Miller defends Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol: 1934
John E. Miller was elected in 1930 to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat, serving there until his resignation in 1937 to become a senator; he had been elected to the Senate to fill a vacancy. He is shown in a photograph circa 1940.
Although the term ended in 1943, Miller resigned in 1941 to take up his appointment as a judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.
In August 1954, the NAACP petitioned the courts to immediately desegregate Little Rock, Ark. Schools.
A year later the May 24, 1955 Little Rock School Board adopts the Blossom Plan of gradual integration beginning with the high school level (starting in September 1957) and the lower grades during the next six years.
In February 1956, Miller dismissed the NAACP suit (Aaron v. Cooper), declaring that the Little Rock School Board has acted in “utmost good faith” in setting up its plan of gradual integration. In April, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Judge Miller’s dismissal.
The plan turned out to be mostly paper as rioting mobs and Governor Orval Faubus attempted to halt integration. Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent African American students from attending school.
Federal troops were sent in to escort black students to school, but Faubus ordered four schools closed. They remained closed for almost a year until the higher courts forced Little Rock to re-open them as integrated facilities.
While in the House of Representatives in 1934 Miller head a special committee to investigate whether the Accounts Committee exceeded its authority in ordered the House public restaurant to bar African Americans.
Miller reported back for the majority (3 Democrats) that the restaurant was not public despite it being open to the white public:
“It is not a public restaurant nor was it intended by the House that it should be operated as such It now operated as it has been since it was first established, for the use and convenience of the Members of the House and there has been no discrimination in serving the Members of the House or their guests.”
“Therefore we recommend that the authority to operate and control the restaurant remain vested in the Committee on Accounts and that the committee continue to operate the restaurant for the convenience and use of the Member of the House and their guests.”
The minority report (2 Republicans) found that the Accounts Committee had exceeded its authority and recommended opening the restaurant to all.
Speaker of the House Thomas Rainey stifled any debate or vote on the two recommendations by simply waiting out the calendar to bring the resolutions to the floor. Congress adjourned before the reports came up. The restaurant remained a segregated facility for nearly 20 more years.
For a detailed blog post on the fight against Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol restaurants, see washingtonspark.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/origins-of-the-c...
For related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsmcArGZz
The photographer is unknown. The image is a Harris and Ewing photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-21622 (digital file from original negative)