Katzenbach v. McClung Case Brief

Facts of the case

Ollie McClung argued that his restaurant could not be prohibited from discriminating against African Americans because Congress did not have power under the Commerce Clause to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His restaurant, Ollie’s Barbecue, was located on a major road in Birmingham, Alabama and was close to an interstate highway. Half of its food came from outside Alabama, although its suppliers were local. It served a meaningful number of customers from outside the state.He argued that his business was small and had no impact on interstate commerce, and that he did provide limited services to African Americans. McClung prevailed in federal district court and received an injunction barring the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act against Ollie’s Barbecue.

Why is the case important?

Ollie’s Barbecue, a family-run business in Alabama did not serve blacks in the restaurant, which was in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Act).


Can Ollie’s discriminate against Negroes in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is a local restaurant that is not located near a highway and does not advertise out of state?


No, Ollie’s cannot discriminate against Negroes. Even though Ollie’s was primarily a local restaurant and its food supply purchases didn’t really affect commerce, there is a lot of discrimination in the country at this time. Ollie’s is perpetuating this discrimination along with similar establishments in the country. In the aggregate, this conduct could have a harmful affect on interstate commerce. Furthermore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to establishments when a substantial portion of their food supplies moved in commerce.


Reversing, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the overall purpose and operational plan of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of the power to regulate interstate commerce insofar as it requires hotels and motels to serve transients without regard to their race or color. Thus, 201(a)(b)(c) of the statute, forbidding racial discrimination by restaurants offering to serve interstate travelers or serving food a substantial portion of which has moved in interstate commerce, is a constitutional exercise of the commerce power.

  • Advocates: –
  • Appellant: Katzenbach
  • Appellee: McClung
  • DECIDED BY:Warren Court
  • Location: Ollie’s Barbeque
Citation: 379 US 294 (1964)
Argued: Oct 5, 1964
Decided: Dec 14, 1964
Katzenbach v. McClung Case Brief