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Case Name Nesbitt v. Statesville City Board of Education SD-NC-0003
Docket / Court 64-486 ( W.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On March 14, 1964, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Statesville City Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a ... read more >
On March 14, 1964, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Statesville City Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a racially segregated school district. The were represented by, among others, Jack Greenberg, for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The Board conceded that the district was segregated. But to combat the problem, since the Court's decision in Brown in 1954, the Board had merely assigned students to the schools they attended the previous year and allowed for voluntary transfers. In the summer of 1963, thirty black students applied for transfer to all-white schools; those who were denied brought this suit. The district court (Judge J. Braxton Craven) denied the plaintiffs' preliminary injunction, approving the Board's current freedom of choice plan. It concluded: "Within certain limits, it is not required that a federal district judge substitute his own judgment for that of a conscientious school board as to what may be wise or unwise, hasty or slow. The responsibility for the operation of the schools is still in the school boards and not in the courts.” Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 232 F.Supp. 288, 293 (W.D.N.C. Aug. 4, 1964).

On April 7, 1965, the Fourth Circuit, en banc, vacated the district court's decision, finding that it had failed to scrutinize the Board's plan sufficiently. Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 345 F.2d 333 (4th Cir. Apr. 7, 1965) (en banc)

On remand, the parties began negotiations, attempting to arrive at an acceptable desegregation plan. Unable to reach agreement, the case came to trial on May 27, 1968. And on January 9, 1969, the district court reached its decision, entering a desegregation plan that called for, among other things, the consolidation of middle schools and the continuation of certain freedom of choice elements.

On appeal again, the Fourth Circuit again disapproved. In light of the Supreme Court's decision in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, the court concluded: "The clear mandate of the Court is immediacy. Further delays will not be tolerated in this circuit." Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 418 F.2d 1040, 1042 (4th Cir. Dec. 2, 1969). The Fourth Circuit ordered the Board to submit a new desegregation plan.

After further negotiations, on June 15, 1970, the district court approved the Board's plan, which included student and teacher reassignment. Not two years later, the district court, on January 10, 1972, issued a show cause order why the case should not be dismissed and the district declared unitary. With no objections, the court entered that order and dismissed the case on February 11, 1972.

One follow up note about Statesville: In 1991, the Statesville City school district merged with the surrounding Iredell County school system, which was declared unitary in 1970. Chambers v. Iredell County Board of Education, 423 F.2d 613 (4th Cir. 1970) (upholding the district court's grant of unitary status).

Available Opinions
Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 232 F.Supp. 288 (W.D.N.C. Aug. 4, 1964)
Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 345 F.2d 333 (4th Cir. Apr. 7, 1965) (en banc)
Nesbit v. Statesville City Board of Education, 418 F.2d 1040 (4th Cir. Dec. 2, 1969)
Chambers v. Iredell County Board of Education, 423 F.2d 613 (Feb. 27, 1970) (en banc).

Greg Margolis - 03/05/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief denied
Reporting
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Education
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Statesville City
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are African-American minor school children, by and through their parents, who attended schools in Statesville, North Carolina.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1969 - 1972
Case Closing Year 1972
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
64-486 (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/11/1972
Source: Pro Publica
General Documents
[Order] (232 F.Supp. 288) (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/04/1964
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (345 F.2d 333)
SD-NC-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/07/1965
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (418 F.2d 1040)
SD-NC-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/02/1969
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (423 F.2d 613)
SD-NC-0003-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/27/1970
Source: Westlaw
Show Cause Order (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/07/1972
Source: Pro Publica
Order of Dismissal (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/10/1972
Source: Pro Publica
Judges Bell, J. Spencer (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0004
Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (N.D. W. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0004 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Bryan, Albert Vickers (FISC, E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0004 | SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Butzner, John Decker Jr. (E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Craven, James Braxton Jr. (W.D.N.C., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0003 | SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0004 | SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Jones, Woodrow Wilson (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0003-0001 | SD-NC-0003-0002 | SD-NC-0003-9000
Sobeloff, Simon E. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0004 | SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Winter, Harrison Lee (D. Md., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0003-0005 | SD-NC-0003-0006
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (New York)
SD-NC-0003-9000
Brown, Calvin L. (New York)
SD-NC-0003-9000
Chambers, Julius LeVonne (New York)
SD-NC-0003-9000
Greenberg, Jack (New York)
SD-NC-0003-9000
Pearson, Conrad O. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Collier, Robert A. Sr. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0003-9000

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