Dresner v. Tallahassee

PETITIONER: Israel Dresner et al.
RESPONDENT: City of Tallahassee
LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 378 US 539 (1964)
ARGUED: Oct 23, 1963
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1964

Carl Rachlin - for the petitioners
Edward J. Hill - for the respondent
Howard W. Dixon - for the petitioners
Roy T. Rhodes - for the respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Dresner v. Tallahassee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 23, 1963 in Dresner v. Tallahassee

Howard W. Dixon:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court.

In the spring and summer of 1961 had begun a new phase in the struggle to obtain integration in the south and to arrive at a new level of dignity of mankind as we would further have it under our democracy.

On June 15th, 1961, the petitioners' news case as part of a "Freedom Ride" arrived in the respondent city, the City of Tallahassee as part of a test.

They testified that they wanted to bear witnesses as -- as ministers, rabbis and clergymen to the struggle to obtain those rights guaranteed them by the Constitution.

But first, in order to bear witness, they wanted to test transportation facilities to determine if there were facilities available on an integrated basis.

What is a test?

Legally, a test to this kind is not quite the same thing as what we mean by a legal test.

We would define it for the purposes of this case as an opportunity to determine the availability of one's constitutional rights and to do so peaceably until that right is made available.

Their first test in Tallahassee came when they arrived in a clearway to a bus terminal.

They were met by some citizens who obviously hostile and menacing to a certain degree.

They were also met by what the police department and into the police termed "adequate police protection".

Some of them tested the facilities of the bus terminal by eating in the coffee shop, testing the restroom and the waiting room.

Potter Stewart:

Were these petitioners of the negro race?

Howard W. Dixon:

These petitioners are clergymen of the white and negro race, ministers and rabbis.

Potter Stewart:

Insofar as they are on the white race, how could they test the question of whether or not restaurants were integrated?

Howard W. Dixon:

And -- they could test that because the south literally objects to the mixture of the races in any social situations as well as to the injection of any negroes into a social situation or into a situation that legally -- that we -- we legally we maintain is their -- by rights under the Constitution.

In short, by the -- in -- by their mixing, it is a violation with the morals and customs of the south.

Potter Stewart:

Well, if this was specifically addressed, I thought you told us to restaurant?

Howard W. Dixon:

The bus terminal at this time.

Potter Stewart:

The bus terminal?

Howard W. Dixon:

Yes, sir.

But however, the citizens of Tallahassee, if I may describe Tallahassee, it's a city shorts -- short distance from the Alabama border and its settlements are more of those of Montgomery, Alabama than say, Miami.

It is the city that is 475 miles distance from the most metropolitan area and retains the flavor and color of the old competitor.

In the process of testing, they -- they had arrived at the terminal's point, the City of Tallahassee and they proceeded to go to the Tallahassee terminal to take air transportation back to their homes in the north.

Some of the passengers, when arriving, confirmed their reservations and proceeded to take the plane out that was due at the airport at about 3:25 on June the 15th, 1961.

Potter Stewart:

What had happened in the bus terminal?

Howard W. Dixon:

Another thing Your Honor, they have been allowed to test and they --

Potter Stewart:

Allowed to --

Howard W. Dixon:

Allowed --

Potter Stewart:

-- test.