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AO’ The Houston Incident The Indian Ambassador to the U. S. Is Shunted To Private Room at Airport Restaurant; Apologies and Denials Flow HOU StON Houston’s proclivity for getting Itself in dutch with public opinion last week reached a new summit as allegations that India’s ambassador to the United States, G. L. Mehta, had been discriminated against in a public dining room here spread around the world. Witnesses at Houston’s multi-million dollar International Airport reported that the ambassador and his secretary, B. A. Rajagopalan, had been asked to move from the dining room at the plush Horizon House to a private room away from the main section. They said that this was not a gesture of courtesy to a visiting dignitary but was prompted by the belief of a restaurant employee that Mehta appeared to be a Negro and hence could not be served in the public room. Naturally there were further charges and counter charges and diplomatically worded denials. The initial incident succeeded in arousing a respectable amount of public opinion which was soon swollen in proportions as investigations were announced from Mexico City and Washington, D. C. and in Houston itself. The question resolved was thisat least on the surface: “Was the ambassador ushered.into the private dining room because he was a VIP or because someone mistook him for a Negro?” The situation took on some of the aspects of an international incident within 24 hours, with everybody apologizing all over the place and interested parties denying or affirming the events. From the nation’s capital Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent a note of the rain to stop. Duevall commented on the fact that attorney John Marburger is chairman both of the Citizens’ Council and the school board’s “biracial committee on integration.” “That stops it entirely,” Duevall said. He said that the school tax collector had checked up on the tax payments of the 13 Negroes who signed the petition and found that a lot of them were delinquent on their payments. “Those people are asking for equal rights and treatment, not even bearing their proportional burden ” he said. \(He has course, to pay taxes, you have to have a steady income, but to Duevall, that’s “their story.” “But they do have a hard row, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. F. J. Willman, a square-jawed old man, collects the school taxes. Did he have the tax records of the 13 signers? He thought a good long minute, then said, “Well, I did have it.” He rose from his seat and pulled the list out from under a small stack of papers. Five of the 13 were delinquent, he said; one was paid up; seven had “no assessments.” He imagined that showed “the type of person” who signed the petition. “As it is it-doesn’t look very good.” He said a man asked him to check up on them. John Sulac, a mild, friendly man, edits the other paper in Fayette County, the Fayette County Record. His father, the former Senator L. J. Sulak, ‘who ran for’ Congress but was beaten, his son says, “by the Galveston gang,” is now in Europe writing columns back to the Record on how high everything is over there, how prosperous Europeans are, and how AUSTIN Dallas and five small communitiesDenison, Giddings, Moody, Sulphur Springs, and Shamrock-have decided not to integrate their schools this September. Kerrville school officials last week resoinded a decision to admit Negroes to the white high school upon individual application, giving as the reason the Big Spring suit. San Antonio school authorities delayed announcing plans on carrying out integration until the Friday hearing in Big Spring, and the Houston school board put off deciding on integration until the suit was ruled on. Amarillo abandoned any plans it had to integrate next month because of the suit. In Alice, on August 22, two 17-year-old Negro girls, Francis Lee White and Lenora Tisdell, became the first Negro students to register at a formerly allwhite public school in Texas. At Kenedy, where the schools will also be integrated, two Negroes tried out for the football apology to the ambassador and also one to the Indian government at New Delhi. Then his department ordered an immediate investigation. The ambassador himself began to move after the story appeared in the Houston Post, Speaking from the Indian Embassy in Mexico City, he said that in view of the published account of what had happened, he was preparing to take official action. He said that at the time of the incident he truly believed he was being accorded the treatment generally extended visitors of importance, but first realized something else might have been intended when a New York City newspaperman called him on the phone Tuesday morning in Mexico City to read the newspnaper account. Said the ambassador: “If I had known then that I was being moved on the basis of discrimination I would certainly have walked out.” But official Houston denied that the eminent envoy from India and his secretary had been in any way discriminated against. As a amtter of record, Mayor Roy Hofheinz, who had ordered a full investigation into the matter as he might have ordered someone to investigate reports of inefficient garbage collection, hastened they don’t need any more foreign aid. Sulac said level-headed people are leading the council: “they don’t intend any violence,” he said. He had heard a rumor one Negro had been fired but he hadn’t checked it. That night at the high school gymnasium for the meeting, Sulac gave his thoughts on how the council will prevent integration if and when a court suit requires that it be permitted ,in La Grange. “Well, there are methods,” he said, nodding his head, “they come down to, if you want to call them that, economic. I don’t believe there will be any violence here. I don’t believe that will be necessaryyou can cut off the lifeline, and that has the same effect” We had been standing in a group of Jour that also included School. Superintendent Charles Lemmons and County Commissioner Victor Homuth. Lemmons dropped out and Homuth said to Sulac: “You know, I’m not gonna tell you who it wasit was Charleybut he asked me how many niggers I had on the county payroll, and I said none, and he said, ‘How long you gonna be able -to keep that up?’ and I said, ‘Brother, as long as I’m commissioner, I tell you that.” “Sulac seemed to be a bit embarrased. He said, slowly, well, a man has a right to hire who he wants to. “I don’t think we need ever expect any violence, . unless it’s provoked, which I hope it won’t be,” Sulac said. Then the meeting opened with a prayer from a Rev. Parker against “this terrible thing.” Marburger, who speaks in the halting manner of a country lawyer, team, and the coach, Pokey Blaltney, said they will be given just as much chance to make the team as the other boys. In Orange, the Orange Leader stated that Dr, B. E. Masters of Kilgore urged application of economic pressures and social boycotts if necessary to maintain segregation at a Citizens’ Council formation meeting. A council is also reported forming at Monahans, where the Monahans-Wickett school district is planning to admit Negroes to the four high school grades.. At Conway, South Carolina, E. L. Edwards, new imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, said he wants the Klan to be “strong and vicious enough to fight the evils against the white man” and said the Klan had made “considerable prog-‘ ress” in obtaining members in Georgia and Texas. A 15-foot long cross made of tar paper was burned into the grass at the entrance of Lamar State College of Technology and was assigned to the work of juveniles. The college regents announced no Negroes will be admitted because of crowded conditions. a sugar-coated wire to the ambassador to this effect. ‘ Employing the language of Southern hospitality, the mayor said that he had learned the ambassador was received cordially, extended all manner of courtesy, and was offered the private dining room as a place reserved for important guests. He said that he regretted that the erroneous report, originating exclusively from the misconstruction of a bystander, had caused the ambassador any inconvenience or discomfort. All this was written after the mayor had spoken to and received a atatement from the restaurant employee, Mrs. F. E. Alley, who allegedly ordered tha ambassador’s removal because she thought he was a Negro. In a seemingly strange sequence, however, the above mentioned wire was dispatched many hours after the mayor had originally filed a telegraph message to the ambassador in Mexico City, apologizing for the incident. “In behalf of every citizen of Houston please accept my apologies for any discourtesy shown you and your aide, B. A. Rajagopalan by one person during your stopover in Houston. We are proud that Houstonians do. not discriminate against aynone or any race …” the mayor had said. But then Mrs. Alley, who was scarce but with dignity \(“I believe it would be officers and directors nominated, and they were elected in an orderly manner. The new vice-president, Chester Cruezbaur, vice-president of the La Grange . State Bank; the secretary, George Hajovsky, owner and manager of Western Auto Supply; and the treasurer, the mayor of the town, Milton Von Minden, each made little one-minute speeches about common purpose, working together for the good of both races, and the need for the members’ backing and counsel. Marburger said they all had a right to assemble peacefully, to let the SUpreme Court feel the pressure of their opinions; that they were fighting to keep “the .. white race pure and the Negro race pure.” He used the livestock simile: “Take a fine string of cattle and let an alien bull in, and you know what happnens, don’t you?” .he said. “Don’t we think as much of our children as we do our cattle?” For a fuller answer, Marburger announced that a recording of Dr. B. E. Masters’s speech of the preceding week would be played after they adjourned. After another prayer, they did. R.D. The 1955 college year opens in a few weeks. The Observer, a young, bright, progressive newspaper, needs readers -who fit the same descriptionand there are thousands of them on the college campuses of Texas. We are now seeking a Campus Name whom do you know who should subscribe? THE TEXAS OBSERVER immediately after the incident, made her own statement to the mayor behind closed doors. She said that she recognized the twe Indian gentlemen as being important persons and suggested they be seated in the private dining room for more comfort. She said she did not, however, know them to be the ambassador and his secretary. Finally she said: “I felt I had extended proper. Houston hospitality.” All of this was contrary to what the chief witness to the incident, a Houston public relations counsel, said. To him the whole affair was an obvious display of race discrimination based on the restaua rant employee’s belief that the two Indians were or at least looked like Negroes. The counsel, Frank Gibler, said that Mrs. Alley at one time told him after She ordered the two gentlemen moved that “We can’t serve .Negroes in here.” AlthOugh Mrs. Alley also said in her statement to the mayor that she at no time spoke to anyone at the restaurant regarding he seating of the two Indian gentlemen, she did not deny the specific language attributed to her by Gibler. , She did not deny that she told Gibler she couldn’t seat Negroes in the public dining room, and she did not deny that she said she would call the law if the ,two gentlemen did not move as she ordered them to do. She was not available for comment to this reporter or to anyone else seeking the truth. However, her husband said it wouldn’t do any good to speak with her anyway, because he had instructed her not to say anything until they had spoken to their attorney. Besides, said her husband, F. E. Alley: “She only did what she was told to do.” Which brings up the rather pertinent question of where is Frank J. Russell, proprietor of the HoriZon House in the Houston International Airport. Russell, who directs the employees of his restaurant and is responsible for the practice of non-discrimination there, hasn’t been seen for days. The restaurant, incidentally, is a facil-, ity of the airport which was built with a partial outlay of federal funds and is subject to the terms of the city contract, which states that no discrimination shall be practiced in any facility of the airport. The statement by Gibler that Mrs. Alley refused to seat the ambassador because he was a Negro and a corroboration said this from the restaurant bookkeeper were viewed in many official quarters as “hogwash.” Hogwash, it should be understood here, meanslaccording to his criticsthat Gibler is saying this because he hates the mayor. Gibler says this is not so. He admits he has no use for Mayor HOfheinz, but what he reported, he says, was in keeping with a personal conviction about righteousness, fairness, and decency. Further, he says, the whole thing makes Houston look bad. JOHN ROUSSEAU \(John Rousseau is a pseudonym for a Representative on each college campus in Texas. If you would like to help the Observer and make a little cash for yourself, please get in touch with the editor. He has a simple plan he’d like to talk to you about. Thanks. DECISIONS, DELAYED _ La Grange Divided: A Report Street Address City and State CAMPUS WORKERS NEEDED Sold by The Texas Observer, one year $4.00 Address Drawer F, Capitol Station, Austin, Texas Page 5 August 30, 1955