Samuel W. Tucker

Title

Samuel W. Tucker

Description

Samuel Tucker was a black attorney who routinely challenged Virginia's Jim Crow laws. He is best known for organizing the 1939 Alexandria Library sit-in protest to desegregate the facility. After WWII, he was an attorney for the NAACP.

Source

Alexandria Black History Museum

Publisher

The Washington Post

Birth Date

June 18, 1913

Birthplace

Alexandria, Virginia

Death Date

October 19, 1990

Biographical Text

Tucker was born in Alexandria, Virginia and attended segregated elementary and middle schools in the city. However, Alexandria did not provide a black high school and Tucker was forced to take a streetcar into Washington, D.C. in order to continue his education.

On one of his trips home from the high school, Tucker, his younger brother, Otto, and older brother, George, refused to move to the back of the car for a white woman. George and Samuel were arrested and put on trial for disorderly conduct. The jury acquitted the two boys.

In 1939, at age 26, Tucker led the nation's first sit-in protest at the whites only Alexandria Library. The protest resulted in the construction of a black library.

After WWII, he moved to Emporia, Virginia, a town with a large, but very poor black population. Tucker was the only black lawyer. In 1949, he worked as a lawyer for the NAACP on the appeal for the Martinsville Seven, seven black men who were convicted of raping a white woman and sentenced to death. Tucker's argument revealed that since 1908 no white men had been executed for rape, while 45 black men had faced the death penalty for the same crime. The appeal was unsuccesful.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Tucker was heavily involved in the various legal battles to desegrate Virginia's public schools. Harry F. Byrd led the Massive Resistance movement and insisted that schools close rather than integrate. In the Green v. County School Board of New Kent County case, Tucker argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that New Kent County's freedom of choice plan was not a realistic desegregation plan. The justices agreed and the case resulted in nationwide busing movements to desegregate schools.

In 1969, while arguing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his opposition to Clement F Haynsworth's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tucker eloquently voiced his feelings about race relations in the United States. "I think that the greatest tragedy that has befallen this country in the last 10 or 15 years is the fact that children have grown up seeing that public officials who have taken the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States have so blatantly laughed at the law and disregarded the law."1

1. S.J. Ackerman, "The Trials of S.W. Tucker." The Washington Post, June 11, 2000.

Description

Samuel Tucker was a black attorney who routinely challenged Virginia's Jim Crow laws. He is best known for organizing the 1939 Alexandria Library sit-in protest to desegregate the facility. After WWII, he was an attorney for the NAACP.

Birth Date

June 18, 1913

Death Date

October 19, 1990

Source

Alexandria Black History Museum