In the summer of 1955, early in the modern civil rights era, six African American golfers in Beaumont, Texas, began attacking the Jim Crow caste system when they filed a federal lawsuit for the right to play the municipal golf course. The golfers and their African American lawyers went to federal court and asked a conservative white Republican judge to render a decision that would not only integrate the local golf course but also set precedent for desegregation of other public facilities, as well.
In Fair Ways, Beaumont native Robert J. Robertson chronicles three parallel stories that converged in this important case. He tells the story of the plaintiffs—avid golfers who had learned the game while working as caddies and waiters—and their young lawyers, recent graduates from Howard University law school, and the Republican judge just appointed to the bench by President Eisenhower. Would the judge apply the new principles of Brown v. Board of Education to the questions before him? Would he use federal judicial power to override state laws and outlaw local customs?
Fair Ways gives an uncommonly vivid picture of racial segregation and the forces that brought about its end. Using public case papers, public records, newspapers, and oral histories, Robertson has recreated the scene in Beaumont on the eve of desegregation, describing in detail the parallel white and black communities that characterized the Jim Crow caste system. Through this account, the forces at work in the South—education, military experience, rising expectations, the NAACP, and the rule of law—are personified dramatically by the golfers, the lawyers, and the judge.
Robert J. Robertson is a Beaumont businessman and community leader. He teaches at Lamar University and has served as president of the Tyrrell Historical Library Association, Texas Gulf Historical Society, and the Beaumont History Conference. Robertson is the author of numerous articles, and his earlier book, Her Majesty's Texans: Two English Immigrants in Reconstruction Texas, was also published by Texas A&M University Press.
What Readers Are Saying:
“. . . a wonderful story, rich with detail and local color and personality, that sheds an illuminating ray of light on one aspect of the story of desegregation, showing how the most unlikely persons can have a major impact on the important events of our lives. This is a book that local historians, historians of black experience, and those interested in the history of sport will all find indispensable. I have read every word of it and think it is a great read, an important story, and one that every Texan ought to know.”--John B. Boles, William P. Hobby Professor of History, Rice University
“Mr. Robertson tells a story that cuts to the core of sport and society. It reminds us of how far we have come as Americans and the strides that golf has made in the last fifty years. From the unspeakable inequities of the mid-1900's to the unprejudiced times of today, Fair Ways tells the courageous journey to fairway-freedom blazed by six golfers from Texas.”--Jim Nantz, CBS Sports
“The book is carefully researched, extensively footnoted, and clearly written. It provides a fresh look at race and the struggle for civil rights in a medium sized Texas city.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“This fine book by Robert J. Robertson is more than the story of the desegregation of public golf courses in Beaumont, Texas. It also provides a readable, captivating window into everyday life under the Jim Crow systems. Robertson’s thorough research and personal interviews conducted with principals involved in the desegregation of public recreational facilities in Beaumont, or their close associated, provides an account of how the early Civil Rights Movement operated at the grassroots level. . . . Fair Ways should be read by anyone interested in black golfing, the Civil Rights Movement, or race relations in Jim Crow, Texas.” --East Texas Historical Journal