1955: Massive Resistance

Public Education Report of the Commission to the Governor of Virginia

A copy of the Gray Commission report, with notes handwritten on the front page.

On the day of the Brown decision, Senator Harry F. Byrd issued a statement saying that the ruling would “bring implications and dangers of the greatest consequence. It is the most serious blow that has yet been struck against the rights of the states in a matter vitally affecting their authority and welfare.”

In 1955, the state released the Gray Commission Report on Public Education. The report was created by a group of politicians, lawyers, and academics from around the state selected by segregationist Governor Thomas B. Stanley. The commission advised getting rid of state laws requiring mandatory school attendance. No child should be required to attend an integrated school, they argued, against their parents’ wishes. Rather, the “parents of those children who object to integrated schools, or who live in communities wherein no public schools are operated, [should] be given tuition grants for educational purposes.” (Emphasis added.)

Address of Thos. B. Stanley, Governor, to the General Assembly

Speech made by Gov. Thomas Stanley to the Virginia General Assembly, endorsing the Gray Report.

The Gray Report, in other words, recommended offering a back door, so that schools could be shut down rather than be forced to integrate. This policy was adopted, and the next year Governor Thomas Stanley pushed through a legislative agenda that included a law allowing the allocation of public school moneys for tuition grants to students attending segregation academies. The blueprint also cut all state funding for and gave the governor authority to shut down any school system that desegregated. Together, the package of 13 segregationist statutes came to be known as the “Stanley Plan.”

Virginia’s top elected officials made it clear: they would shut down the schools before they would integrate.