How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

**UPDATED** - Black History Month & Mount Vernon's Paul Sullivan

Last year, I was reading a Metro page story about one of my constituents who had recently passed away named Paul Sullivan.  I was dumbfounded that I had never heard of him.  Here's the Washington Post story.


Mr. Sullivan moved his family to Bucknell Manor in 1950's.  When he decided to rent his house to a black family and allowed him to use the membership at the Little Hunting Creek Pool that came with the house, the pool and the neighborhood went into revolt, kicked his family out of the pool, and began a campaign of harassment against him and his family.  Their mailbox was blown up repeatedly, late night phone calls threats ensued, and his pastor refused to discuss the matter from the pulpit. 
The Sullivan and Freeman Families eventually filed suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court to have their pool memberships restored but lost. After two appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and five years of litigation the United States Supreme Court ordered the pool to reinstate their membership in Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U.S. 229 (1969).

Some pools in Montgomery County even tried to continue to deny membership to pools after the decision.  Ultimately, the decision led to the integration of thousands of private pools across the United States. 

It was because of the selfless and courageous actions of those like Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Freeman and their families that our state and country were able to rid themselves of the scourge of segregation.

Mr. Sullivan died on March 15, 2011 at the age of 87.  He left his wife of 61 years along with multiple children and grandchildren many of which still live on Coventry Road in Bucknell. 

This summer, the General Assembly passed a Memorializing Resolution recognizing Mr. Sullivan that you can read here.  My floor remarks detailing their story as part of Black History Month are below. 


***UPDATED***
One of my high school classmates who grew up in Bucknell Manor  emailed me a link to the oral argument of the argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It's a must listen. 


You can hear Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall ask his question "can we say it's just color" at at 39:57 in the argument. He then goes on to say "What right do they have to deny the man privileges as a result of a connection with real property on the basis of race alone?" The Thurgood Marshall proceeds to rip him to pieces.

It's fascinating to listen to U.S. Supreme Court Justicies talk about our little part of Fairfax County. It's interesting to hear the lawyer say that this is a little community about halfway between Alexandria and Mt. Vernon off Fort Hunt Road and it's called "Buck-Nell." (at 60:00 on the tape talking to Justice Hugo Black). Maybe I'm a lawyer geek and have done too many cases, but the discussions over the procedural snafu's about Virginia appeals are exactly the kinds of the things that the Supreme Court of Virginia formerly dismissed criminal and civil appeals over technicalities on cases they did not want to decide for years. 

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