Interview with Paul Wilson
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT A WONDERFUL ANSWER. AN ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL ANSWER. NOW, BY THE TIME OF REARGUMENT, YOU TELL A KIND OF FUNNY STORY, BECAUSE BY THE TIME OF REARGUMENT, THE JUSTICES WERE CONCERNED THAT YOUR CASE, IN PARTICULAR, HAD BECOME MOOT, AND YOU KIND OF WERE LEFT IN A—STRANDED. IF YOU COULD TELL US ABOUT THAT.

Paul Wilson:

The policy that the Topeka Board of Education had been following was controversial. And on the Board of Education there were those who opposed the continuance of segregated schools. In the spring of 1953, there was an election of several members of the Board of Education, in which uh, segregation was an issue. And the anti-segregation candidates uh won, so that they had a majority in favor of the uh, the abandonment of segregation. They uh made an announcement, that is, the Board of Education made an announcement, that Topeka would abandon its policy of segregation as soon as possible. And they did, I think, that fall, begin to implement that policy, by eliminating segregation in one or two schools, which affected very few black children. By the time the case was ready for argument, Justice Frankfurter had been informed of the statement of the Board of Education that they would abolish segregation, and when we began to argue, or when Mr. Carter, who was my adversary, stood up to argue, Mr. Justice Frankfurter said, "Mr. Carter, isn't your case moot?" And Mr. Carter very graciously said, "I would like for General Wilson to speak to that point." And of course, I had a speech, a prepared speech, but it said nothing about mootness. So I uh stood, and my argument was, that while Topeka had announced its intention to abandon segregation as a policy, it was still maintaining separate schools, and furthermore, that the decision of the Topeka Board of Education in no way uh, reflected the invalidity of the statute. And uh, I went on rather lamely for a few minutes, and finally the Chief Justice, who was by that time, Earl Warren, said "I don't think the case is moot, and we've asked Kansas to come and be heard, and I want to hear them."