The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 374
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
torney, Fred C. Knollenberg to handle the case on the state level.
Under the close supervision of NAACP Legal Committee chairman,
Arthur B. Spingarn; the association's president, Moorfield Storey; and
the organization's superb attorney, Louis Marshall; Knollenberg laid
the groundwork for the first two white primary cases. The Supreme
Court decisions in these two cases seemed to bode well for Texas blacks.
In the first case, Nixon v. Herndon (1927), the United States Supreme
Court in an unanimous decision delivered by Justice Oliver Wendell
Holmes declared the Texas statute unconstitutional and a violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment. The court found the state of Texas guilty
of using its authority to deny blacks "... the equal protection of the
laws." In sum, the state of Texas could not enact a law barring blacks
from participation in Democratic primary elections. However, the
question of whether or not blacks could vote in primary elections in
the absence of a state law remained unanswered.
Undaunted, the Texas state legislature repealed the offending statute
and granted the executive committee of the Democratic party the
power to prescribe membership qualifications and voting requirements
for its primaries. The executive committee, as expected, declared that
only whites could vote in the primaries." The NAACP, again using
Nixon as plaintiff, filed another suit to contest this latest action. In the
second case, Nixon v. Condon (1932), Supreme Court Justice Benjamin
Cardozo wrote the majority opinion in a five to four decision. The court
held that the state of Texas had simply delegated its responsibility and
authority to a quasi-public body and that the action taken by the execu-
tive committee was merely an extension of the power of the state.
"Delegates to the State's power have discharged their official functions
in such a way as to discriminate invidiously between white citizens and
black" and in so doing had again abridged the Fourteenth Amend-
ment. The court continued, "The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted as
it was with special solicitude for the equal protection of members of
ington, Kentucky, 1966), 121; Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-
z93o (New York, 1967), 71-73; Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon, 12-13; Arnold S. Rice, The
Ku Klux Klan in American Politics (Washington, D.C., 1962), 15; Tarver, "The White-
man's Primary"; San Antonio Express, July 23, 1922, May 11, 1923.
5Nixon v.'Herndon, 273 U.S. 536-541 (1927) (quotation); Nixon v. Herndon, 47, S.C. 446
(1927); Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon, 34-51.
6House Journal 4oth Legislature, First Called Session (Austin, 1925), 228, 268-271, 328-
331; General and Special Laws of the State of Texas, 4oth Legislature, First Called Session
(Austin, 1927), 193; Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon, 53-55; Yale Law Review, XLI (1932),
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/430/: accessed June 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.