Brief Fact Summary. A provision of a will left by a Senator Augustus Bacon (the Senator) conveyed a park to Macon, Georgia to be used by whites only. The provision was challenged under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Operating a park is a public function and therefore, the owner is subject to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Upon his death, the senator devised land to Macon, Georgia that was to be used as a park for whites only. The city was named trustee, and a Board of Managers was created under the trust to administer the park. The park was eventually opened by the city and Negroes were allowed to use it. The City argued they could not enforce segregation in a public park. The Defendants, individual Managers from the Board of Managers (Defendants) sued to remove the city as trustee so as to effectuate the Senator’s will. The city resigned as the trustee and a state court appointed private trustees to continue the exclusion of Negroes from the park. The Plaintiffs, a group of Negroes (Plaintiffs), intervened alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution’s Equal protection clause.
Issue. Is operating a park a public function and therefore subjected to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?
Held. Yes, black people cannot be excluded because operating a park is a public function.
Discussion. Points of Law - for Law School Success
If a testator wanted to leave a school or center for the use of one race only and in no way implicated the State in the supervision, control, or management of that facility, we assume arguendo that no constitutional difficulty would be encountered. View Full Point of Law
For years, the city used this park as a tax exemption. Therefore it was a public park. Just because the Senator gave money to private people to make it whites-only, does not mean the city can become untwined. Where tradition of municipal control becomes firmly established, substituting private trustees will not move the park from the public to private sector.
Parks provide a municipal service that serves an entire community. Mass recreation is clearly in the public domain.