US District Judge Michael P. Mills Grants Unitary Status To Lowndes/
been a long time coming. 45 years to be exact! But Representative Jeff Smith of Columbus, who serves as the attorney for the Lowndes County School Board, has seen the ups and downs of the journey the entire way!
US District Judge Michael P. Mills has ruled that Columbus and Lowndes County schools, who had been under a federal court order since 1970 (though the case had been fought in court for 3 years prior, beginning in 1967) to report practically every activity to the Department of Justice before being able to act on it (such as building new buildings, etc.) has now gained unitary status.
Gaining unitary status means that the local school boards can make decisions without having to get approval from the DOJ before doing so. Smith says that, in the past, he’d have to submit a proposal to the DOJ, then the agency had 60 days in order to approve or reject the said proposal.
Smith remembers way back in 1967 when then-Senator Bill Burgin was working on behalf of the Lowndes County schools, and Joe Sams Jr. was working on behalf of the Columbus schools, to fight the federal government in court as they prepared to court-order the local school systems. It all stemmed from the eventual integration of schools in 1970. When the federal courts ordered the integration, both schools systems were placed under court order to act only after approval by the DOJ.
“Bill Burgin and Joe Sams Jr. would get up early nearly every morning and drive back and forth to Jackson to work on behalf of the local school boards,” said Smith. “Then, they’d drive back to Columbus every evening to operate their local law practices. This went on for months and months during the court proceedings. After this ruling was handed down, it made me think of how much time they spent, tirelessly working on our schools behalf.”
For 3 years, between 1967 and 1970, the court proceedings dragged on. When the ruling was handed down, an appeals process sent it to U.S. District Court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals…and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the original ruling placing the local school boards under the control of the feds and the DOJ.
Smith said that the best line from this process has been that this latest ruling “closes an open wound that’s 45 years old!” Smith said that Judge Mills ruling was plain and simple. “He basically said that ‘Columbus and Lowndes County schools shall be granted unitary status and the case is hereby closed!’
The Puppy Rescue Mission
Linda Brooks is working on behalf of the Puppy Rescue Mission, a 501c charity that helps soldiers bring home puppies that they’ve become attached too while serving in Afghanistan. For more information on the organization, you can visit http://www.thepuppyrescuemission.org/home.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0