Race relations in Chattanooga

Race relations in Chattanooga

January 20th, 2009 in Local Regional News

Following are some historical highlight of race relations in Chattanooga:

1906 - Ed Johnson, a 23-year-old black man, was lynched on the Walnut Street Bridge by a white mob. He was convicted of the rape of a white woman and given the death penalty. Mr. Johnson's death occurred shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution in his case. In 2000, Hamilton County Criminal Court overturned Mr. Johnson's rape conviction. Chattanooga trial attorney Leroy Phillips Jr., who co-wrote a 1999 book, "Contempt of Court," about Mr. Johnson, said: "To say that this (legal) system is perfect and that racially this city is perfect is ridiculous, but we have come so far it is unbelievable."

1958 - On May 3, John Larry Bolden, a black 15-year-old, was shot to death by white police officer W.H. Taylor, who was answering a disturbance call in a housing development. A preliminary police investigation found that Mr. Taylor acted in self defense after the victim threw a garbage can at him, but the policeman later was charged with murder and posted $2,500 bond. The final outcome of the case is unclear.

1989 - Ralph Cothran because Chattanooga's first African American Chief of Police.

1989 - Ralph Cothran because Chattanooga's first African...

1960 - The downtown lunch counter sit-ins started on a Friday afternoon, Feb. 19, when 12 black honor students from Howard High School took stools at whites-only lunch counters. It was the first sit-in demonstration in Chattanooga. The crowd of protesters grew daily until Wednesday, Feb. 24, when more than 1,000 people gathered downtown. Authorities turned fire hoses on the crowd, both black and white, to disperse them. On Aug. 5, downtown lunch counters served black customers for the first time.

1960 - Mattie Greene, 32, was killed in Ringgold, Ga., on May 20 when a bomb exploded under her house while she was sleeping. No one ever was arrested.

1960 - Longtime NAACP president James Mapp filed a federal school desegregation lawsuit against the Chattanooga Board of Education in April. The first schools in the city started to integrate in 1962, but ending school segregation was a process. Mr. Mapp said he thought it was a simple matter since the Supreme Court had declared school segregation illegal in 1954. He estimated that the local schools would be segregated within 48 hours. Instead, he was back and forth in court for 26 years. Someone put sugar in his gas tank in 1960; his house was bombed in 1970. In 1962, first though third grades were desegregated in 16 city schools.

1963 - Ralph Kelley was elected mayor of Chattanooga. Much of the city still was segregated. However, Mr. Kelley and Alton Park Junior High School Principal John P. Franklin Sr. started working together with others to desegregate movie theaters and restaurants. When Mr. Kelley died in 2004, he was buried as he requested by Mr. Franklin's funeral home. The selection of the black-owned funeral home by a prominent white Chattanoogan emphasized one of the remaining divides between blacks and whites in Chattanooga.

1963 - The University of Chattanooga, once a private school, admitted blacks for the first time in 1963. By 2005, the school, renamed UTC in 1969, was leading the UT system in its percentage of black students in its freshman class.

1969 - Bennie Harris became Chattanooga's first African American judge since the reconstruction.

1969 - Bennie Harris became Chattanooga's first African...

1971 - John P. Franklin Sr. was elected to the city commission as the commissioner of health and education and served four terms as the vice mayor of Chattanooga. Mr. Franklin is recognized as the city's first black elected official.

1978 - Rheubin Taylor and the Rev. Paul McDaniel were the first blacks to serve on the Hamilton County Commission. The two were on the commission when it was formed. Mr. McDaniel was re-elected four times until he retired after 20 years of service. His colleagues named him chairman more often than any other commissioner.

1994 - Rheubin Taylor becomes Hamilton County's first black county attorney.

1998 - JoAnne Favors becomes the first black woman elected to the Hamilton County Commission.

2005 - Black City Councilmen Yusuf Hakeem, John Taylor, Leamon Pierce and John "Duke" Franklin Jr., organize the African American Summit to discuss ways to combat racial disparities in the city.

2006 - The Office of Multicultural Affairs, a result of the summit, is opened with $500,000 in city funding. The office seeks to promote equality and inclusion for all ethnic and religious backgrounds in Chattanooga.