Saturday, June 01, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 2

Texas Conference Ends Racial Segregation at Lakeview, June 2, 1958

A recent post discussed the founding and naming of Lakeview, the Texas Conference camping facility in Anderson County.   The facility quickly became an important part of the conference and attracted all sorts of meetings, retreats, and educational events.  In the 1950s the heavy hand of racial segregation still lay over East Texas and the Texas Conference of the Methodist Church.   In 1939 discrimination against African Americans had been formally enshrined into church law with the creation of the Central Jurisdiction.   That jurisdiction also had a Texas Conference occupying almost the same area as the Texas Conference of the South Central Jurisdiction.   

The two Texas Conferences were separate in every respect---except one very small crack in the wall in racism.  That one small crack was the fact that the Methodist Student Movement occasionally had events in which both European American and African American students attended.  The question arose---could such an event be held at Lakeview?

At the 1957 session of the Texas Conference (SCJ) a 7 person committee was named to study the issue and bring recommendations to the 1958 session.  On June 2 Chair of the Committee E. C. Clabaugh, brought the recommendation to the Annual Conference.  The report had already been endorsed unanimously by the Lakeview Trustees.  The gist of the recommendation was that the Superintendent could host any group he wanted, regardless of the local segregation laws then in effect.  One should remember that Lakeview had a swimming pool, and pools had been a main subject of protests against Jim Crow.   By hosting desegregated events at Lakeview, the ban against interracial bathing was destroyed.   Lakeview also had accommodations for staying overnight.   That meant that persons of all races would be sharing cabins for sleeping.  

Besides Mr. Clabaugh of Carthage, the other members of the committee included my father, J. W. Hardt, Meyers Curtis, William Harris, Mrs. Harmon Lowman,  and Mr. B. J. Butts of San Augustine who voted to end segregation at Lakeview.  Mr. M. G. Mell of Gilmer was also on the committee and he voted to keep racial segregation in place.  Curtis, Hardt, and Harris were young clergy already identified with the more progressive faction of the Conference.  Mrs. Lowman was WSCS Conference President.   

The Committee went on to add an even stronger statement in favor of racial inclusions.  They said that even though their mandate had been to bring a recommendation to Annual Conference 1958, they decided to implement the policy immediately without waiting for Conference action on their recommendation. 

That wasn’t all.  The 1957 Annual Conference had authorized another special committee called Committee on Rotation to recommend changes to practices by which trustees were appointed to the hospitals, schools, and other instructions of the Conference.  The “Union” had controlled such appointments and kept re-appointing their allies to these important positions.  The report of that committee took the extraordinary step of subtly saying “Bishop Smith, when it comes to appointing Lakeview trustees, we expect you to appoint persons who will enforce our non-discriminatory policy.Mrs. Lowman, Mr. Butts, and Rev. Harris served on both committees.


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