Montgomery County Circuit Court
Site of Major Civil Rights Cases 1956-1960
In 1956, 89 persons were indicted for violating an anti-boycott law; Rosa Parks' conviction was appealed; the Montgomery Improvement Association car pool was enjoined; and Fred D. Gray was accused of legal misrepresentation (actions in all 4 cases ended with the successful end of the boycott). In 1957, the NAACP was banned from Alabama (later overturned). In 1960, black Alabama State College and white MacMurray College (IIlinois) students were jailed for eating together at the Regal Cafe, and a white and a black student were arrested for attempted desegregation of the Jefferson Davis Hotel; all convictions in these cases were reversed. Also in 1960, local black ministers were sued for libel in the case that
resulted in the landmark 1964 Times v. Sullivan ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Martin Luther King Jr. was acquitted by an all white jury in a tax case. African American lawyers arguing cases in the courts here included attorneys Fred D. Gray, Charles Langford, Solomon Seay Jr., Charles Conley, Orzell Billingsley Peter Hall, Arthur Shores and Robert Carter.
Sit-Ins and Marches at the Montgomery County Courthouse
On February 25, 1960, Alabama State College students demanded service at the "Whites Only Courthouse Grille located on this site. When refused, the students occupied all the tables. The Grille was then closed, the lights turned off, and the students asked to leave. Subsequently, 9 ASC students were expelled, a dozen professors were pressured to resign and the president was compelled to step down. Fred D. Gray filed St. John Dixon v. Alabama as a result of these actions and ultimately the students were ordered reinstated. On March 17, 1965, after a week of voting rights demonstrations in Montgomery marred by police violence against the protesters, some 4,000 students from Montgomery and Tuskegee marched on the Montgomery County Courthouse where leaders met with city,
county, state, and federal officials. During the 7-hour meeting students sang and chanted in the rain outside. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emerged from the meeting, he announced that officials had apologized for the recent violence.