1976: Settling the Poole Case

TAEX (AgriLife) Documents

By Greg Moses

1976: Pleading for Settlement

Cooksey 1976a: Letter from Frank C. Cooksey, Special Assistant to Texas Attorney General John L. Hill; to Dr. Jack K. Williams, President of Texas A&M University; March 19, 1976; a three-page letter with three attachments: (1) a five-page “Comparison of Mississippi Judgment and TAEX Consent Decree,” (2) a three-page “Comparison of Alabama Judgment and TAEX Consent Decree,” (3) a one-page “Features in TAEX Consent Decree not Included in Other Decrees.”

In this letter attorney Cooksey argues why the Texas A&M Board of Directors [now known as Regents] should accept a consent decree that would settle a class-action civil rights suit initiated by black county agent Preston Poole. Poole et al v. Williams, et al, In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Div., Civil Action No. 72-H-150.

The Board had rejected a previous settlement.

“A decree is submitted herewith which incorporates compromises reached between the Extension Service and the plaintiff and the Department of Justice” (p.1).

“In evaluating the consent decree, the Board should consider the following facts: (1) the likelihood that the court would find Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service to have been in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; (2) the scope of relief afforded by the courts, after a finding of violations by other extension services in Alabama and Mississippi; (3) the range of relief afforded by the consent decree as compared with relief which might be granted by the court if a violation of federal law is found; and (4) factors affecting the institution itself, such as time spent in preparation for litigation, publicity in the news media and other internal considerations” (p. 1).

“Without belaboring the point, the factual similarities between the TAEX and the Mississippi and Alabama cases indicates that a district court would probably find a violation of federal law in the TAEX case. In the Mississippi case, for example, the court found, that the MCES had operated a racially dual organization until 1965, when the dual structure was eliminated by reducing the status of many black employees to associate or assistant roles. Statistical data showed a small number of blacks in professional positions. White salary differentials existed between the black and white agents with equivalent experience and performance ratings. On the basis of these factual findings, the district court found that it was ‘uncontrovertible that prior to 1965 MCES historically maintained a racially segregated extension program.’ Wade v. Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, 372 F. Supp. 126, 139 (N.D. Miss. 1974); No. 74-2065 (5th Cir. 1976)” (p. 2).

“The Court of Appeals decision recently handed down in Wade affirmed every finding of the district court on the question of whether a violation of law had occurred. I believe that a district court would arrive at a similar conclusion, based upon the facts of the TAEX case. You might wish to consult TAEX officials for confirmation of the factual similarities in these cases . . .” (p. 2).

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