- Nauman Scott
Nauman Steele Scott, II (June 15, 1916 - September 19, 2001), was a Republican-appointed federal judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana from 1970 until 2001, who ordered cross-parish busing guidelines in 1980 to foster racial balance in Rapides Parish public schools. Because of his active fight against lingering remnants of segregation, Judge Scott has often been compared to two other Republican federal judges in similar circumstances, John Minor Wisdom (1905–1999) of New Orleans and Frank M. Johnson, Jr., of Montgomery, Alabama, the latter a rival of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, Jr. Prior to his judicial appointment, Scott had been an attorney in private practice in Alexandria.
Early years and legal practice
Scott was born to a family of lawyers in New Roads in Pointe Coupee Parish to attorney Nauman Steele Scott, I, and the former Sidonie Provosty. His maternal grandfather, Albin Provosty, had been a state senator, and his great-uncle, Olivier Provosty, was Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1920-1922. Scott grew up in Alexandria. Scott, Sr., was killed in a tragic gunshot accident when Scott he was only eleven years of age, leaving him and four younger siblings. For a time, he was a childhood playmate of Louisiana's future Republican national committeewoman, Mary Virginia Wheadon de Gravelles, who served in the party post from 1964-1968.
As per his late father's wishes, Scott was sent to boarding school and graduated from the elite Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, in 1934 and from Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1938. In 1941, he received his LL.B. degree from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. He established his practice in Alexandria from 1941-1942. On January 8, 1942, he married the former Blanche Hammond (1920–1985). From 1942-1946, he was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. After the war, he resumed his law practice—Provosty, Sadler, and Scott—from 1946-1970.
Scott was president of the Alexandria Bar Association from 1965-1966. In November 1966, he ran for the Rapides Parish School Board. Though Scott was the top Republican votegetter, he lost the race because the weakest Democrat on the ballot still outpolled him by some 3,000 votes. Democrats won all six of the at-large school board seats contested that year.
Nixon appoints Scott to the bench
On September 14, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Scott to a newly-created judgeship for the Wwstern District of Louisiana headquartered in Alexandria. Scott secured U.S. Senate confirmation on October 13, and received his commission of office on October 15, 1970. He was senior judge on the court from 1976-1984. He assumed senior status on December 4, 1984. He was still technically serving at the time of his death—a week after the 9-11 disaster—but had been too ill to discharge his duties.
In 1972, Scott presided over the perjury trial of Concordia Parish Sheriff Noah W. Cross, whose conviction was subsequently upheld on appeal. Cross, who began his tenure as sheriff in 1944 was compelled to resign in 1974 to enter federal prison. He died some two years later after having been released.
Scott served on the Louisiana Law Institute, the Louisiana Mineral Law Institute, and the Bar Association Committee for Drafting the Louisiana Constitution of 1974. He was a member of the Lake Forest Academy Hall of Fame, the recipient of the Amherst College Distinguished Alumni Award, the Tulane Law School Distinguished Jurist Award, and the Distinguished Jurist Award of the Louisiana Bar Association.
Cross-parish busing to achieve racial balance
As a veteran federal judge, Scott rendered many decisions in a variety of issue areas, but he will be most remembered for his implementation of a longstanding lawsuit seeking full desegregation of Rapides Parish schools. Scott approved the establishment of Bi-Racial Committee in various cities struggling with desegregation issues. He also directed that the meetings of such committees be closed to the public and the media. "We're talking about sensitive problems and each side must be giving concessions. You can't have a negotiative meeting with all the elements that are not always dedicated to its success looking over your shoulder."
In 1980, Scott authorized a massive cross-parish busing plan. Few blacks at the time lived in the northern Wards 10 and 11 of Rapides Parish. To achieve integration, some black students were bused into the two wards, and certain whites were ordered into predominantly black areas of Alexandria. The plan was strongly opposed by many whites in the affected rural areas but hailed by black lawyers representing the minority community.
Scott's decision had a U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Swann v. Mecklenburg Independent School District (1971), a case from Charlotte, North Carolina, which required busing across geographic boundaries, such as ward-to-ward or city-to-county, to increase racial balance in public schools. Swann, however, ran counter to the original 1954 desegregation ruling, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Brown had forbidden segregation in public schools but had not required racial balancing.
Scott's decision spurred angry protests, court battles and ultimate changes that led to a restructuring of the Rapides Parish school district. According to the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, in 1980, at least nine Rapides Parish schools were still more than 93 percent black. The desegregation lawsuit, still open from 1961, had been filed by the Reverend Sylvester Valley, who wanted his daughter to attend a desegregated school.
Some desegregation, especially at the high school level, occurred in 1969. In an effort to remedy a perceived situation of de facto racial inequity, Scott revived the lawsuit and directed massive school zone changes, cross-parish busing, school closures, and reassignment of principals. Critics said that the judge in reality had taken over the duties of the school board, which had been the only public office that Scott had ever sought in an election.
The clash with Judge Richard Lee
In January 1981, then Ninth Judicial District Judge Richard E. "Dick" Lee, a Louisiana Democrat, ordered the state police to accompany three white girls to predominantly white Buckeye High School. Lee's order was aimed at thwarting Judge Scott's efforts to send the trio to the integrated Jones Street Junior High School in Alexandria.
Lee took custody of the three girls, instructed police to take them to classes, and warned school officials to treat them like any other students, or face jail and fines. Scott then threatened to impose a $500-a-day fine on anyone who disobeyed his decree that the girls must attend the Jones Street facility.
For weeks, Lee attempted to countermand every desegregation order issued by Scott. Finally, Scott slapped contempt charges against Lee but revoked them in a bid to end the dispute over which school the girls would attend. According to the New York Times, Lee accused Scott of "trying to blackmail me . . . I was a gentleman and did what I said I was going to do, and he backed out. He lied to me.
When the girls re-enrolled at Buckeye High School, Scott ordered that none of their credits could be accepted by the Rapides Parish school system. Therefore, the girls -- called the "Buckeye Three" -- by the media—switched parental custody so that they could attend the mostly white Buckeye school. The parents retained the influential Lafayette lawyer J. Minos Simon to represent them. In 2008, Lee, having left the bench, was chairman of the Rapides Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
The Rapides Parish case attracted national attention for several weeks, even drawing the eye of then CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite. Democratic Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald (1935–1983) of Georgia, filed an impeachment resolution against Judge Scott on February 5, 1981, on grounds that Scott had usurped local authority. McDonald, a member of the anticommunist John Birch Society, was killed two years later when the Soviet Union shot down the Korean Airliner 007 plane over the Kamchatka Peninsula. No hearings were held on McDonald's impeachment resolution against Judge Scott.
Forced busing loses public support
The national trend of desegregation gradually drifted away from forced busing. Mostly, districts guarantee that schools have equal facilities and offer students some choice through transfers and magnet programs. Yet, there remains some busing and zoning for desegregation purposes.
Scott's order closed Forest Hill Elementary School closed, but parents tried to defy the order. They symbolically raising the U.S. flag daily to show that school was in session. It was converted into a private school. One of the Forest Hill parents, Clyde C. Holloway, ran for the U.S. Congress in 1980 as a protest to Scott's order. In 1985, Holloway ran for Congress in a special election in which one of Judge Scott's sons, State Representative John W. "Jock" Scott, was an opponent. In 1986, Holloway was elected to Congress for the first of three consecutive terms.
The federal court ruled that Rapides Parish had achieved racial equality in transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities but not in student assignments and faculty racial ratios. Rapides Parish has altered school zones since Scott's ruling, but the school district was still impacted by Scott's orders in its zoning and hiring decisions.
On September 28, 2006, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria finally ended its supervision of the Rapides Parish public schools. Judge Dee D. Drell, an appointee of President George W. Bush, held that the district is fully desegregated, free of racial discrimination, and no longer requires federal supervision.
Busing case hurt Jock Scott's political aspirations
Jock Scott (1947–2009) was elected to a third four-year term in the legislature in 1983 despite the desegregation controversy from 1980-1981. He switched his partisan allegiance from Democrat to Republican in 1985. In 1987, he ran for the Louisiana State Senate but was defeated by Democrat William Joseph "Joe" McPherson, Jr., of Pineville. Jock Scott said that his loss may have been partly attributed to opposition in rural areas of Rapides Parish to his father's busing orders even though seven years had passed since the decision.
Judge Scott continued in senior status almost until his death and relished recounting to family, friends and associates the difficult days and circumstances of his celebrated cases. Even many years after these decisions, he remained concerned about their implementation and defended their correctness. He was conflicted about his place in the civil rights history of the region and understood the emotions his decisions caused among so many. His nephew Reverend Pike Thomas recalled a favorite memory, that Scott, in spite of his highly controversial persona, never delisted his telephone or public listing in the local telephone book and often courteously received the most reviling calls, even death threats, from local irate residents. "He was an example of rock-ribbed integrity mingles with compassion," Thomas stated.
Judge Scott's obituary
Judge Scott's funeral was held at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Alexandria with two nephews, the Reverend LaVerne "Pike" Thomas and Deacon Charles F. Read, Jr., officiating. Burial was at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans in the Scott family plot of his grandfather, noted contractor Nathaniel Graves Scott (1848–1926).
Another childhood friend and associate, well-known Louisiana political figure who, like Judge Scott, was born in New Roads, deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr., a former mayor of New Orleans and ambassador to the Organization of American States, is also interred at Metairie Cemetery. The Provostys and Morrisons were political allies and sometimes rivals in the tumultuous local politics of Pointe Coupée Parish.
Judge Scott was preceded in death by his wife Blanche Hammond, who herself was active in Republican politics and whose mother, Hilda Phelps Hammond, penned one of the most celebrated anti-Huey Long books in the 1930s, Let Freedom Ring. A younger brother, oilman Albin Provosty Scott, likewise preceded him in death. Survivors included three sons, Nauman S. Scott, III, and Arthur Hammond Scott, both of New Orleans, and Jock Scott; one daughter, Ashley Scott Rankin of Dallas; three sisters, Sidonie Scott Thomas of Alexandria, M'Adele Scott Read of Covington, and Natalie Scott Persons of Mobile, Alabama, and six grandchildren.
In 1981, Judge Scott's oldest and youngest sons, Nauman, III (born May 10, 1945), and Hammond Scott (born 1950), founded Black Top Records, which specializes in rhythm and blues music. Nauman, III, a New Orleans lawyer as well as record company executive, died at the age of fifty-six on January 8, 2002, on what would have been his parents' sixtieth anniversary. His death came four months after Judge Scott's passing. The record company folded about 1999. Middle-son Jock Scott died on April 25, 2009, at the age of sixty-one while working in his yard at his residence on Jackson Street in Alexandria.
Jock Scott was an Alexandria lawyer and assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University at Alexandria. In 2004, he tried yet again for higher office, running for Fifth District congressman, but he ran afoul of a "political dirty trick" as the popular freshman Democratic incumbent, Rodney Alexander, switched his affiliation at the last hour of qualifying to the Republican Party, bringing the state GOP apparatus along with him. Scott remained in the race but, without the endorsement of his party, trailed far behind.
Who's Who in America, 1984-1985 edition
Legal offices Preceded by
Edwin Ford Hunter, Jr., 1973-1976
Senior Judge, Western District of Louisiana
Nauman Steele Scott, II
Thomas Eaton "Tom" Stagg, Jr., 1984-1991
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