Willie Pratt leaving school with his mother after the first day of Dallas school integration in 1961. From the collections of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.
Following the Supreme Court’s 1954 and 1955 decisions in Brown v. Board of Education, members of Dallas’s black community almost immediately sued for access to white schools. From that point onward, the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) found itself in and out of federal court and ultimately under court supervision to implement various desegregation orders. It would be nearly fifty years before Judge Barefoot Sanders, a United States District Court judge in the Northern District of Texas, declared the DISD integrated, and lifted the desegregation order.
The DISD desegregation litigation came to be identified by the Tasby v. Estes case, filed in 1970. In March of 1981, Judge Barefoot Sanders was assigned the Tasby litigation and oversaw it for the next twenty-two years. The case became progressively more complex, with various injunctions and court orders (and their inevitable cycle of appeals) determining how and when DISD would be fully integrated.
Southern Methodist University’s Underwood Law Library has received Judge Sanders’s court chambers papers concerning this landmark case. The Law Library has also received the Tasby litigation files of Mr. Ed Cloutman, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, and those of Mr. Robert Hyer Thomas, the Dallas Independent School District’s lead counsel. In addition to pleadings, motions, and briefs filed with the court, this collection of materials includes Judge Sanders’s private notes and those of Mr. Cloutman and Mr. Thomas concerning the case, contemporaneous newspaper articles, and a wealth of analytical data compiled by the school district in response to Judge Sanders’s guidelines.
This collection is culturally, legally, and historically of vital importance, not just in its significance to Dallas, but also in relation to the history of desegregation in the United States as a whole. The Underwood Law Library is committed to making the collection available to legal scholars, historians, and others involved in researching this landmark case in American education.