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John Ben Shepperd: Argument in State v. NAACP

October 23, 1956

Argument in State v. NAACP (Tyler, Texas)

The Honorable court properly identified this action when it correctly excluded all evidence relating to segregation, stating that this is not a race action. The fact that the NAACP purports to represent the Negro race has no bearing whatever on this case. We have alleged, and we believe we have established, that the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., both corporations foreign to Texas, and both operating under a naked privilege in this State, have so abused that privilege as to justify their immediate and permanent ouster from Texas.

Tragedy has been a constant witness in this trial, the tragedy of seeing how the leaders of the NAACP and its affiliates have duped and deceived not only their own members, but the Negro race as well. They are false prophets. They have peddled false hopes at bargain prices. Into many of our humble, self-respecting colored citizens they have infused hostility and arrogance, and brought upon them the resentment of the community. The highest aspirations of the Negro people for the advancement of their race have been played upon for material gain by men whose motive is not to educate, not to elevate, not to help the Negro people, but to sacrifice as many of them as necessary to further the aims of the organization. Their object is not achievement, but conquest.

For organizations enjoying an exemption for benevolent and charitable purposes, I have been amazed at the total lack of charity or benevolence. Where are the nurseries for working mothers?

Where were any scholarships for deserving Negro children—excluding, of course, bought plaintiffs?

Where were any hospitals, rest homes, or homes for the aged?

Where was any aid to the poor, any assistance to widows or orphans, any help for the sick or disabled? All were asked to give to the NAACP, but none were assisted.

No, these organizations have not talked about the way their money was spent—we have heard only about the thousands of ways money was raised.

They have said, “Pay us, and we will strike down any type of segregation in parks, schools, hospitals, churches, hotels, swimming pools, golf courses, buses, trains, housing areas, dance halls, restaurants, fraternities and sororities.[”] The master plan for abolition of all segregation—regardless of the wishes and desires of a majority of the individual communities, and perhaps a majority of all colored citizens of Texas, was conceived in New York, channeled through Dallas, and erupted in the local communities throughout Texas. I believe court observers of this trial have been staggered by the revelations of the NAACP’s own documents. Cases which appeared to be spontaneous protests of children and parents are now revealed as the plot of New York and Dallas officials.

We now see what the P means in the NAACP: Pick the place, prepare the setting, procure the plaintiffs, and push them forward like pawns.

The champions of the lofty causes are now exposed as mere paid puppets. Sweatt and the others, subsidized and goaded, taunted with cries of “your sacred duty to your race,” did not really desire the bountiful relief offered by the Federal Courts. We have seen how the NAACP lawyers studied college catalogues, seeking some course not offered by the colored schools and then re-shaped the desires of the individual students to have them apply for those particular courses. As Jessalyn Gray and the other witnesses have said, “I didn’t want to go to a white college. I just wanted to go to college.” That’s what they said, but that’s not what their pleadings, drafted in the Dallas office and cleared through the New York Headquarters said. I know your Honor has noted too, how few of these plaintiffs whose names were used actually entered the college they allegedly sued.

The real clue to the mercenary leaderships of the NAACP, its legal subsidiary and its branches, is found in the revealing language of their own letters. Plaintiffs or applicants are to be “TENDERED” to schools or swimming pools. “Tender” implies the submission of an inanimate object—a thing, not a person. You tender dollar bills or a receipt, not people.

The record is replete with references to “Find us a plaintiff”, “Get me some qualified plaintiffs”, “Be sure that the plaintiffs are in the court room”, “Be rejected, and we are in business”. Pushing, tugging, and shoving its unwilling or unknowing plaintiffs forward, the NAACP through its affiliates in Texas ran rough-shod over the desires of Texas citizens. I have read and reread the segregation cases handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and I have yet to find even an intimation that it had endowed the NAACP or any other organization with the right, authority, or responsibility of enforcing its order.

I submit a final word to this Honorable Court, which has wisely separated from this cause the issue of segregation. Many millions of people throughout Texas and the South are re-examining their conscience as a result of the segregation decree. Millions favor integration in the public schools, and millions oppose it. Those who favor it are inclined to sanction and support blindly any organization or action leading to that objective, whether it is good or bad. Those who oppose it are inclined to condemn and prosecute any agent conducive to that objective, whether it be good or evil.

The cause now before this Court is such that men and women of both viewpoints may in good conscience, stand together in condemning and ejecting from our midst this cunning, deceitful agency of social strife, which cold-bloodedly reduces the noble yearnings of human beings to material profit and political power, without regard or concern for ethics, law, or the consequences to the individuals it purports to help.

The law can be upheld only through repudiation of all persons and entities who have broken it and thereby done violence to the peace and dignity of the State.

Among many things which may be said to the credit of the Negro people, they are honest and straight forward in their aspiration to advance. The NAACP has duped and blinded many of them and led them into devious fraudulence and undeserved shame.

Vast through it is, Texas has no room for this kind of corporation.

Please note: The views expressed in these speeches were those of John Ben Shepperd, and do not necessarily represent the views of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute or the University of Texas Permian Basin.