January 25, 1910
When an ordinance was introduced in the upper house of the council last night by Alderman J. E. Logan, making it obligatory on the Metropolitan Street Railway Company to operate cars for negro passengers, or to designate a part of the car for their use if they are to be carried with whites, there was a perceptible dodging of the aldermen to assume responsibility for having a hand in the legislation.
"I'd like to have the ordinance go to the streets, alleys and grades committee," proposed Alderman Logan.
"The streets, alleys and grades committee has all it can attend to now," replied Alderman Wirthman.
"Public improvements committee," suggested somebody.
"That's no place for such an ordinance," pleaded Alderman Baylis Steele. "It should go to the sanitary committee."
"The judiciary committee should pass on it," recommended Alderman W. C. Culbertson.
"Alderman Logan is chairman of that committee and he doesn't want it," volunteered Alderman W. A. Bunker.
The dodging began to get livelier.
"How would you like to have me appointed to a special committee, Alderman Logan?" interrogated President R. L. Gregory.
"That would suit me."
"Would you ask that I be put in the committee?"
Gregory took an inventory of the aldermen.
"How do you stand on this proposition?" Gregory asked of Culbertson.
"As I have said before, it looks like a trouble-maker, but," Culbertson was saying when Gregory interrupted.
"You have killed yourself," he said, "and I appoint Alderman Thompson, Republican, and Alderman O'Malley, Democrat, and myself on that committee. I'm for the ordinance heart and soul. I think negroes and whites riding on street cars should be separated."
"I'd like to be excused from serving on the committee. I surrender to Alderman Logan," said Alderman Thompson.
"You don't want to serve?"
"Well, I would like to have a Republican on the committee. How about you, Alderman Bunker?"
"I'm much obliged, but you'll have to excuse me," spoke up Bunker.
"How about you Alderman Tilhoff?"
"What is it you want to know?" innocently asked the alderman.
"We are going to put the negro where he belongs," answered Gregory.
"No, I do not wish to serve on the committee," promptly interposed Tillhoff.
"I'll put you on the committee, alderman," addressed Gregory to Alderman Logan. "I had hopes that we should make the committee non-partisan, but I can't get a Republican to serve, so, therefore, I'll draft Alderman Thompson on the committee." Thompson smiled, and did not object to being drafted.
The ordinance was drafted by Walter M. Lampkin, an associate city counselor. He explained its provisions, providing for separate cars for negroes, designation for them in the car if they ride with whites and placing authority in the conductor to seat passengers to fit conditions.
"Suppose passengers will have to stand. How about that?" asked Alderman Culbertson.
"That won't happen. We're going to have more cars," replied Counselor Lampkin.
"What's a passenger to do that wants to go forward to the lobby to smoke?"
"I had expected such questions, but I am not prepared to answer them."
"Have you prepared separate straps for negroes and whites?"
Lampkin appeared confused, and Alderman Logan came to his rescue.
"This is no joking matter," said Logan. "No political or racial prejudices should obtain. It is simply intended to facilitate the convenience and comfort of travel in the street cars. It is a success in Atlanta, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Mobile and other Southern cities. Whites as well as negroes vote it a welcome convenience, and if the ordinance is enforced negroes will be grateful recipients.
"The purport of the ordinance is the greatest good to the greatest numbers. they have no such law in Northern cities as they they have not the preponderance of negro population that Kansas City has."
Alderman Isaac Taylor asked Counselor Lampkin if the city had a legal right to pass such an ordinance when there is no similar law in force in the state.
Mr. Lampkin answered that his first impression was that the city did not have the right, but upon consulting authorities he found that the city, under the laws of police powers, has the right. He cited the Florida supreme court as giving the cities of that state the authority, under police powers, to enact laws similar to the one proposed for Kansas City, and said that the supreme court of Massachusetts had ruled that school directors could segregate white and negro children attending public schools.
"I can see where good results would obtain by the enforcement of such an ordinance, but it looks like a trouble breeder to me," observed Alderman Culbertson.
The ordinance is patterned after the law in force in Southern cities, and provides a fine of $25 for a person refusing to take a seat assigned him by the conductor or after refusal to leave the car for non-compliance of the rule. The company is subject to a fine of $500 if it fails to operate the separate cars, or comply with the required designation.
Should the ordinance become a law the New Orleans plan will be followed. The conductor will designate the seats in accordance with the prevailing conditions. It is proposed to have negroes occupy the front part of the car. Seats for their use will be appropriate labeled, and they must occupy no others. When their allotment of seats becomes filled, and standing in the aisles is necessary, they must keep within the limits of these seats. They must not seat themselves in seats reserved for whites, and any violation of this rule will necessitate the immediate retirement of the offender from the car or his arrest and punishment by a fine of $25 in the municipal court. The same rule applies to whites occupying reservations for negroes.