The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

to outvote the Republicans by fictitious ballots, changing negro votes,
and other methods, which system was kept up until the majority of
negroes gave up trying to vote and finally were excluded in primary elec-
tions. ... They have accepted the political situation and no longer try to
interfere with a white man's government."3
Because of their favorable position among Marshall's influential
whites, Pemberton, Dogan, and Rhoads probably served on a secret race
relations group organization. Called the "Good Will Committee," the
confidential group was organized in 1917 and was composed of five
leading white citizens and five leading black citizens. Its purpose was "to
act as an intermediary between the white and negro population,"
according to a description of it by Harrison County School
Superintendent Cyrus LaGrone in 1932. Even though it apparently had
the sanction of city and county officials, the committee's existence was
kept from the general population "lest it became a target for criticism
and discussion and its advantages thus be lost."'
Rigid race separation, intermittent lynchings of its black citizens, a
race relations committee meeting under cover, and a highly educated
black populace marked the town into which James Leonard Farmer Jr.
was born on January 12, 192o. His father, J. Leonard Farmer, was
Texas's first black Ph.D. and a professor of religion and philosophy at
Wiley College. Dr. Farmer accepted a teaching job at Rust College in
Holly Springs, Mississippi, six months after his son's birth, and trans-
ferred to Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas, in 1925. The family
returned to Marshall in 1934, when the younger Farmer was a senior at
Central High School and his father was again professor and dean of the
college chapel at Wiley College.5 James Farmer graduated with honors
from high school at age fourteen and enrolled at Wiley in 1934. It was
there that Farmer came under the tutelage of Melvin B. Tolson, English
and speech professor, and long the campus radical. Farmer spoke and
s R. P. Littlejohn "A Brief History of the Days of Reconstruction in Harrison County, Texas,"
typescript (1936), 9, io, research library (Harrison County Historical Museum, Marshall, Texas).
Information on Rhoads and Dogan's tenure is in Michael Hemtz, Private Black Colleges zn Texas,
1865-1854, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985), 99, 1o8, l12. Pemberton's
tenure, Marshall School Board Minutes, book 4, 23, 24 administrativee building, Marshall
Independent School District, Marshall, Texas).
4 Cyrus LaGrone, "A Sociological Study of the Negro Population of Marshall, Texas." (M.A
thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1932), 51-54.
SFarmer, who skipped several grades in his elementary and junior high school career, entered
the eleventh grade at Central High School, which was later named for Pemberton, at age thir-
teen. He and his sister, Helen, sixteen, were thus m the same grade. Both enrolled at Wiley
College as regular college freshmen in 1934.
' Farmer Jr. and Wright were not the only students Tolson taught who challenged Jim Crow
laws. Another was Houstonian Heman Marion Sweatt, the man who finally succeeded in integrat-
ing the law school at the University of Texas. According to Michael Gillette, "Sweatt's most

2002

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed April 18, 2014.