Case: Turner v. Warren County Board of Education

5:63-cv-01482 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Filed Date: Nov. 4, 1963

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On November 4, 1963, the plaintiffs brought this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The class action plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Warren County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. They were represented by lawyers including Jack Greenberg and Derrick A. Bell (for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund).For 10 years after Brown, the Bo…

On November 4, 1963, the plaintiffs brought this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The class action plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Warren County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. They were represented by lawyers including Jack Greenberg and Derrick A. Bell (for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund).

For 10 years after Brown, the Board did nothing to desegregate, operating a school assignment plan that sent students to the same school they had attended the year before. In response to the plaintiffs' action, the district court issued a consent degree, ordering the defendant Board to implement a freedom-of-choice plan. However, on May 16, 1967, the court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that the Board's plan was not furthering desegregation. Over the course of 1967 and 1968, the district court repeatedly ordered the Board to devise new desegregation plans, finding the various proposals consistently inadequate.

In 1969, a Warren County state representative sponsored two bills in the state General Assembly that split the Warren County schools into three separate districts by creating two new school districts. The plaintiffs challenged the acts as unconstitutional given that the resulting racial composition of the Warren County schools would be 7 percent white and 90 percent black. The district court (Judge Algernon Butler) agreed. On May 23, 1970, it found the acts unconstitutional because they "promote[d]" segregation ... and frustrate the lawful orders of the court." Turner v. Warren County Board of Education, 313 F.Supp. 380, 384 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970). The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding:

The finding of the district court that the primary purpose of the legislation was to carve out a refuge for white students and preserve to the extent possible segregated schools in Warren County is supported by substantial evidence, and indeed, is inescapable.
Turner v. Littleton-Lake Gaston School District, 442 F.2d 584, 587 (4th Cir. Mar. 23, 1971).

After these decisions, the case went dormant. Perhaps the district remains under court order, but it does not appear there has been much -- if any -- litigation or action. Indeed, even the Board itself is uncertain. An article in The Atlantic in 2014 described the situation:

A school board lawyer for Warren County, North Carolina, said he contacted the federal courthouse in Raleigh to see whether that district's court order had ended, but said court officials told him the records had been shipped to the federal archives, and thus they couldn't give him an answer.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, School Districts Still Face Fights--and Confusion--on Integration, The Atlantic (May 2, 2014).

Available Opinions

Turner v. Warren County Board of Education, 313 F.Supp. 380 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970)

Turner v. Littleton-Lake Gaston School District, 442 F.2d 584 (4th Cir. Mar. 23, 1971)

Summary Authors

Greg Margolis (3/5/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (West Virginia)

Bryan, Albert Vickers (Virginia)

Butler, Algernon Lee (North Carolina)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Craven, James Braxton Jr. (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Sobeloff, Simon E. (Maryland)

Winter, Harrison Lee (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (North Carolina)

Chambers, J. LeVonne (New York)

Judge(s)

Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (West Virginia)

Bryan, Albert Vickers (Virginia)

Butler, Algernon Lee (North Carolina)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Craven, James Braxton Jr. (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Sobeloff, Simon E. (Maryland)

Winter, Harrison Lee (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (North Carolina)

Chambers, J. LeVonne (New York)

Clayton, Theaosesus (North Carolina)

Greenberg, Jack (North Carolina)

Pearson, Conrad O. (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Banzet, Frank (North Carolina)

Crew, W. Lunsford (North Carolina)

Ellis, Thomas F. (North Carolina)

McLean, William S. (North Carolina)

Taylor, William W. Jr. (North Carolina)

Other Attorney(s)

Creech, William A. (North Carolina)

Walker, James R. Jr. (North Carolina)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

5:63-cv-01482

Docket

Aug. 28, 1972

Aug. 28, 1972

Docket

5:63-cv-01482

[Order]

313 F.Supp. 380

May 23, 1970

May 23, 1970

Order/Opinion

14990

[Order]

Turner v. Littleton-Lake Gaston School District

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

442 F.2d 584

May 23, 1971

May 23, 1971

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 11, 2022, 3:06 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: North Carolina

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 4, 1963

Case Ongoing: Perhaps, but long-dormant

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

African-American minor children, by and through their parents, who attended school in the Warren County school system.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Warren County (Warren), School District

Defendant Type(s):

Elementary/Secondary School

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1970 - None

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Preliminary relief granted

Reporting

Student assignment

Issues

General:

Disparate Treatment

Education

Racial segregation

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run