This two-part series brings you photographs from the Hugh Lawson White Photograph Collection, comprising thirty-eight black and white prints of various scenes of White, and his gubernatorial administrations (1936-1940 and 1952-1956). The collection has been digitized and is available to view online.
White was inaugurated as governor for the second time in 1952. During his second term, White presided over several controversial issues, notably Civil Rights challenges to the status quo in Mississippi. Soon after his reelection, he began trying to reorganize the school system in order to avoid federal desegregation. White hoped to raise teacher pay and improve facilities in African American schools. However, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that White and the legislature had been counting on to avoid integration. The legislature even went so far as to adopt an amendment to the state constitution that would abolish the public school system and pay each child’s tuition to segregated private schools.
In another effort to avoid segregation, the legislature belatedly passed a bill to fund improvements to African American schools. State leaders could not avoid the inevitable, though, as the Supreme Court issued its second ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1955, saying that schools must be desegregated with “all deliberate speed.” With the murders of Emmett Till and NAACP leader Gus Courts occuring in 1955, White’s second term saw the state fully transition into the Civil Rights era.
Westley F. Busbee, Jr., Mississippi: A History (Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 2005), 234-37, 274-279.
David G. Sansing, “Hugh Lawson White: Forty-fifth and Fifty-first Governor of Mississippi: 1936-1940; 1952-1956,” Mississippi History Now (January 2004), http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/articles/265/index.php?s=extra&id=145 (accessed December 16, 2010).