me that this is as

serious a basic problem in the North, East and Viest as it is in the South,

It must be defined as an all-American problem, which requires an
all-American solution based on local thought, local action and local


The 500,000 people who live within our city limits consist of
300, 000 white citizens and slightly more than 200, 000 Negro citizens,

That makes the population of Atlanta 60 percent white, 40 percent Negro,

That 60 - 40 percentage emphasizes how essential it is for the
people of Atlanta, on their local level, to solve the problem of racial

discrimination in order to make Atlanta a better place in which to live,

Elimination of racial discrimination is no far off philosophical

theory to the more than one million people who live in and around Atlanta.

The ptoblem is part and parcel of our daily lives, Its solution must be

studied and worked out on our homefront.

As the mayor of the Southeast's largest city, I can say to you out
of first hand experience and first hand knowledge that nowhere does the
problem of eliminating discrimination between the races strike so closely
home as it does to the local elected public official. He is the man who

cannot pass the buck,

From this viewpoint, I speak of the problem as having been brought

into sharp focus by decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States

and then generally ignored by the Presidents and Congresses of the United
States, Like a foundling baby, this awesome problem has been left on the

doorsteps of local governments throughout the nation,

Now to take up specifics, You gentlemen invited me to tell you how
Atlanta has achieved a considerable measure of comparative success in

dealing with racial discrimination,

It is true that Atlanta has achieved success in eliminating
discrimination in areas where some other cities have failed, but we do
not boast of our success, Instead of boasting, we say with the humility of
those who believe in reality that we have achieved our measure of success
only because we looked facts in the face and accepted the Supreme Court's
decisions as inevitable and as the law of our land, Having embraced
realism in general, we then set out to solve specific problems by local

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cooperation between people of good will and good sense representing both


In attacking the specific problems, we accepted the basic truth
that the solutions which we sought to achieve in every instance granted
to our Negro citizens rights which white American citizens and businesses

previously had reserved to themselves as special privileges,

These special privileges long had been propped up by a multitude
of local ordinances and statewide laws which had upheld racial segregation

in almost every conceivable form,

In Atlanta we had plenty of these props of prejudice to contend
with when we set out to solve our specific problems of discrimination.
In attacking these problems, I want to emphasize that in not one single

instance have we retained or enhanced the privileges of segregation.

It has been a long, exhausting and often discouraging process and

the end is far from being in sight,

In the 1950's Atlanta made a significant start with a series of
reasonable eliminations / discrimination such as on golf courses and
public transportation. We began to become somewhat conditioned for

more extensive and definitive action, which has been taking place in the

During the past two and a half years, Atlanta has taken the

following major steps to eliminate racial discrimination:

1. In September, 1961, we began removing discrimination in

public schools in response to a court order,

2, In October, 1961, lunch counters in department and variety

stores abolished discrimination by voluntary action,

3, On January 1, 1962 Atlanta city facilities were freed from

discrimination by voluntary action of municipal officials,

4, In March, 1962 downtown and arts theaters, of their own

volition, abolished discrimination in seating.

5. On January l, 1963, the city voluntarily abolished separate

employment listings for whites and Negroes,

6. In March, 1963 the city employed Negro firemen, It long ago

employed Negro policemen.

7. In May of 1963 the Atlanta Real Estate Board (white) and the
Empire Real Estate Board (Negro) issued a Statement of Purposes, calling

for ethical handling of real estate transactions in controversial areas,

8. In June 1963, the city government opened all municipal swimming
pools on a desegregated basis, This was voluntary action to comply with

a court order,
9. Also in June, 1963, 18 hotels and motels, representing the
leading places of public accommodations in the city, voluntarily removed

all segregation for conventions,

10, Again in June, 1963 more than 30 of the city's leading

restaurants, of their own volition, abolished segregation in their facilities,

You can readily see that Atlanta's steps have been taken in some
instances in compliance with court decisions, and in other instances the
steps have been voluntary prior to any court action, In each instance the
action has resulted in white citizens relinquishing special privileges which
they had enjoyed under the practices of racial discrimination. Each
action also has resulted in the Negro citizen being given rights which all

others previously had enjoyed and which he has been denied,

As I mentioned at the beginning, Atlanta has achieved only a
measure of success, I think it would assist you in understanding this if
I explained how limited so far has been this transition from the old
segregated society of generations past, and also how limited so far has

been the participation of the Negro citizens,

Significant as is the voluntary elimination of discrimination in our
leading restaurants, it affects so far only a small percentage of the

hundreds of eating places in our city.

And participation by Negroes so far has been very slight, For
example, one of Atlanta's topmost restaurants served only 16 out of


Atlanta's 200,000 Negro citizens during the first week of freedom from


The plan for eliminating discrimination in hotels as yet takes care
only of convention delegates, Although prominent Negroes have been
accepted as guests in several Atlanta hotels, the Negro citizens, as a

whole, seldom appear at Atlanta hotels,

Underlying all the emotions of the situation, is the matter of
economics, It should be remembered that the right to use a facility does
not mean that it will be used or misused by any group, especially the

groups in the lower economic status,

The statements I have given you cover the actual progress made

by Atlanta toward total elimination of discrimination,

Now I would like to submit my personal reasons why I think Atlanta
has resolved some of these problems while in other cities, solutions have

seemed impossible and strife and conflict have resulted,

As an illustration, I would like to describe a recent visit of an
official delegation from a great Eastern city which has a Negro population

of over 600, 000 consisting of in excess of 20% of its whole population.

The members of this delegation at first simply did not understand

and would hardly believe that the business, civic and political interests


of Atlanta had intently concerned themselves with the Negro population,

I still do not believe that they are convinced that all of our civic bodies
backed by the public interest and supported by the City Government have
daily concerned themselves with an effort to solve our gravest problem --
which is relations between our races, Gentlemen, Atlanta has not swept

this question under the rug at any point, Step by step - sometimes under
Court order - sometimes voluntarily moving ahead of pressures - sometimes
adroitly - and many times clumsily - we have tried to finda sdhution to

each specific problem through an agreement between the affected white

ownership and the Negro leadership,

To do this we have not appointed a huge general bi-racial cominittee
which too often merely becomes a burial place for unsolved problems,
By contrast, each time a specific problem has come into focus, we have
appointed the people involved to work out the solution, ... Theatre
owners to work with the top Negro leaders... . or hotel owners to work
with the top leadership... . or certain restaurant owners who of their
own volition dealt with the top Negro leadership. By developing the lines
of communication and respectability, we have been able to reach amicable


Atlanta is the world's center of Negro higher education. There
are six great Negro universities and colleges located inside our city limits.

Because of this, a great number of intelligent, well-educated Negro


citizens have chosen to remain in our city. As a result of their education,
they have had the ability to develop a prosperous Negro business community,
In Atlanta it consists of financial institutions like banks ~- building and loan
associations - life insurance companies - chain drug stores ~- real estate
dealers, In fact, they have developed business organizations, I believe,

in almost every line of acknowledged American business, There are also

many Negro professional men,

Then there is another powerful factor working in the behalf of good
racial relations in our city. We have news media, both white and Negro,
whose leaders strongly believe and put into practice the great truth that
responsibility of the press (and by this I mean radio and television as well

as the written press) is inseparable from freedom of the press,

The leadership of our written, spoken and televised news media
join with the business and government leadership, both white and Negro,

in working to solve our problems,

We are fortunate that we have one of the world famous editorial
spokesmen for reason and moderation on one of our white newspapers,
along with other editors and many reporters who stress significance rather

than sensation in the reporting and interpretation of what happens in our city.

And we are fortunate in having a strong Negro daily newspaper - The

Atlanta Daily World - and a vigorous Negro weekly, The Atlanta Inquirer.

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The Atlanta Daily World is owned by a prominent Negro family -

the Scott family - which owns and operates a number of other newspapers,

The sturdy voices of the Atlanta Daily World and the Atlanta
Inquirer, backed by the support of the educational, business and religious
community, reach out to our Negro citizens, They speak to them with
factual information upon which they can rely, They express opinions and

interpretations in which they can have faith,

As I see it, our Negro leadership in Atlanta is responsible and
constructive, Iam sure that our Negro leadership is as desirous of
obtaining additional civic and economic and personal rights as is any
American citizen, But by constructive I mean to define Atlanta's Negro
leadership as being realistic - as recognizing that it is more important
to obtain the rights they seek than it is to stir up demonstrations, So it
is to the constructive means by which these rights can be obtained that
our Negro leaders constantly address themselves, They are interested
in results instead of rhetoric. They reach for lasting goals instead of
grabbing for momentary publicity, They are realists, not rabble rousers,

Along with integration they want integrity.

I do not believe that any sincere American citizen desires to see
the rights of private business restricted by the Federal Government unless
such restriction is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the people of

this country.

On the other hand, following the line of thought of the decisions of
the Federal Courts in the past 15 years, Iam not convinced that current
rulings of the Courts would grant to American business the privilege of

discrimination by race in the selection of its customers,

Here again we get into the area of what is right and what is best
for the people of this country, If the privilege of selection based on race
and color should be granted then would we be giving to business the right

to set up a segregated economy? .. . And if so, how fast would this right

be utilized by the Nation's people? . . . And how soon would we again be

going through the old turmoil of riots, strife, demonstrations, boycotts,

picketing ?

Are we going to say that it is all right for the Negro citizen to go
into the bank on Main street and to deposit his earnings or borrow money,
then to go to department stores to buy what he needs, to go to the super-
market to purchase food for his family, and so on along Main street until
he comes toa restaurant or a hotel ---In all these other business places
he is treated just like any other customer --- But when he comes to the
restaurant or the hotel, are we going to say that it is right and legal
for the operators of these businesses, merely as a matter of convenience,
to insist that the Negro's citizenship be changed and that, as a second
class citizen, he is to be refused service? I submit that it is not right
to allow an American's citizenship to be changed merely as a matter of


If the Congress should fail to clarify the issue at the present time,
then by inference it would be saying that you could begin discrimination
under the guise of private business, I do not believe that this is what the
Supreme Court has intended with its decisions, I do not believe that this

is the intent of Congress or the people of this country,

Iam not a lawyer, Senators. Iam not sure I clearly understand
all of the testimony involving various amendments to the Constitution
and the Commerce clause which has been given to this committee, I
have a fundamental respect for the Constitution of the United States,
Under this Constitution we have always been able to do what is best for
all of the people of this country. I beg of you not to let this issue of
discrimination drown in legalistic waters, Iam firmly omnvinced that
the Supreme Court insists that the same fundamental rights must be

held by every American citizen,

Atlanta is a case that proves that the problem of discrimination
can be solved to some extent, . . and I use this 'some extent" cautiously
+ « « as we certainly have not solved all of the problems; but we have met
them in a number of areas, This can be done locally, voluntarily, and

by private business itself!

On the other hand, there are hundreds of communities and cities,
certainly throughout the nation that have not ever addressed themselves to
the issue, Whereas, others have flagrantly ignored the demand, and

today, stand in all defiance to any change.

The Congress of the United States is now confronted with a grave
decision. Shall you pass a public accommodation bill that forces this
issue? Cr, shall you create another round of disputes over segregation

by refusing to pass such legislation?

Surely, the Congress realizes that after having failed to take any
definite action on this subject in the last ten years, to fail to pass this
bill would amount to an endorsement of private business setting up an .
entirely new status of discrimination throughout the nation, Cities like
Atlanta might slip backwards, Hotels and restaurants that have already
taken this issue upon themselves and opened their doors might find it
convenient to go back to the old status, Failure by Congress to take
definite action at this time is by inference an endorsement of the right
of private business to practice racial discrimination and, in my opinion,
would start the same old round of squabbles and demonstrations that we

have had in the past.

Gentlemen, if I had your problem armed with the local experience

I have had, I would pass a public accommodation bill. Such a bill, however,
should provide an opportunity for each local government first to meet

this problem and attempt to solve it on a local, voluntary basis, with

each business making its own decision, I realize that it is quite easy to

ask you to give an opportunity to each businessman in each city to make

his decision and accomplish such an objective... but itis extremely
difficult to legislate such a problem,

= 12.

What Iam trying to say is that the pupil placement plan, which has
been widely used in the South, provided a time table approved by the
Federal courts which helped in getting over the troubled water of
elimination of discrimination in public schools, It seems to me that cities
working with private business institutions could now move into the same
area and that the federal government legislation should be based on the
idea that those businesses have a reasonable time to accomplish such an


I think a public accommodation law now should stand only as the
last resort to agsurethat discrimination is eliminated, but that such a law
would grant a reasonable time for cities and businesses to carry out this

function before federal intervention,

It might even be necessary that the time factor be made more
lenient in favor of smaller cities and communities, for we all know that
large metropolitan areas have the capability of adjusting to changes more

rapidly than smaller communities,

Perhaps this, too, should be given consideration in your

legislation. But the point I want to emphasize again is that now is the

time for legislative action. We cannot dodge the issue. We cannot look

back over our shoulders or turn the clock back to the 1860's, We must
take action now to assure a greater future for our citizens and our


A hundred years ago the abolishment of slavery won the United States

the acclaim of the whole world when it made every American free in theory.

Now the elimination of segregation, which is slavery's stepchild,

is a challenge to all of us to make every American free in fact as well

as in theory - and again to establish our nation as the true champion of the

free world,

Mr, Chairman and members of the Committee, I want to thank you
for the opportunity of telling you about Atlanta's efforts to provide equality

of citizenship to all within its borders,

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