Lloyd Gaines Went Missing After Winning A Historic Desegregation Case In 1939 Against The University Of Missouri’s All-White Law

Lloyd Gaines told a buddy he was going to buy postal stamps when he left his house on the night of March 19, 1939. That would be the final time his relatives and friends would see him. He had just won one of the most important Supreme Court cases in decades. He had won a case forcing the University of Missouri’s all-white law school to admit him.

His family stated he looked frightened a few days before he vanished. Gaines had told his family that he was having trouble obtaining a secure employment to help pay for his education and that he was also uncomfortable with the public attention he was receiving as a result of the court case.

Gaines, who was born in 1911 to sharecropper parents, finished first in his class from an all-Black high school. In an essay contest, he received a $250 scholarship and enrolled in a teachers’ college. However, due to a lack of cash, he dropped out of college. According to The New York Times, he earned another scholarship and was able to attend Lincoln University, a school for Black people in Jefferson City, with the help of family and black churches.

Gaines aspired to be a lawyer along the road. However, in Missouri at the time, there were only 36 Black lawyers. According to historians, all 36 Black lawyers received their education elsewhere.

Gaines applied to the segregated University of Missouri School of Law after graduating from the historically Black Lincoln University in 1935. It was the state’s only law school. Gaines received word from the school in March 1936 that his application had been denied. According to an EJI investigation, the school offered to finance his tuition at a historically Black legal school or a non-segregated law school in another state.

Gaines, with the help of the NAACP, turned down the offer and sued the University of Missouri to overturn a policy that barred him from entering law school in his home state solely because of his skin color.

He lost in state court and then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, where he won in December 1938. Gaines has been ordered to attend the University of Missouri’s law school or to establish an in-state law school for African Americans.

In an old beauty school, the Missouri government quickly established a separate law school for African Americans. The NAACP, on the other hand, maintained that the change was inconsistent with the court’s verdict. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has decided to initiate a new legal challenge. However, as it was about to do so, it learned that Gaines had gone missing. Gaines was last seen on March 19, 1939, according to a housekeeper at his Chicago home, according to the NAACP.

The desegregation case against the University of Missouri was dropped because it lacked a plaintiff.

The institution did not admit its first African-American student for another ten years.

When Gaines went missing in March 1939, state officials speculated that he had gone and established a new identity in response to threats against him and the people he cared about. His relatives, on the other hand, feared he had been kidnapped and murdered. Tracy Berry, whose grandmother was Gaines’ sister, told The New York Times in 2009, “He was taken away and more than likely killed.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agreed to look into the case in 2007. Gaines’ fate is still unclear. He received an honorary law degree from the University of Missouri in 2006. It was followed by a posthumous law license from the state bar.

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