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Caughey, John Walton (1902-1995) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Caughey, John Walton (1902-1995)

Historical Note:

John Walton Caughey was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1902. He graduated from high school in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1918, received a B.A. from the University of Texas, an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of California in 1928.

Between 1937 and 1968, Caughey's various literary assignments included editing The Pacific Historical Review, Frontier, American Heritage, and Chronicles of California. He also served as a consultant for the California Department of Justice on constitutional rights in the "tidelands litigation" and litigation on Newport Bay. During this period, he was also a representative on the State Superintendent's "Committee of Sociologists," an advisory committee on school segregation at UCLA.  Mr. Caughey was also a member of the Western Advisory Committee for the Social Science Research Council.

As a professor of American History at UCLA, he wrote extensively on the history of California and the United States, and collaborated on other books such as California Heritage, California's Own History, and Land of the Free. His main focus of scholarship concentrated on imperilment and denials of constitutional protections of civil liberties and rights in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with particular reference to mid-twentieth century and to segregation. In 1949, Caughey began a protest of the University system's loyalty oath.

The fact of school segregation was brought to the official attention of the Board of Education as far back as June 7, 1962 when an injunction was sought to desegregate two Los Angeles high schools--one predominantly white and the other black. A class action lawsuit was filed in 1966 on behalf of Mary Ellen Crawford who attended the black school. The suit sought desegregation of Los Angeles public schools and charged that the school district practiced "defacto" segregation, as most of its minority students attended non-integrated schools. The Crawford trial began in October 1968. In continuing court hearings that ended in 1970, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that integration was indeed necessary to correct racial imbalances throughout the school district. Judge Alfred Gitelson's decision called for the LAUSD to present a plan to the court to integrate the schools. The LAUSD appealed the ruling and in 1975 the California Supreme Court heard the case. In June 1976, the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower court. The school district was required to take steps to alleviate segregation. The case was returned to the Los Angeles Superior Court where Judge Paul Edgley was appointed in February 1977.

In 1967, when Eason Monroe of the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] persuaded Bayard Berman to be volunteer counsel for petitioners in the Crawford suit, he asked the Caugheys to help Berman by giving educational advice and doing what research was needed. They agreed and helped through pretrial, trial, and the appeal stages of the case. In 1977, when Edward Medvene became lead counsel for the ACLU and was joined by counsel for both the NAACP and the Mexican Center for Law and Justice, the Caughey's continued to assist the litigation.

In the second phase of the compliance hearings, beginning in the fall of 1977, there was another change in lead counsel. Although the Caughey's continued their research and offered suggestions, certain differences arose. All told they presented 26 briefs, studies, or comparable documents, supportive of positions of counsel for the original petitioners and for intervener Integration Project by offering expert information or reasoning that might not otherwise have reached the court. In 1977, they relinquished the chairmanship as education counsel for the ACLU but continued wherever possible to aid the advancement of school integration.

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