|Miss Mary Hamilton|
|Arrested first in Mississippi|
|Good Ol' Boys, sheriffs in a southern courtroom, expressing their respect|
This morning NPR ran a report on a case which reached the Supreme Court in 1963, of which Mad Dog had been unaware.
On the Court were William O. Douglas, Arthur Goldberg, Hugo Black and William Brennan.
The case concerned Mary Hamilton, age 28, who was a worker for the Congress of Racial Equality in Alabama, (which must have been roughly analogous to being the field director for the United Jewish Appeal in Berlin in 1936,) and she had been arrested during a civil rights demonstration in Gasden, Alabama.
At that time in the South, white men and women were addressed by judges and prosecutors as "Mr. Jones" or "Miss Smith," while Blacks were called by their first names, in keeping with the tradition and prevailing idea that Blacks were child like, mentally retarded semi-human beings. When Etowah County Solicitor Rayburn addressed Mary Hamilton as "Mary" and asked her questions, she replied, "I will not answer a question until I am addressed correctly," for which she was thrown into jail by a Judge Cunningham, and she was fined $50, which she refused to pay and the case went to the Alabama Supreme Court, which denied her appeal and then to the Supreme Court of the United States, which dismissed the case against Miss Mary Hamilton on summary judgment, ruling that all those brought before the bar of justice ought to be addressed equally, regardless of race.
This startling outcome must have come as a shock to the good people of Alabama, and likely equally disturbing for the good folks of South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana who were likely heard saying things like, "I just don't understand: All our colored down here are happy."
Mad Dog well remembers, living in Virginia in the mid 1950's as a child and addressing Black adults as "Mr" and "Mrs" or "Sir" or "Ma'm" and seeing the reaction, asking his mother whether or not he had said the wrong thing.
She reassured him, "You have done nothing wrong. It's other people who have done something wrong."