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Evans v. Newton

A Bequest To The Public

Upon his death in 1911, former United States Senator Augustus O. Bacon left a tract of land within the city of Macon, Georgia, for use as a public park. However, the bequest came with a condition: that the park be maintained for the use of white people only. Senator Bacon, while stating that he had "only the kindest feelings toward Negroes," also believed that "in their social relations the two races should remain forever separated." And so it was, for a time.

Eventually the City of Macon opened the park to use by all its citizens on the grounds that, as a public facility, the segregation of the park would not stand up to a test of constitutionality. When the city made this adjustment in its policy regarding the park, several park trustees took exception and brought suit against the city. The trustees contended that instead of desegregating the park, the city should let it revert to private control, thus exempting it from the need to abide by the equal protection requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment. At this point in the proceedings, a group of African Americans joined the dispute, asking that the city not be allowed to appoint private trustees to operate the park. The City of Macon thereupon resigned as the park's trustee, and the court was forced to appoint trustees to take over its operation. African American groups then appealed the case to the Georgia Supreme Court, which held that Senator Bacon had the right to leave his property to any subgroup of individuals he desired. The Georgia Supreme Court further held that, in its present guise as a privately operated facility, the park trustees could allow or deny access to whomever they wished. The state supreme court also ruled that the appointment of private trustees to maintain the segregation of the park and insure compliance with the conditions of Senator Bacon's will was a legally acceptable solution to the situation. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the matter on 9 and 10 November 1965.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Evans v. Newton - Significance, A Bequest To The Public, A Public Or A Private Facility?, Impact, De Facto Segregation