Saturday, June 06, 2009

This Week in TExas Methodist History June 7

Texas Conference Elects Committee to Formulate Policy on Racial and Social Relations at Lakeview, June 7, 1957

At its 1957 Annual Conference the Texas Conference took one small step in the agonizingly slow process that eventually led to the desegregation of the conference. Less than ten years earlier the Conference had created Lakeview in the forests of Anderson County. Lakeview provided camping, recreational, and retreat facilities to a variety of church groups, especially the youth. Summer camps for high school and junior high school students were especially important in helping hundreds of youth deepen their faith. There were shorter versions of the camping experience called Midwinter that reinforced those commitments. Only white children attended those camps because in the 1950s the churches in the Texas Conference of the South Central Jurisdiction were segregated by race.
There was also a Texas Conference of the Central Jurisdiction which had been created in 1939. The Central Jurisdiction contained the African American conferences of the former Methodist Episcopal Church. Its churches may have been only a few blocks from some of the Texas Conference (SCJ) churches, but there was practically no interaction between the two.
The high school and junior high school camps did not raise questions about racial segregation, but camps for college students did. On March 1, 1956, a committee of older youth (college students) asked the Lakeview Executive Committee for permission to hold a racially integrated event at Lakeview. They indicated that if their request were denied, they would take the matter to the Annual Conference. On May 15 the Executive Committee put off the request by naming a committee that would conduct a year-long study. One year later on May 30, 1957, they asked for still another year to study the matter.
The next week, on the opening day of Annual Conference, Stewart Clendenin moved that the Lakeview Board not be given another year. Instead he moved that that the Annual Conference elect a committee to formulate a policy.
The Clendenin motion passed, and so on the last day of conference, Friday, June 7, the conference members cast ballots. Three clergy, John Wesley Hardt, William Harris, and Myers Curtis, were elected. The lay members were M. G. Mell, Bryan Butts, Mrs. Harmon Lowman, and E. C. Clabaugh who chaired the special committee.
That committee worked through the fall of 1957, and its recommendation was accepted. Each organization that used Lakeview facilities would determine eligibility for participation. The older youth could hold a racially integrated event at Lakeview. It may seem today a small victory in the long struggle against racial segregation, but the actions of the older youth in prodding the Texas Conference to adopt a race-neutral policy should not be forgotten.

Ref. Hardt, John Wesley, Lakeview: A Story of Inspiring Unit


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