The Emerging Civil Rights Movement:

The 1957 Wyoming Public Accommodations Statute as a Case Study


By Kim Ibach and William Howard Moore



   Two prominent Wyomingites watched as an African-American serviceman and his spouse seated themselves in the little cafe at Cheyenne’s Plains Hotel in 1954. The couple sipped water and read the menus. Suddenly a waitress jumped from her station and snatched away the menus. The manager entered the scene and ushered the two African-Americans out of the restaurant.

    Teno Roncalio and Dr. Francis Barrett discussed the shameful incident they had  witnessed.1  An African-American soldier who had probably served his nation during World War II could not eat at a restaurant in his own country. How could an American citizen be so mistreated? Thoughts of such injustice infuriated Roncalio and Barrett.2  Roncalio, a rising star in the state Democratic party, and Dr. Barrett, son of Republican U.S. Senator Frank A. Barrett, sought to intercede with the Plains Hotel.3 The manager explained that he did not dictate hotel policy, but instead followed directives from the Plains’ ownership.4 When Roncalio and Barrett contacted the hotel owner, they obtained no satisfaction.5 Outraged, attorney Roncalio began to confer with the Wyoming Democratic Party about the problem.

    However distant Wyoming might have been from the segregated South (the focus of the early post-World War II civil rights movement), the Equality State was hardly immune from discussions of racial justice. Along with several other developments, the incident at the Plains Hotel would help mobilize support within Wyoming for improvement in the treatment of minority citizens. As reflected in the outrage of both Democrat Roncalio and Republican Barrett, such sentiment would cut across party lines. A closer examination of the origins of the Wyoming Civil Rights Act of 1957 provides insights into those forces shaping discussions of racial justice in this sparsely-populated, overwhelmingly white, western state.

The so-called Second Reconstruction of the 1950s and 1960s had its origins in the failures of the First Reconstruction that followed the Civil War. In the late nineteenth century, a series of Supreme Court decisions gutted much of the force of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. In 1883, the court held that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited state, not individual acts of discrimination. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the justices ruled that a Louisiana statute requiring “separate but equal” accommodations for railroad passengers did not constitute a violation of the amendment. The Plessy decision seemed to legitimize a spate of de jure (Jim Crow) segregation laws in the South. Meanwhile, in the North and West, de facto segregation became the norm.

World War II proved to be a major watershed for American racial relations. Prior to Pearl Harbor, African-Americans in southern states generally worked as unskilled laborers or sharecroppers. In the North, they took comparable low-income jobs. As American involvement in the war increased, employment opportunities for black Americans improved. Due to a dramatic labor shortage, African-Americans also found jobs in the West. Black employment opportunities improved significantly, especially in West Coast aircraft and shipbuilding industries. Frequently, however, segregation remained a part of work place realities. Employers designated special break times and areas for African-Americans employees.6

Black Americans also developed greater organizational and political clout through the 1940s and the 1950s. In 1941, labor leader A. Philip Randolph planned a march on Washington to protest discriminatory hiring practices by companies which held contracts with the federal government. To thwart the march, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25,1941. The order created a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). The FEPC found itself responsible for combating racial discrimination in hiring and firing.7 Higher paying wartime jobs strengthened the position of black Americans. At the same time, more than a million southern African-Americans  migrated northward and westward during the war, catching the attention of vote-conscious white politicians in the process.

Social pressures from outside the country advanced the cause of civil rights as well. Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish sociologist who authored American Dilemma in 1944, challenged the United States to work though its racial bias. Within liberal and academic circles, Myrdal’s critique set the stage for a discussion of American ideals and the nation’s failure to live up to them. The fact that black Americans were being asked to combat fascism abroad only reinforced the demands for racial justice at home.

Given the improved economic circumstances brought about by the war and the shifting social and intellectual currents of the time, incidents of racial discrimination seemed increasingly egregious. African-American servicemen stationed in the South experienced discrimination not only in the theaters, recreation halls, and religious services on military bases, but also on transportation facilities to and from the bases and in the nearby towns.8 Northern-born African-American soldiers had to obey Jim Crow laws of the South and de facto segregation elsewhere. Lloyd Brown, an African-American soldier in Salina, Kansas, was denied service in a local restaurant even while German prisoners of war ate there.9

Pro-civil rights forces exercised considerable strength after World War II. In 1948 President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces. The Chief Executive also appointed a civil rights commission to study racial issues. The commission’s written recommendations, To Secure These Rights, provided the basis for Truman’s expansive civil rights package submitted to Congress.10 The Supreme Court, meanwhile, declared segregation in interstate busses and dining cars unconstitutional in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946).11

The most important case of the early civil rights movement would be Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which struck down racial segregation in public education. In effect, the justices insisted on a “color blind” reading of the Fourteenth amendment, thereby overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy. Influenced by such scholars as Myrdal, the court underscored the negative self-esteem that inevitably flowed from racial segregation. Although Brown dealt directly with education, its implications were broader. Indeed, the entire edifice of Jim Crow discrimination—in voting, in public accommodations, even in housing and employment—was imperiled.

Certainly the Brown case polarized both supporters and opponents of Jim Crow. Southern segregationists organized White Citizens Councils, which urged “massive resistance,” distributed “how-to-discriminate” leaflets, and sought to purge African-Americans from voter registration and juror lists. By 1955, white violence against blacks seemed to be on the increase. In that year, African-American leader and Baptist minister George Lee was found dead on the Lincoln County Courthouse grounds in Mississippi. The grisly murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year- old Chicago youth, by two Mississippi white men attracted even more attention.12 When an all-white jury released the two accused, many pundits wrote off the possibility of southern white justice.

Meanwhile, Hollywood highlighted the realities of the second class citizenship experienced by African-Americans and other minorities. Giant, based on an Edna Ferber novel, first appeared on the silver screen in 1956. Bick Benedict, a rich rancher in Texas played by Rock Hudson, was married to Leslie, Elizabeth Taylor’s character. Benedict grows in awareness and attempts to come to terms with various racial dilemmas. Throughout the movie, Leslie points out the inequities between the Anglo and Hispanic peoples who live on the ranch. Later, a diner refuses to serve Bick’s racially mixed family, and Benedict challenges the policy with his fists.13

Throughout the mid and late 1950s, the American public viewed movies exploring racial boundaries in a variety of other ways. In Defiant Ones (1958) two convicts, Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, escaped from a chain gang in the South and overcame prejudices to save each other. Frank Sinatra starred in Kings Go Forth (1958). This love story created a triangle between two World War II American soldiers, Sinatra and Curtis, and Natalie Wood, a French woman whose father was of African origin. Sinatra’s character worked through his prejudiced feelings to fall in love with the woman. A remake of Imitation of Life (1958) depicted a white widow, Lana Turner, who partnered up with her black African-American maid, Juanita Moore, to go into business together. Both women had young daughters, and the maid’s daughter, Susan Kohner, masqueraded as a white girl.14

During the middle 1950s, African-Americans launched an impressive grass roots mobilization campaign, one that received considerable national attention, especially in the new medium of television. In Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white man, thereby sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56. Out of the so-called Montgomery Improvement Association, the charismatic Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. created the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). Preaching a doctrine of non-violent civil disobedience, King attracted both national and international acclaim.

While the South continued to be the focus of civil rights discussions, movement leaders sought to make clear that racism still existed in other sections of the country—including the West. In the mid-1950s, Franklin H. Williams, western regional secretary and counsel for the NAACP, released the results of his organization’s studies of race relations in the area. Williams reported in 1954 that black Americans in the West experienced discrimination in employment as well as housing—conditions that also resulted in de facto segregation in public education. He condemned political and labor leaders for their reluctance to speak out against such conditions. He pointed to the fact that hotels in California, Oregon, and Washington refused to serve African­ Americans even though those states had statutes in place banning discrimination in places of public accommodations.15  In 1955, the NAACP noted only meager improvement, one example being the development of low cost housing in San Francisco.16   By 1956, the organization noted further modest gains in terms of desegregation in schools, parks, playgrounds, and interstate transportation. On the other hand, black employment prospects in the West still lagged behind those of whites, and racial ghettos appeared to be expanding in the region’s major urban centers.17

Western leaders and the public in general began to react to reports and exposes of discriminatory conditions. At mid-decade, several western states still had statutes permitting segregated schools, forbidding interracial marriages, and tolerating unequal access to public accommodations. Quite self-consciously, and for a variety of reasons, westerners began to participate more fully in discussions of racial equality. Developments in Wyoming, especially those pivoting around the state’s Civil Rights Act of 1957, provide some particular insights into this process.18

Wyoming’s traditional demographics and culture encouraged a sense of distinctiveness on civil rights matters. To begin with, the state was overwhelmingly white. The 1950 census records show Wyoming’s total population as 290,529 people, 6,520 of whom were counted in the “non-white” category. Only 2,557, less than one percent of the total population, were labeled as “Negro.” By 1960, the state’s total population increased by 39,537 people, but the African-American numbers actually decreased by 374. Under that same census, the total non-white population grew by some 624 people.19 Wyomingites also boasted an image of exaggerated independence and individualism—as a people distinct from the rest of America.20 Even after World War II, when economics and technological advances (paved roads, more autos, electrical utilities, circulation of newspapers, and radio programs) united rural Wyomingites, the sense of isolation and distinctiveness often persisted.21

Especially during World War II, ethnic and racial tensions proved quite embarrassing, particularly in farming and railroad communities. Many Wyomingites resented a federally funded program to import Mexican nationals as wartime laborers for the state’s farming communities. In June 1943, the Regional Farm Security Administration described signs posted in Worland which read “No Mexican trade solicited.” That same year, John J. McElroy, the state supervisor of Energy and Farm Labor, reported to Governor Lester Hunt that there had been some improvements in ethnic relations. He recommended the appointment of a subcommittee to assist in smoothing out unsolved problems in Washakie county. Hunt explained to the mayor of Torrington that the federal government had allocated $75,000 to solicit Mexican nationals to work on farms in Wyoming, and that the Mexican farmers had rights to visit public accommodations.22  In 1944, Larry T. Williams, a long-time resident of Rock Springs, wrote to Governor Hunt of a “wave of segregation” toward African-Americans in his town. Williams highlighted the refusal of proprietors to grant equal access to public accommodations.23 Hunt looked into the prospects of drafting legislation to outlaw discrimination in public hotels and restaurants; however, malevolent attitudes towards the governor by both houses and inter-party conflicts made civil rights legislation impossible in the 1940s.24

Meanwhile, jarring episodes of racial discrimination continued, revealing the ambivalence of white attitudes in the Equality State. In their sponsorship of a 1947 “beautiful baby” contest, the Women of the Moose in Casper apparently encouraged two African-American women to enter their small sons, but then reneged and asked the two mothers to withdraw their children from the competition. When the two women contacted the Rocky Mountain News about the incident and wrote to popular white singer Kate Smith, the Moose chapters and Casper veteran organizations issued an apology and attempted to shift blame onto their out-of-state contractor.  One of the mothers, however, remembered being told by a representative of the Women of the Moose that some chapter members had objected to the entry of the black children in the competition. At the same time, it is clear that one African-American mother had obtained substantial grass roots support for her child from white members in her local Seventh Day Adventist church as well as from other white neighbors. Certainly a strain of racism existed in Casper lodge circles, but so did an element of community embarrassment over that racism.25


By the mid-1950s, Wyoming political figures were playing a more prominent role in civil rights issues at the national level. Clearly the Brown decision and the Montgomery Bus Boycott had stimulated discussion about issues of racial justice. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 civil rights bill was defeated, the administration was determined to try again. In the spring of 1957, the White House fashioned a forceful bill creating a Civil Rights Commission and permitting federal judges to deny a jury trial to individuals accused of obstructing voting rights. Wyoming Democratic Senator Joseph O’Mahoney, normally considered liberal, co-sponsored with Estes Kefauver of Tennessee an amendment guaranteeing the right to a jury trial—a compromise that the administration roundly condemned as gutting its efforts to assure African-Americans access to southern ballot boxes. While there was much truth to the accusation, O’Mahoney’s position—based as it was on the seeming sanctity of jury trials—appeared moderate at the time, and it probably reflected the values of most Wyomingites. The mere fact that O’Mahoney was willing to play such a visible national role suggests that younger Democrats in the state might be more open to discussion of the civil rights problem at home. And, of course, both Democrat O’Mahoney and Republican Senator Frank Barrett supported the final version of the 1957 federal statute.26

Given the shifting climate of public discussion by the mid-1950s, blatant racial discrimination seemed less and less acceptable in Wyoming. Near Pinedale, probably in 1952, the issue involved the hiring of a teacher for a one-room school. Norman Barlow, prominent rancher and Republican state senator, was especially interested in the hiring of Juanita Simmons as his son’s teacher.27 Simmons came with an impressive record and seventeen years of experience. Barlow became convinced that Simmons did not get the job because she was an African-American and that his own reputation had been besmirched when he advocated her case.28  He was determined to bring the issue to the attention of his fellow legislators.

By the mid-1950s, then, the political climate in Wyoming appeared more receptive to modest civil rights initiatives. The personal experiences of Barlow, Roncalio, and Barrett seemed to parallel those of national leaders and opinion molders. Republicans such as Barlow and Democrats like Roncalio converged during legislative sessions in Cheyenne and shared “war stories.” Personal family ties helped alleviate any partisan differences that might surface over the issue.29 At the same time, Republican Governor Milward Simpson prodded the legislators to action. Approaching civil rights as both a practical and a philosophical issue during his 1955 “State of the State” message, Simpson read the legislators Article 1, sections 2 and 3 of the Wyoming Constitution. He emphasized that the state’s organic document called for fair and equal treatment of its citizens, and he asked for passage of civil rights measures to reinforce the state constitution. Especially noting that Wyoming was one of the last western states without a public accommodations law, Governor Simpson encouraged the lawmakers to move promptly on the civil rights front.30

Responding to Simpson’s call for greater racial equality in 1955, Barlow and a group of bipartisan legislators introduced a set of civil rights bills designed to deal with school segregation, miscegenation, and public accommodations. In the wake of the Brown decision, state lawmakers quickly repealed a statute granting local school districts the option of establishing “separate but equal” educational institutions in Wyoming. Sponsors of at least two bills took aim at the state’s anti-miscegenation law, but these proposals became bottled up in the legislature and did not pass. (Not until 1965 did Wyoming eliminate all legal barriers to interracial marriage).31 Meanwhile, four House members, Republicans Ralph Olinger (Niobrara) and Marlin T. Kurtz (Park) and Democrats W. A. Norris, Jr. and James C. Hunter (Laramie County) sponsored House Bill 86 designed to prohibit “distinction, discrimination or restriction because of race, religion, color or national origin, and providing for civil action.” Although the Judiciary Committee recommended passage, this public accommodations bill was tabled on its second reading. The Casper Tribune Herald and Star quoted a disappointed Simpson as indicating that he believed the legislature would ultimately approve such a bill, thereby implementing “the United States Constitution.”32

In 1957, the Governor again pressed lawmakers hard for civil rights action, especially on the public accommodations front. He reminded the Thirty-Fourth legislature that Wyoming was falling behind the rest of the nation. Of the twenty-one states without such laws, fifteen were in the South. Wyoming, then, was one of only a handful of non-southern states that failed to guarantee all its citizens equal access to public accommodations. Once again reciting to legislators the appropriate sections of the Wyoming Constitution, Simpson urged lawmakers to give civil rights legislation a high priority.33

A group of bipartisan senators introduced the first public accommodations bill, Senate File 7, on January 9, but a quarrel over enforcement within the Judiciary Committee spilled over onto the floor, seemingly killing the proposal. At issue was a section of the bill mandating county prosecution of violators. While the committee recommended striking this particular enforcement clause, R. L. Greene (R-Johnson), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and former President of the Senate, argued from the floor that dropping the enforcement machinery would basically emasculate the act. Without an effective public enforcement clause, he asserted, individual victims of discrimination would have to bear the responsibility of implementing the act. At the same time, however, Greene informed his fellow lawmakers that he opposed Senate File 7 on principle. Ridding the state of racial discrimination, he insisted, was properly “a matter of association and education—not legislation.”34 Confronted by Greene’s argument, none of the bill’s sponsors—Republicans Melvin Champion (Sheridan), Albert Harding (Crook) and Charles Irwin (Converse) and Democrats Rudy Anselmi (Sweet-water), Robert Murphy (Natrona), and W.A. Norris, Jr. (Laramie)—­spoke on its behalf. On January 16, the Committee of the Whole wrangled aimlessly over Senate File 7, adopting the enforcement amendment but then indefinitely postponing the proposal on a voice vote. Claiming to have been confused over the convoluted parliamentary process, Murphy then tried to revive the bill, but his appeals were beaten back by his exasperated colleagues.35

Milward Simpson was hardly the only Wyoming leader to be frustrated by what had transpired. Embarrassed by the Senate’s actions, Teno Roncalio took the legislators to task for their lack of education on civil rights. In a January 17 letter to the editor of the Wyoming State Tribune, Roncalio vented his frustration, explaining that the bill had only protected those of “good deportment” who entered public facilities considered “necessities of life.” The bill did not cover cocktail lounges, bars, or swimming facilities. Furthermore, a hostile, discourteous, filthy, or obscene person could be denied service. Roncalio went on to add that the rights of thousands of Mexicans, Indians, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans were included in this matter. Appealing to civil and just minds, Roncalio argued that “there has never been a more decent bill offered to the legislators of Wyoming.”36

Roncalio’s blast helped mobilize pro-civil rights sentiment in the House, but an anti-discrimination bill there soon became entangled in a crippling “right to work” amendment sponsored by upstate Republicans. On January 18, responding to Roncalio’s call to arms, four Democrats (Barney Cole, Bob Adams, and Arthur Buck of Laramie County and Carwin Linford of Lincoln), along with three Republicans (Tom Searl of Laramie County, Mel Hallam of Fremont and Tom Mort of Goshen) introduced a public accommodations measure, House Bill 143, similar to the proposal that had been defeated in the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee recommended passage, but on the floor  Joe Fitzstephens (R-Park County) sought to attach language barring labor contracts that required union membership as a condition for employment.37

While Dr. Pete Madsen, a Republican from Sheridan County, supported Fitzstephens, downstate legislators reacted with contempt.38 Bob Adams of Laramie County, a sponsor of the original House measure, insisted that House Bill 143 was aimed at civil rights—the protection of minorities, Catholics and Jews—and that the Fitzstephens’ amendment, a “union busting” tactic, belonged in separate legislation. A fellow Democrat from Laramie County, Barney Cole, argued that Fitzstephens had no interest in unions, only in killing the civil rights measure. Republican Tom Mort, another sponsor of the House measure, backed Adams and Cole in calling for the separation of civil rights issues from those that dealt with union membership. After the House defeated the Fitzstephens amendment, 13-30, the bill passed and was sent to the Senate.39

Both Barlow and Roncalio realized that any House-passed civil rights bill would find its way to R. L. Greene’s Senate Judiciary Committee, where the veteran Johnson County legislator might be expected to delay or oppose it. Apparently hoping to assure that the issue would be acted upon before the end of the session, they began talks on the drafting of a second senate civil rights bill. At this point, however, their objectives diverged. The senate president wanted the “right to work” principle embedded in a civil rights bill, while Roncalio (chair of the state Democratic Central Committee) favored a “clean” civil rights bill. On January 26, a week before the House passed its own version, Barlow introduced Senate File 161, banning discrimination in places of public accommodation. The sweeping language of the bill clearly incorporated the Sublette County legislator’s strong commitment to right-to-work: “no person of good deportment shall be denied the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness or the necessities of life because of race, color, creed or national origin or for any reason whatsoever.” During debate in the Committee of the Whole, members of both parties took issue with the right-to-work language. Possibly encouraged to do so by Roncalio, Republican Albert Harding of Crook County and Democrat Murphy of Natrona, both sponsors of the original 1957 civil rights in the Senate, led the way. Harding and Murphy maintained that the last five words of Barlow’s bill constituted “a concealed right to work clause,” and the Natrona County senator moved for their elimination. Barlow stoutly defended the language, claiming that he believed the legislature had a “moral obligation to be fair to all” and that he hoped to “...[b]ring Wyoming in[to] accordance with the law of the land.”40 Republican Dick Jones of Park County sided with Barlow. Pointing to the stained glass motif of the state seal atop the Senate chamber, Jones reminded his colleagues that the language called for “equal rights” for all. Murphy’s amendment passed, after which the Senate, with some dissenting voices but no further discussion on the floor, approved the measure by voice vote. Ten days later, the House approved the amended Barlow bill and sent it to Governor Simpson for his signature.41

As appears to have been the case in other western states with public accommodations laws, enforcement of the Wyoming statute seems to have been problematic in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One known incident involved a well­-connected pastor, a noted African-American evangelist, and a Casper hotel. Heinz Grabia, the newly arrived pastor of Casper’s First Baptist Church, a white congregation, had earlier learned of the African-American evangelist/musician Charles E. Boddie while participating in a church function in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.42 Grabia concluded that Boddie’s reputation for promoting racial harmony as well as his charismatic presentations might benefit the Natrona County community.43 The son of a well-known African-American minister in New Rochelle, New York, Boddie was himself a highly respected clergyman, singer, and songwriter. He had pioneered efforts that culminated in the Negro College Fund Drive, and, in 1955, he had appeared with Arkansas Congressman Brooks Hays, a moderate, to debate the Brown case. At the time that Grabia approached him, Boddie was associate director of the American Baptist Convention.44 Both men were fully aware of the recently enacted Wyoming public accommodations law when Boddie accepted Grabia’s invitation to address the First Baptist Church in January of 1958.45

Even as Boddie made his way across the country from the East Coast by automobile, he encountered repeated problems obtaining service in hotels, restaurants, and gasoline stations. After he arrived in Casper, Grabia and Boddie followed the plan they had plotted out together. Both men agreed that racial equality was of great importance, even in the small town of Casper, so a hotel reservation was made at the Gladstone, one of three major local hotels. When Boddie attempted to register for his room, the hotel denied him accommodations. Reverend Grabia interceded and pointed out to the manager of the Gladstone that Boddie, graciously enough, had come to Casper to work with a white congregation. Grabia also explained that many of the leading oil men and CEOs in Casper would be very embarrassed and upset to hear that the Gladstone had turned away Boddie. Grabia did not threaten legal action, but dropped names of important and powerful men he knew through the church that would be disappointed to hear of the incident. Grabia later explained, “It was the good Christian thing to do.” The pastor’s moral suasion sufficed, but the incident clearly suggests continued patterns of racial discrimination in Wyoming.46

As the Boddie experience suggests, the 1957 Wyoming Civil Rights Act itself provided civil rights proponents little leverage in combating discrimination in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Enforcement remained in the hands of county and prosecuting attorneys. The fine imposed seemed of little consequence, compared to the efforts and costs involved in enforcing the state statute.47 There is no record of a test case of the statute before the Wyoming Supreme Court. Drawing upon its interstate commerce powers, however, the federal government in 1964 banned discrimination in places of public accommodation—an action that largely rendered meaningless the relatively anemic Wyoming statute dealing with the same subject.

The 1964 federal act and a sweeping law the following year banning discrimination at the ballot box brought to a close the first phase of the modern civil rights movement. Aimed primarily at the egregious de jure (Jim Crow) segregation in the American South and in isolated areas elsewhere, this first phase commanded widespread biracial support. At least outside the South, white Americans in large numbers found Martin Luther King, Jr.’s appeal for justice and racial conciliation appealing, even ennobling. The non-violent civil rights demonstrations, combined with an often violent or obstructionist white southern response, made it relatively easy for Americans elsewhere to choose sides. This was especially the case by the late 1950s when the new medium of television broadcast the drama to millions of viewers in the safety of their living rooms. Given the state’s small African-American population, Wyomingites of both political parties had little to lose by eliminating the vestiges of school segregation or opening up places of public accommodation to members of all races. As the language of Roncalio, Barlow, and Governor Simpson suggested, support for this kind of civil rights campaign seemed the essence of Americanism. By adopting these proposals, moreover, Wyoming could at least appear to be on pace with states outside the South.

The bipartisan nature of the support for civil rights legislation in Wyoming, however, began to crumble by 1964. The bruising battles over right-to-work that had almost defeated the civil rights legislation at the state level in 1957 turned even sharper in the early 1960s. The attempts by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to link Martin Luther King Jr. to the Communist Party began to take their toll in terms of public support.48 The rise of the libertarian and militantly anti-communist “New Right” associated with Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater found considerable support in Wyoming and in other areas in the West.

The changes were perhaps most forcefully dramatized by the positions of Milward Simpson—now a United States Senator— on the 1964 and 1966 civil rights bills. Despite his strong support for the Wyoming public accommodations act of 1957, Simpson by 1964 found the directions of the civil rights movement irksome. While he supported a ban on voting discrimination, he argued that a federal public accommodations statute would be “unconstitutional, unwise, and unenforceable.”49 Thus, Simpson voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act because he refused to be party to further schemes by government to dictate to owners of hotels and restaurants whom they should serve.50  Simpson also voted against a doomed “fair housing” civil rights act in 1966, citing a conflict between the legislation and a property owner’s right to control his own land.51 Professing a conviction that further civil rights legislation would compromise individual rights and traditional constitutional principles, Simpson lashed out at his critics:


I [strongly] oppose the misguided efforts of some militant civil rights groups and the efforts of the communist and Nazi parties in this country, (sic) they are protected to some extent by the Constitution and system, and for that system to remain strong and viable, we must not do violence to the system in order to get at those who inveigh against it.52


However overstated, Simpson’s positions caught the tensions that engulfed the civil rights movement as it entered into a post-southern, post-Jim Crow phase. After 1965, movement leaders found themselves confronting often deeply entrenched patterns of national and de facto discrimination. The more confrontational tactics followed by some of King’s younger critics in the movement alarmed many northern and western middle class whites. Many of the solutions proposed—various programs of preferences, busing, even racial reparations—only heightened their alarm.53

Just as Wyomingites had shared the relative ease and simplicity of the early civil rights movement, so they would confront some of the divisiveness of the post-1965 national debates over race. Milward Simpson’s growing skepticism about civil rights reflected at least one element in the state Republican Party. Wyoming Democratic leaders, meanwhile, generally found themselves supporting federal civil rights legislation. Roncalio served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1960s and voted for both the 1965 voting rights and the 1966 fair housing acts.54 Gale McGee, a protégé of O’Mahoney, entered the Senate in 1959 and generally voted for civil rights legislation during his eighteen years in office.55 And, the state’s most highly publicized racial incident of the post-World War period certainly divided Wyomingites. In 1969, University of Wyoming football coach Lloyd Eaton suspended fourteen African-American players from his team when they persisted in their efforts to wear armbands protesting racial practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which operated Brigham Young University, an upcoming Western Athletic Conference opponent. In the bitter debates that followed, Roncalio was called in to try mediation, then solicited as a possible attorney for the fourteen students. Ultimately, the students left the team, and Eaton’s career and the U.W. football program took a nose-dive. Whatever the merits of the case, the Black 14 problem certainly reflected a period of time during which issues of race and justice divided the campus and much of the state’s population. The relatively easy consensus of the 1950s had been lost.56

When Teno Roncalio and Francis Barrett observed the incident at the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne in 1954, they responded with justifiable outrage. They, the African-American serviceman and his wife, and even the operators at the little cafe were part of a changing world. After a global conflict against fascism, the patterns of de facto and de jure segregation seemed both deeply ingrained and dreadfully out-of-place—whether in Wyoming or the rest of the country. In the early years of the postwar civil rights movement, Teno Roncalio, Norman Barlow, Milward Simpson and other Wyoming leaders were able to cobble together enough of a consensus on racial policy to enact the lukewarm civil rights act of 1957. Whatever its weaknesses, at least this piece of legislation provided an impression that Wyoming was not substantially behind the rest of the nation. By the mid-1960s, however, the fragile civil rights consensus broke down, both at the national and at the state levels. The 1957 Wyoming Civil Rights Act serves as the best-known marker of that early consensus. A token of goodwill, enacted by decent and well-meaning legislators, it deserves at least a footnote in any study of racial relations in the Equality State.


1 Roncalio, one of nine children, had been born in the U.S. in 1916 to Italian immigrant parents. Around the age of five, Roncalio first joined the work force as a push cart operator. Later, he found employment as a barber and as a reporter and sales agent with the Rock Springs Rocket, a local newspaper. He attended the University of Wyoming as a journalism major and (because of his admiration for President Franklin D. Roosevelt) became a member of the Young Democrats of Laramie. His work for Senator Joseph O’Mahoney and law studies at Catholic University were interrupted when he enlisted in the army in the spring of 1943. After the war, Roncalio kept himself busy by practicing law in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he assisted in founding two banks and edited the Wyoming Labor Journal. During the late fifties and into the next decade, Roncalio dedicated his time to the arts, law, and the YMCA. In 1957, he served as chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. President Kennedy selected Roncalio as the Chairman of the United States Section of the International Commission. He was also a member of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. In 1964, he won election to Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate in 1966, Roncalio was returned by Wyoming voters to the U. S. House where he served until 1977.  Roncalio, a very humble man, deserves much credit for the writing and coalition building that led to the Wyoming Civil Rights Act of 1957. Mabel E. Brown, “Tomorrow’s Yesterday: Teno Roncalio,” Bits and Pieces, (August 1966), 15-18.

2 Roncalio linked the treatment of African-Americans to what some Indians had experienced in Wyoming. The jurisdiction of a federal court covers Indian cases of discrimination. Personal Interview with Teno Roncalio, Cheyenne, November 15, 1996.

3 During the debate on the Wyoming Civil Rights Act of 1957, Dr. Barrett’s father, a conservative, voted ‘yea” on the federal Civil Rights Act of 1957. That legislation, aimed at assuring African-Americans the franchise, created a Civil Rights Commission.

4 Teno Roncalio Interview, November 15, 1996.

5 Telephone Interview with Dr. Francis Barrett, March 8, 1998.

6 Lawrence B. De Graaf, “Significant Steps on an Arduous Path: The Impact of World War II on Discrimination Against African-Americans in the West,” Journal of the West 35, (1996), 24-27.

7 The FEPC carried little weight with private businesses when they had no defense contracts with the federal government. The group, however, could monitor the general treatment of minorities. The FEPC observed the exclusion of African-Americans from stores in Hawthorne, Nevada. “[A]nti-black prejudice was rife throughout Nevada,” the commission noted. The FEPC accused Bremerton, Washington, of the same practices because black businesses were restricted to one partitioned area of the city. De Graaf, 28-29.

8 Patterns of discrimination existed in Wyoming, too. James Byrd, drafted in June 1944, from New Jersey, was transferred to Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming. While in Cheyenne, Byrd and other African-Americans patronized a non-white USO club. By the end of the 1940s, President Truman had ordered desegregation of the clubs. Gerald M. Adams, “Military Service Brings Jim and Liz Byrd Together,” Sunday Magazine. (October 1, 1989), 6-7.

9  Steven F. Lawson, Running for Freedom (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991), 5, 7.

10 Specific areas of coverage included voting rights, anti-lynching, interstate transportation, and the creation of a permanent statutory FE PC. John Patrick Diggins, The Proud Decades: America in War and Peace. 1941-1960 (New York: W.W. Norton Company, Inc., 1989), 103.

11 Henderson v. United States (1950) upheld the decision of the Morgan case. “Racial Justice,” ACLU Briefing Paper ACLU: New York, 1996- [cited August 14, 1997]), available from

12 Robert F. Burk, The Eisenhower Administration and Black Civil Rights (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1984), 207.

13 Giant, dir. George Stevens. 3 hr 21 min., Warner Brothers Home Video, 1984, videocassette.

14 “The Butt of the Critics,” Newsweek, (June 30, 1958),  85; “Film and TV,” Catholic World (October 1958), 65; (May 1959), 154-155; John McCarten, “The Current Cinema,” New York, (April 4, 1959), 167-8;  (July 12, 1958), 98-99; and (October 4, 1958), 59.

15 “Coast Study Finds Negro Worse Off,” New York Times,  January 17, 1954, 72.

16 The report included Arizona, Alaska, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. “Progress Reported in the West,” New York Times, February 27, 1955, 73.

17 “Gains by Negro in West Reported,” New York Times, February 26, 1956, 51.

18 Colorado, Washington, and California already had public accommodations laws. Between 1953 and 1961, other western states—Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming—passed comparable legislation. In attempts to keep up with national civil rights legislative improvements, western states generally passed vague and weak statutes. Responsibility fell upon the litigant, usually poor, to prove discriminatory practices by a public establishment. In some states, violation of the statute constituted a criminal offense. In 1951, Colorado established a Civil Rights Division (CCRD) to enforce its anti-discriminatory statute, originally passed in 1895. The CCRD became an autonomous agency and was renamed the Colorado Anti-discrimination Commission in 1955. In 1957, legislation extended the jurisdiction of the CCRD from public to private employers. See Milton R.Konvitz, A Century of Civil Rights (New York: Columbia Press, 1965), 155-158 and Colorado Civil Rights Division/Commission, 1995-1996 Annual Report (Denver: GPO, 1997), 23-25.

19 Population Statistics by Race 1950 & 1960 Table, (Wyoming: State Advisory Center, 1961).

20 P. H. Shallenberger, a sheep rancher, argued in 1927 that Wyoming with its “open ranges and outdoor life can never have the same ideas or ideals as those of other states.. where the entire population has been lambed in the sheds.” T.A. Larson, History of Wyoming 2nd. ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 581.

21 T.A. Larson mentions that signs reading “White trade only” in some restaurants and other public places disappeared after the war. History of Wyoming, 609.

22  T.A. Larson, Wyoming’s War Years: 1941-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1954;  reprint, Cheyenne: Wyoming Historical Foundation, 1993), 162.

23  Larson, Wyoming’s War Years, 163.

24  The 1942 gubernatorial campaign carried “spiteful spirit” between Hunt and Governor Nels Smith (1939-1943). The victor, Hunt, frequently had stressful relations with the legislature. Larson, History of Wyoming, 495-496.

25 The African-American mothers returned the money (votes) they had raised on behalf of their sons. The ultimate winners of the contests were white children. Meanwhile, the Laramie Republican Boomerang had vainly called for the two minority toddlers to be reinstated in the competition. Casper Herald Tribune, November 3, 7, 10, 16, 1947; Laramie Republican Boomerang, November 3, 10, 1947. Popular among wartime audiences for her renditions of patriotic songs, Kate Smith had also attracted a broad public following through her homespun, sentimental commentary on women’s issues. In 1942, a nationwide poll had ranked her (along with Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Hayes) as one of the three most admired women in the country. In presenting Kate Smith to the King and Queen of England in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt had stated, “Your majesties, this is Kate Smith, this is America.” In 1947, the African American mother in Casper, Mrs. Roscoe Howard, told reporters, “[Kate Smith] is democratic, and I would like to know her opinion on …[this] matter.”  “Kate Smith,” Current Biography, 1965 (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1966), 390-393; Michael R. Pitts, Kate Smith: A Bio-Bibliography (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), 9-10; Casper Herald Tribune, November 3, 1947.

26 Future Congressman Teno Roncalio and future Senator Gale McGee were closely associated with O’Mahoney in the mid-1950s. O’Mahoney was one of several western liberals who sided with southern Democrats in winning approval of the jury trial amendment. Within hours of the vote on the amendment, several prominent southern legislators switched sides and supported the controversial Hells Canyon power project—strongly opposed by the administration. There is considerable merit in Eisenhower’s argument that a deal had been struck between westerners and southerners, sacrificing black civil rights to regional public power interests. The direct impact of the congressional debate on discussion of civil rights in Wyoming in 1957, however, was quite limited, as the passage of the federal statute took place after the Wyoming legislature had settled on the state law. See Dwight D. Eisenhower, Waging Peace: The White House Years. a Personal Account. 1956-1961 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1965), 154-162; Steven F. Lawson, Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South. 1944-1969 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 184-194; Burk, Eisenhower Administration and Black Civil Rights, 224.  A Massachusetts native, O’Mahoney had originally come west to help ease health problems. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Boulder, Colorado, and then edited the Cheyenne State Leader. O’Mahoney followed Wyoming Senator John B. Kendrick to Washington in 1917. While serving as executive secretary to Kendrick, he earned a law degree at Georgetown University in 1920. He then returned to Wyoming, but remained active in politics. In 1933, he replaced Kendrick in the U.S. Senate. O’Mahoney was highly regarded for his colorful language, his independence, and his knowledge of economics. O’Mahoney had previously opposed legislation barring the poll tax and reforming cloture rules in the Senate. See “Accommodating Senator Joseph Christopher O’Mahoney,” New York Times, August 8, 1956, 8; Lawson, Black Ballots, 73, 185; and “O’Mahoney, At 70, Again Senator” New York Times, November 6, 1954, 10.

27 Norman Barlow, raised in Bountiful, Utah, met his bride while both were attending college in that state. In 1930, Barlow’s father-in-law, P.W. Jenkins, enlisted the couple to work on his ranch near Pinedale, Wyoming. Jenkins, a Republican who served in the Wyoming senate and ran for Congress in 1928, was known as the “father of Sublette County” for his hand in the creation of that county. He inspired his son-in-law’s involvement in politics. Both Norman Barlow and Jenkins signed the two Colorado River Compacts drafted in the first half of the twentieth century. Barlow served in the Wyoming state legislature from 1945 to 1964, first as a Representative for two terms and the rest as a Senator. Also, he was president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (1955-1957). A man who stood for Western values, Barlow not only looked after the interests of Wyoming’s ranching community, but was also involved in the banking industry. See “Barlow, Former Legislator, Dies,” Casper Star Tribune, February 26, 1972, 1; “Barlow Service in State,” Casper Star Tribune, February 28, 1972, 9; John P. Barlow, e-mail to author, July 27, 1997; Telephone Interview with Miriam Jenkins Barlow, wife of Norman Barlow, June 24, 1998; and John P. Barlow, e-mail to author, July 13, 1998.

28 John P. Barlow, e-mail to author, July 27, 1997.

29 Roncalio and Barlow had a working relationship that extended into the Barlow family. Barlow’s son, John, remembered that Roncalio had a hand in raising him. Roncalio was a pallbearer at Barlow’s funeral in 1972. Barlow e-mail, July 27, 1997.

30 Born in Jackson, Wyoming, in 1897, Simpson was the youngest of three siblings. His father (first a cattleman, then a lawyer) had settled in the Jackson area in 1884. The senior Simpson served as Fremont County’s prosecutor during Milward’s first year of life. Law and politics largely influenced young Milward. The good natured Simpson liked his freedoms, such as cursing and drinking, but at one time in his life he was also an Episcopalian minister. Simpson’s achievements as governor include the creation of a Department of Revenue, an improved School Foundation funding program (declared unconstitutional in 1996), reformed tax codes, the suppression of statewide gambling, betterment of the concessionaires in Yellowstone National Park, and the passage of Wyoming’s Civil Rights Act of 1957. “Wyoming’s ‘Fiery Petrel’,” Empire Magazine, October 31, 1976, 30.

31 “Two ‘Rights’ Bills Given State Senate,” Wyoming State Tribune, January 27, 1957, 1, 11. Barlow, Rudolph Anselmi (D-Sweet-water), C. H. Carpenter (R-Natrona), and A. C. Harding (R-Crook) introduced the school desegregation bill that passed into law February 2, 1955. 1955 Wyoming Session Laws SF. No.19. See Roger D. Hardaway, “Prohibiting Interracial Marriage: Miscegenation Laws in Wyoming,” Annals of Wyoming 52 (1980), 55-60.

32 Wyo. Session Laws HB. No. 86; “Simpson Thinks Civil Rights Will Come Yet,” Casper Tribune Herald and Star, January 28, 1955, 9.

33 Milward Simpson, Message Delivered to the Thirty-fourth Session Wyoming Legislature (Cheyenne, January 11, 1957).

34  Senator Greene’s words echoed those of Supreme Court Justice Brown in the 1896 opinion of Plessy v. Ferguson. “It Looks Like a ‘First,’” Wyoming State Tribune, January 22, 1957, 6.

35 “State Senate Rejects Civil Rights Measure,” Wyoming State Tribune, January 16, 1957, 1; 1957 Wyoming Session Laws SF. No.7; “It Looks Like a ‘First,’” Wyoming  State Tribune, January 22, 1957, 6.

36 ‘“Rights’ Bill Defeat Hit By Attorney,” Wyoming State Tribune, January 17, 1957, 27.

37  In the 1950s, right-to-work advocates commonly attached such riders to “liberal” legislation. Gilbert J. Gall, The Politics of Right to Work: The Labor Federations as Special Interests. 1943-1979. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1988), 13-29, 55-129.

38 Madsen stated, “I’m for equal rights for all people, [sic] I’m for labor. That’s the foundation of our country. They should have the privilege of working.” “‘Right to Work’ Clause Knocked Out of State Bill,” Casper Tribune-Herald, January 31, 1957, 2.

39 Casper Tribune-Herald, “Right to Work’; 1957 Wyoming Session Laws HB. No. 143.

40 During discussions, Senator Greene expressed the idea that action on the civil rights front was not “absolutely necessary.” Barlow, deeply committed to the right-to-work principle, apparently honestly saw it as a “civil rights” issue. John P. Barlow suggests that his father may have believed the right-to-work language would assure African-Americans and other minorities the right to membership in unions—which still sometimes discriminated against them. Barlow’s perspectives on right-to-work and civil rights were similar to the libertarian views of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. In 1957, Barlow also sponsored a bill repealing Wyoming’s 1913 anti-miscegenation statute. That proposal cleared the Senate, but died in a House committee. The states’ ban on interracial marriage would not be lifted until 1965. Barlow took an active role in ultimately winning approval of Wyoming’s right-to-work law in 1963. Personal Telephone Interview with John P. Barlow, June 24, 1997; ‘Two ‘Rights’ Bills Given State Senate,” Wyoming State Tribune, January 27, 1957, 1,11; “House Judiciary Group Okays Civil Rights,” Tribune, February 15, 1957, 16: Hardaway, “Prohibiting Interracial Marriage,” 55-60; and Barry M. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (Shepardsville, Kentucky: Victor Publishing Co., 1960), 9-14, 24-37, 44-58. For a broader perspective on anti-miscegenation laws, see Peggy Pascoe, “Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of ‘Race’ in Twentieth Century America,” Journal of American History 83 (June 1996), 44-69.  

41 “State Rights Bill Gets Approval in Senate,” Casper Tribune-Herald, February 6, 1957, 2: “Civil Rights Wins Passage in the House,” Wyoming State Tribune, February 17, 1957, 1; “Governor Simpson Praises 34th Legislature,” Wyoming State Tribune, February 18, 1957, 1.

42 Pastor Heinz H. Grabia’s family emigrated from Germany to Canada in 1925 when Grabia was three years old. He was reared on a farm near Edmonton, Alberta. During World War II, for four and one-half years, Grabia served in the Canadian Army medical corps. His German background prompted Canadian officials to assign him a non-combative role. Upon his return, Grabia took advantage of the Canadian G.I. Bill and enrolled in the North American Baptist Seminary. After graduation, Grabia pastored a congregation in Rapid City, South Dakota. His second assignment transferred him to Casper’s First Baptist Church where he served from 1957 to 1965. Telephone Interviews with Heinz Grabia, September 14 and December 2, 1998, and “Baptist Mission Chief to Speak,” Casper Tribune Herald, January 24, 1958, 11.   

43 After obtaining a BA. in philosophy form Syracuse University, Boddie rejected his original decision to enter the law and followed his father into the ministry. He took a B.D. from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and a M.A. from the University of Rochester. Boddie has clearly been impressed with the physical and emotional power of his own father, whom he eulogized in “A Giant in the Earth”: A Biography of Dr. J. B. Boddie (Berne, Indiana: The Berne Witness Company, 1944). A 260-pound towering man, whom some considered the “[b]lack Billy Sunday,” Boddie’s father was known for his simple, compelling speaking style and his firm opposition to dancing and the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Despite hearing Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson speak against the admission of African-Americans into the school’s undergraduate program, the elder Boddie cultivated good relations with whites. “To this day whites are persuaded that he out-loved them, although some among their group may have outsmarted him. The Negro race could stand more men like that.” Boddie, Giant in the Earth, 6, 42, 26, 47-48; and Betty Layton of ABHS/ABC, Fax to author,  July 23, 1998.

44 Charles Emerson Boddie was generally seen as a moderate on racial matters in the 1950s. He had held pastorates in Elmira, New York, Huntington, West Virginia, and Rochester, New York, winning the “Man of the Year” Award for his efforts at interracial harmony in the latter city. In 1972, Boddie authored God’s “Bad Boys” (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press), an account of inspired preaching by eight prominent black ministers, including his brother, J. Timothy Boddie, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Clearly, Boddie sought to underscore the role of the African-American church—”the only mass agency which the black community owns”—in the campaign for racial justice. Boddie, God’s “Bad Boys,” 9; “Service of Celebration of the Life of C.E. Boddie,” Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Rochester, New York: November 8, 1997; First Baptist Visitor (Casper: The First Baptist Church, January 1958); and Betty Layton, Fax to author, July 23, 1998.

45 Telephone Interview with Heinz Grabia, January 9, 1999.

46 Grabia interview, January 9, 1999. Pastor Grabia apparently believed in righting situations of racial injustices with moral reason. In 1958, when the minister of the African-American Second Baptist Church fell ill, Grabia (with the permission of his own congregation) conducted worship services at both Baptist churches. After the African-American minister died, Grabia was encouraged by the national Baptist office to merge the two congregations. During the month of October 1958, when the local African-American Baptist church closed, Grabia asked his congregation to welcome African-American worshipers into their midst. The debate over such a merger almost split the First Baptist Church. Silas Jones (who had moved from Tennessee to Casper in the early 1930s and became a respected oil man and deacon of the church) rose in a meeting of the congregation to reverse his earlier opposition to admitting the African-Americans into the congregation. Other oil men in the congregation were from the South. Some agreed. Others, like John Allen Jones, strongly disagreed.  Silas Jones argued that he had come to believe that Jesus would want the African-Americans in the church. Grabia sent a letter to the Second Baptist congregation inviting them to join First Baptist. Although a few African-Americans decided to accept the offer, many did not because they feared losing their culture and own ways of worship. Telephone Interviews with Heinz Grabia, September 14, 15, and December 2, 1998; Interview with Pastor Soozi W. Ford, July 22,1998; Interview with Diane Collins, First Baptist Member, Casper, Wyoming, September 14, 1997 and December 4, 1998; Telephone Interview with De’sta Anderson, First Baptist Member, November 4,  1997; Quarterly Business Meeting Minutes, First Baptist Church, October 8, 1958: Pastor Heinz H. Grabia, letter to Second Baptist Church, October 24, 1958. From 1947 to 1967 Silas Jones worked for Amoco, after which time he retired. Noted for his active membership in Casper’s First Baptist Church, Jones is also remembered as a family man who taught his two children that all races should be treated equally.  “Silas G. Jones,” Casper Star Tribune, January 14, 1997, B-3; and Interview with Pat Knobel, Silas Jones’ daughter, September 13, 1998.

47 The original penalties for violating the 1957 public accommodations act, labeled as misdemeanors, included a fine up to $100 and/or up to a six-month jail sentence. In 1961, an addition to the act imposed up to a $100 fine or up to 90 days in the county jail, or both. Revisions of the code in 1982 increased the penalties to a fine of up to $750 and/or six months incarceration. Betty Qeland, “Civil Rights in Wyoming,” Wyoming Law Journal, 13 (Fall 1958), 76-83; Tim Kearley, e-mails to author, June 24, 1997, and September 14, 1998; Dan Pauli, e-mails to author, September 15, 16, 1998; and Wyoming Statutes, Secs. 6-83-1—683-2. (1961). In 1961, a portion of the public accommodations law, “No person of good deportment...” was altered to “No person....” Tim Kearley, e-mail to author, June 24, 1997.

48 David J. Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King  Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis (New York: W.W. Norton Company, Inc., 1981).

49 Simpson to Sandra L. Dykes, August 31, 1964, “May 1964 Civil Rights” folder, Box 29, Milward Simpson Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie.

50  Simpson to Beverly Chasteen, July 6, 1964; Simpson to Wade Cryer, July 8, 1964, Simpson Papers. Simpson voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Thomas N. Schroth, exec. ed. Congressional Quarterly Almanac: 89th Congress First Session...1965 (Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1966), 1063.

51 Simpson to Mrs. A.J. Maurico, October 7, 1966; Simpson to Mr. and Mrs. Harold V. Chesley, August 1, 1966, “Fall 1966 Civil Rights” folder, Box 62, Simpson Papers; Congressional Quarterly Almanac: 89th Congress Second Session...1966 (Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1967), 978.

52 Simpson to Mr. and Mrs. Ray DeGering, September 15, 1966; “Fall 1966 Civil Rights” folder, Box 62, Simpson Papers.

53 Robert Weisbrot, Freedom Bound: A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement (New York: Plume, 1991), 196-317; Thomas Byrne EdsalI, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race. Rights. and Taxes on American Politics (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1991), 47-115.

54 Schroth, Congressional Quarterly Almanac: 89th Congress First Session...1965 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1966), 984-985 and Congressional Quarterly Almanac: 89th Congress Second Session...1966 (Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1967), 898-899. The Rev. James Reeb, a white Natrona County high school graduate, had become a respected civil rights activist by the mid-1960s. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Reeb joined the celebrated voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama in 1965. At that time, he was killed by white segregationists. Phil Roberts, David L. Roberts, Steven L. Roberts, Wyoming Almanac (Laramie: Skyline West Press, 2001), 152-153.

55 McGee, a native of Nebraska, acquired an undergraduate degree at Nebraska State Teachers College (1936) and then taught high school history for three years. After he earned a master’s degree in history education from the University of Colorado (1939), McGee held positions at Nebraska Wesleyan, Iowa State, and Notre Dame while working on his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. After earning his doctorate in American history (1947), McGee took a position at the University of Wyoming. In 1958, McGee defeated incumbent Frank Barrett for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Gale McGee professed to believe that a good foundation of citizenship included equal access to the franchise and public accommodations, as well as equal employment opportunities. Because he believed the vote was a “silent weapon” against autocracy, he supported the federal civil rights acts of 1960 and 1965. Ann Kelly, “Gale McGee Democratic Senator from Wyoming,” Ralph Nader Congress Project: Citizen Look at Congress, Deanna Nash, ed., (USA: Grossman Publishers, 1972), 1-19. McGee also worked in the 1960s and 1970s to repeal Wyoming’s right-to-work legislation. Larson, History of Wyoming  2nd. ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1990), 576.

56 Clifford Bullock, “Racism, Mormonism and Black Protest: Wyoming and the Western Athletic Conference, 1968-1970.” (unpublished M. A. thesis, University of Wyoming, 1992), 121-128; Steve Weakland, A Million Cheers:100 Years of Wyoming Football (Laramie: University of Wyoming, 1993), 115


Kim Ibach holds the M. A. T. in history from the University of Wyoming where she studied the history of 20th century America, under the direction of Dr. William Howard Moore. She now teaches in the public schools in Casper.  William Howard Moore is professor in the Department of History, University of Wyoming. A specialist in the history of America in the 20th century, he holds the Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas, Austin. This article first appeared in Annals of Wyoming 73 (Winter 2001), 2-13.