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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Lee and United States of America v. Macon County School Board (M.D. Ala. cases) SD-AL-0023
Docket / Court 3:70-cv-00846-MHT-DRB ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This Clearinghouse entry discusses the post 1970 proceedings in Lee v. Macon County, a seminal Alabama desegregation case. That case originated in the Middle District of Alabama and was transferred to a three-judge district court which supervised school desegregation across the state ... read more >
This Clearinghouse entry discusses the post 1970 proceedings in Lee v. Macon County, a seminal Alabama desegregation case. That case originated in the Middle District of Alabama and was transferred to a three-judge district court which supervised school desegregation across the state. However, after 1970, the statewide case was dissolved and desegregation cases in individual school districts were sent to the judicial districts that encompassed them. This Clearinghouse entry describes the Lee litigation in the Middle District of Alabama after 1970. To read about what happened between 1963, when the case was filed, and 1970, please see Lee v. Macon County Bd. of Ed. (SD-AL-0002)

Pre-1997 Litigation

Chambers County

Like many other Alabama jurisdictions, Chambers County was bound by a desegregation plan created by the original Lee three-judge district court. In the 1980s, some portions of the county chose to incorporate their communities into the new city of Valley, Alabama. Valley residents hoped to operate their own school district, but when they sought preclearance from the DOJ – as required by the Voting Rights Act at the time – they were denied. In February of 1992, the city then moved to intervene in the Lee case concerning Chambers County. After making changes to the structure of its elected school board, Valley received pre-clearance from the DOJ in July 1992. However, the county Board of Education still opposed the split. However, after a bench trial, on August 8, 1994 District Judge W. Harold Albritton III found that allowing Valley to operate its own school system would impede desegregation in Chambers County schools, and accordingly barred it. 849 F.Supp. 1474. Valley later moved to alter that judgment, but Judge Albritton denied that motion. 859 F.Supp. 1470.

Around the same time as the splinter district litigation, Chambers County also received judicial scrutiny for allowing some students to attend schools in neighboring counties, which violated the 1970 desegregation order. Judge Albritton enjoined this practice as well in a February 1994 order. 1994 WL 241165.

Geneva County

Geneva County Alabama was also bound by a desegregation plan created by the three-judge district court. After a high school in the county was destroyed by fire in December of 1994, the county and the state of Alabama went to federal court to decide where a replacement would be sited. In July of 1995, Judge W. Harold Albritton III approved a new site, however, he retained supervision of the county under the desegregation plan. 892 F.Supp. 1387.

Randolph County

The Lee case was reopened in Randolph County, Alabama when Hulond Humphries, the principal of the county high school, apparently canceled prom after learning that mixed race student couples would attend and referred to a mixed race student in attendance as a “mistake.” (This was not Principal Humphries first interaction with the Lee litigation – in 1974 the Fifth Circuit had found that an attempt by Humphries to expel two apparently Black students from school violated the students’ Due Process rights. 490 F.2d 458.) After an investigation by the DOJ Civil Rights Division, the county school board and the DOJ reached a consent decree in 1994 that included numerous provisions aimed at improving the integration of Randolph County schools. Later, the DOJ and the county agreed that Humphries could continue to work for the County as a consultant but would not be allowed to appear on school campuses or have contact with students. Members of the local Black community objected to this settlement; however, after a fairness hearing, Judge Myron Thompson approved it on February 17, 1995. 160 F.R.D. 642. Judge Thompson later granted the attorneys representing Black Randolph residents attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. 885 F.Supp. 1526.

Randolph County operated its schools under court supervision until June of 2021. Prior to that, it had been bound by the 1994 consent decree, except for some small modifications made in the early 2010s. In early 2021, the County moved for unitary status, and the DOJ did not object. Judge Thompson thus released Randolph County schools from federal supervision for the first time in over fifty years. 2021 WL 2554622.

Russell County

Russell County, Alabama was also bound by a desegregation plan created by the three-judge district court. After it refused to renew the employment contracts of several teachers of color in 1979, the county school board was challenged in federal court by the National Education Association as part of the greater Lee litigation. The district court found that the school board acted properly. However, it was later reversed by the Eleventh Circuit, which found that the district court did not properly apply the test for determining whether an employment discharge was racially motivated set out by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). 684 F.2d 769. However, on remand, the school board prevailed again in a bench trial before District Judge Robert E. Varner, and the result of that trial was later affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit. 744 F.2d 768.

Unitary Status and the End of the Lee Litigation

Various Lee cases continued to be litigated across Alabama through the 80s and 90s. However, in February of 1997, Judge Myron H. Thompson began the process of ending many of the Middle District Lee cases. (Interestingly, Judge Thompson was a 1965 graduate of Tuskegee Institute High School, one of the high schools implicated in the original Lee. v. Macon County case. See Honorable Myron H. Thompson: Biography.) Judge Thompson ordered the DOJ to begin the process by conferring with each defendant school district (in the Middle District) and submitting joint proposals as to how the court should proceed in each of those cases toward a declaration of unitary status. This new, proactive stance from the court was at least partially motivated by the Supreme Court’s opinion in Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992), which states, “Returning schools to the control of local authorities at the earliest practicable date is essential to restore their true accountability in our governmental system.”

This new initiative prompted the Government to ask the court whether the statewide parties in the original 1963 litigation (the Governor and the State Board of Education) were still party to each of Lee’s progeny cases. On April 21, 1997, the court decided that they were, 963 F.Supp. 1122, meaning winding down the Lee litigation would involve the state of Alabama, as well as the individual districts. As a result, on February 3, 1998, the court ordered the parties to report to the court on the status of all statewide issues, and on July 31, 1998, the parties submitted a joint statement identifying two unresolved statewide issues: (1) the over-representation of Black students in learning and emotionally disabled classifications and the under-representation of Black students in gifted and talented programs; and (2) facilities. A sign of Lee's status as a legacy case, the joint statement was signed by Fred Gray Jr., son of the Fred Gray (Sr.) who filed the initial complaint in 1963. On August 30, 2000, the court approved the consent decree, with the express goal of having them addressed so that the court could remove itself from the schools’ administration. 2000 WL 33680483.

Over the next decade Judge Thompson found that school districts across the Middle District had reached unitary status. 2002 WL 237032 (City of Opelika); 2002 WL 237091 (City of Auburn); 2002 WL 31102679 (City of Alexander); 2002 WL 360000 (Russell County); 2002 WL 31757973 (Tallapoosa County); 183 F.Supp.2d 1359 (Butler County); 2002 WL 1268395 & 2005 WL 2850111 (Lee County); 2004 WL 1809877 (Elmore County); 2004 WL 1699068 (Autauga County); 2005 WL 2850392 (City of Phenix); 2006 WL 269942 (Covington County); 2007 WL 1196482 (City of Roanoke)

On March 8 and April 28, 2007, Judge Thompson declared that the state of Alabama had fulfilled its constitutional duties as to the two remaining aspects of its statewide injunction and, on May 22, 2006, declared that Macon County itself had reached unitary status (2006 WL 1381873), thus dissolving the core substantive and symbolic components of the case. Some aspects of the case still dragged on though. In 2009, Judge Thompson found that school facilities across the state came into compliance with a 2006 consent order. 2009 WL 1231497. And in some counties, Lee lasted over a decade after most defendants were dismissed. See e.g., 2021 WL 2554622.

The case is officially closed; however, the record does leave uncertainty as to whether there are any outstanding injunctions in effect, for instance, in counties that had their initial desegregation proposals approved and thus were never made party to any post-1970 litigation and thus were never formally declared unitary. The unusual and convoluted history of this case potentially leaves several such elements up for interpretation.

Dockets

When the statewide case was split up, the original Macon County case was given a new docket number, 3:70-cv-00846-MHT-DRB, and the remaining school districts were assigned the following captions and docket numbers:

  • Lee v. Lee County Board of Education (docket: 845–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00845-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Randolph County Board of Education (docket: 847–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00847-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Russell County Board of Education (docket: 848–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00848-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Tallapoosa County Board of Education (docket: 849–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00849-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Alexander City Board of Education (docket: 850–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00850-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Auburn City Board of Education (docket: 851–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00851-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Opelika City Board of Education (docket: 853–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00853-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Phenix City Board of Education (docket: 854–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00854-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Roanoke City Board of Education (docket: 855–E, later changed to 3:70-cv-00855-MHT-CSC)

  • Lee v. Butler County Board of Education (docket: 3099–N, later changed to 2:70-cv-03099-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Covington County Board of Education (docket: 3102–N, later changed to 2:70-cv-03102-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Elmore County Board of Education (docket: 3103–N, later changed to 2:70-cv-03103-MHT-TFM)

  • Lee v. Opp City Bd of Ed, et al, (original docket unknown, later changed to 2:70-cv-03108-WHA-CSC)

  • Due to the decentralized and incomplete nature of the records, it is possible that not all of the derivative cases are included here.

    Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 11/14/2021


    compress summary

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    Issues and Causes of Action
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    Issues
    Constitutional Clause
    Equal Protection
    Content of Injunction
    Busing
    Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
    Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
    Student assignment
    Defendant-type
    Elementary/Secondary School
    Jurisdiction-wide
    Discrimination-basis
    Race discrimination
    General
    Buildings
    Disparate Treatment
    Education
    Racial segregation
    School/University Facilities
    School/University policies
    Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
    Plaintiff Type
    Private Plaintiff
    U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
    Race
    Black
    Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
    Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
    Defendant(s) Various City & County School Boards in the Middle District of Alabama
    Plaintiff Description Multiple Classes - Black students in various school districts within the Middle District of Alabama. The United States as intervenor.
    Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
    Class action status sought Yes
    Class action status outcome Granted
    Filed Pro Se No
    Prevailing Party Plaintiff
    Public Int. Lawyer Yes
    Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
    Source of Relief Litigation
    Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
    Filed 1970
    Case Ongoing No reason to think so
    Case Listing SD-AL-0002 : Lee v. Macon County Bd. of Ed. (M.D. Ala.)
    Additional Resources
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      See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
    Court Docket(s)
    M.D. Ala.
    07/16/2021
    3:70-cv-00847-MHT-TFM
    SD-AL-0023-9000.pdf | Detail
    Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
    General Documents
    U.S. Court of Appeals
    09/01/1982
    Opinion (684 F.2d 769)
    SD-AL-0023-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    U.S. Court of Appeals
    10/18/1984
    Opinion (744 F.2d 768)
    SD-AL-0023-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/16/1994
    Order (1994 WL 241165)
    SD-AL-0023-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/08/1994
    Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (849 F.Supp. 1474)
    SD-AL-0023-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    08/08/1994
    Memorandum Opinion and Order (859 F.Supp. 1470)
    SD-AL-0023-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/17/1995
    Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 123] (160 F.R.D. 642)
    SD-AL-0023-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/26/1995
    Order [ECF# 163] (885 F.Supp. 1526)
    SD-AL-0023-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    07/05/1995
    Memorandum Opinion & Order (892 F.Supp. 1387)
    SD-AL-0023-0026.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/21/1997
    Opinion (963 F.Supp. 1122)
    SD-AL-0023-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    08/30/2000
    Consent Decree (2000 WL 33680483)
    SD-AL-0023-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/05/2002
    Opinion (183 F.Supp.2d 1359)
    SD-AL-0023-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/13/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 237032)
    SD-AL-0023-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/14/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 237091)
    SD-AL-0023-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/25/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 360000)
    SD-AL-0023-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    05/29/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 1268395)
    SD-AL-0023-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    09/12/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 31102679)
    SD-AL-0023-0024.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    11/22/2002
    Opinion (2002 WL 31757973)
    SD-AL-0023-0019.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    07/30/2004
    Opinion (2004 WL 1699068)
    SD-AL-0023-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    10/27/2005
    Opinion (2005 WL 2850392)
    SD-AL-0023-0021.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    10/28/2005
    Opinion (2005 WL 2850111)
    SD-AL-0023-0020.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    02/06/2006
    Opinion (2006 WL 269942)
    SD-AL-0023-0022.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    05/22/2006
    Opinion (2006 WL 1381873)
    SD-AL-0023-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/23/2007
    Opinion on Local Issues (2007 WL 1196482)
    SD-AL-0023-0023.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/28/2009
    Opinion (2009 WL 1231497)
    SD-AL-0023-0025.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    M.D. Ala.
    04/16/2013
    Consent Order [ECF# 364]
    SD-AL-0023-0005.pdf | Detail
    Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
    M.D. Ala.
    06/22/2021
    Opinion [ECF# 534] (2021 WL 2554622)
    SD-AL-0023-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
    Source: Westlaw
    show all people docs
    Judges Albritton, William Harold III (M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0006 | SD-AL-0023-0007 | SD-AL-0023-0008 | SD-AL-0023-0026
    Allgood, Clarence W. (N.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0013
    Godbold, John Cooper (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0012
    Henderson, Karen LeCraft (D.S.C., D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0012
    Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (M.D. Ala., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0013
    Kravitch, Phyllis A. (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0013
    Merritt, Gilbert Stroud Jr. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0012
    Moorer, Terry Fitzgerald (M.D. Ala., S.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0001 | SD-AL-0023-0002 | SD-AL-0023-0003 | SD-AL-0023-0004 | SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-0009 | SD-AL-0023-0010 | SD-AL-0023-0011 | SD-AL-0023-0014 | SD-AL-0023-0015 | SD-AL-0023-0016 | SD-AL-0023-0017 | SD-AL-0023-0018 | SD-AL-0023-0019 | SD-AL-0023-0020 | SD-AL-0023-0021 | SD-AL-0023-0022 | SD-AL-0023-0023 | SD-AL-0023-0024 | SD-AL-0023-0025 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Plaintiff's Lawyers Bhargava, Anurima (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Brown, Dwayne Lamar (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Butler, Steven E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Carstarphen, Dana R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Cash-Brown, Prudence A (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Douglas, Nathaniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Fentonmiller, Laura C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Fischbach, Jonathan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Frizzelle, Amanda Downs (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Gardner, Kelly D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Glassman, Jeremiah (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Gray, Fred David Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Gray, Stanley Fitzgerald (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Huckins, Amelia Kearns (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Jenkins, Sabrina Whitehead (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Kohrman, Daniel B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Loeser, Derek W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Marshall, Franz (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    McGowan, Walter Edgar (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Patrick, Deval L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005
    Seay, Solomon S. Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Simons, Shaheena A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Taylor, Lisa M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Thomas, Kenneth L. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Toure, Faya Rose (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Wiener, Ross (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Younger, Levern M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Defendant's Lawyers Averitt, Anne Knox (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Azar, Denise B. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Beck, George (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Coley, Darnell D (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Colvin, Whit (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Condon, David P (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Craven, Larry Eugene (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Dean, Juliana Faria Teixeira (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Hamlett, Ashley (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Hofammann Mullins, Eugenia (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Meadows, Richard N. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Pierson, Dennis (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Sweeney, Donald B. Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-0005 | SD-AL-0023-9000
    Travis, William Terry (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Vaughan, Sarahanne Young (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    White, Michael Ronald (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Yuengert, Anne R (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000
    Other Lawyers Boardman, Mark S. (Alabama) show/hide docs
    SD-AL-0023-9000

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