Breyer praises namesake of new Fargo High SchoolWASHINGTON — The way Stephen Breyer sees it, the rest of the nation can learn something with the opening of Fargo’s Judge Ronald N. Davies High School. The U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice said Davies’ rulings in 1957 to force the start of integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., got the ball rolling on a process of bringing equality to education that continues — in some places — even today.
By: By Helmut Schmidt, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
WASHINGTON — The way Stephen Breyer sees it, the rest of the nation can learn something with the opening of Fargo’s Judge Ronald N. Davies High School.
The U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice said Davies’ rulings in 1957 to force the start of integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., got the ball rolling on a process of bringing equality to education that continues — in some places — even today.
Breyer, who will be one of the featured speakers at Sunday’s dedication of Davies High, said in an interview Wednesday that Davies was one of the pioneers in ruling for integration.
And as history tells us, it’s not always easy being a pioneer, he said.
“I was, I guess, about 18. I knew it (Little Rock) was important,” Breyer said. “But I’ve only realized, really, since being on the court, how important it was. It was part of an effort to turn these words in the Constitution about equal treatment into a reality.
“We just take that for granted. But there was nothing to be taken for granted then,” he said. “It was touch and go. What he did with that ruling was he started a course of events that took a long time to come to fruition.”
Breyer said Davies’ ruling was one of the events that made integration a reality, “that began to end segregation — that began to make equality in law something that was more than just words on paper. And that showed that the court ruling in Brown (v. The Board of Education of Topeka) would, in fact, be followed in the country.”
Davies’ ruling, “followed by the paratroopers, followed by all kinds of anguish, followed by very difficult times, followed by the closing of the schools, which was terrible for everybody, followed by the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, it began a process,” Breyer said. “And someone has to begin, and he did. And that’s why they’re dedicating a school to him. And they’re quite right to do so.”
Breyer said the nation’s founders and framers of the Constitution worried about such pivotal points in history — whether the country would obey a court ruling when it was unpopular.
That whole period of time “required many brave judges,” he said. “It required many, many brave students like the Little Rock Nine. It required a president who sent in 1,000 parachute troops, it required … a whole movement. And work went on. The work is never finished.”
Those who were not born then need to understand how much was accomplished and what he (Davies) did, Breyer said.
“That’s why I’m going to bring my granddaughter to Fargo. I want her to see those events. I want them to make an impression on her.”
Breyer said Davies not only made it happen, but he made it happen with a sense of urgency.
Nothing much had happened between 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling and the effort to integrate Central High in 1957, Breyer said.
“And he (Davies) got down there, was sent down earlier in ‘57 and he simply ordered them to go ahead and do it,” Breyer said. “And then, when they tried various legal maneuvers to stop, he said ‘no.’ And on the law, he was right!”
And all through that time, Davies had to be calm and handle the situation without inflaming already high tensions in the region, he said. Nonetheless, he persevered in moving integration forward.
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.