Thursday, February 24, 2005

Judge Robert Merhige, Jr -- RIP

Famous mostly for ordering the desegregation of Richmond Schools Judge Robert Merhige has died. Also read this interview conducted last May.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recounts in part that --

"In 1970, 16 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Merhige determined that insufficient desegregation had taken place under Richmond's earlier freedom-of-choice plan. So, he approved a cross-town busing plan drafted by school officials.

Within two years, white flight was in full soar as the city school system's white enrollment had fallen from 17,000 to 10,000.

The Richmond plan was modified several times until 1986, when the U.S. District Court withdrew from the case and the city returned to neighborhood schools.

Busing has been described as an emotional wedge driven through the heart of the city. There's no doubt about that, and there's no doubt the accompanying white flight changed the face of Richmond and its schools forever.

Looking back, Merhige believes it was 'foolish' for whites to flee the city, and he remains convinced he ruled correctly, from a legal and moral perspective."