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.
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
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. 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.