King v. Chapman
King v. Chapman et. al is a 1946 court case between Primus King, a religious leader and barber in Columbus, Georgia, and J. E. Chapman, Jr., the chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Party. It ruled the white primary as used by the Democratic Party of Georgia to be unconstitutional. This case followed the Smith v. Allwright case, which struck down the white primaries in Texas and began the downfall of white primaries in other Deep South states.
Background and ruling
On July 4, 1944, Primus E. King, an African-American registered voter, went to the Muscogee County Courthouse in Columbus to cast his vote in the Democratic Party’s primary election. He was turned away by law enforcement. Dr. Thomas Brewer, a local physician who co-founded the local branch of the NAACP, encouraged and financially supported Mr. King in his lawsuit filed in federal court, styled King v. Chapman. In a landmark ruling in 1945, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia found in Mr. King's favor, deciding that the exclusion of black voters was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal by Chapman, which ended the State of Georgia's "whites only" primaries.
The end of the white primary in Georgia allowed African-Americans to pursue the right to vote in Georgia for the first time, although the enforcement of poll taxes, literacy tests and the County Unit System would remain a significant barrier to most African-American voters in Georgia until the 1960s. It would take nearly two decades before Leroy Johnson, the first African-American to serve in the Georgia General Assembly, would be elected.