Today in Texas History – July 22

From the Annals of Discrimination – In 1944, Lawrence Aaron Nixon, black physician and voting-rights advocate, was given a ballot to vote in the Democratic Party primary.  In that day, the Democratic nominee was all but assured of election and thus, the Democratic primary was the “real” election.  Nixon had become involved in the civil rights movement after seeing the disgusting number of lynchings of black men in Texas, one of which occurred in Cameron where Nixon was practicing at the time.   He moved to El Paso, established a successful medical practice, helped organize a Methodist congregation, voted in Democratic primary and general elections, and in 1914 helped to organize the local chapter of the NAACP.  But in 1923 the Texas legislature passed a law prohibiting blacks from voting in Democratic primaries. In 1924, with the sponsorship of the NAACP, Nixon took his poll-tax receipt to a Democratic primary polling place and was refused a ballot. This began a twenty-year legal fight.  Nixon and his attorney, Fred C. Knollenberg, twice prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court in their quest to secure voting rights for blacks. The Nixon decisions were major steps toward voting rights, but Texas and the dominant Democratic Party employed a number of legal maneuvers to continue to deny primary votes to blacks.  Only after the decision in Smith v. Allwright ended the white primary system, did blacks have a clear right to vote.

Photo from http://www.blackpast.org

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