• U.S.

The Supreme Court: Opening the Cockpit Doors

3 minute read

To the pilot leaving military service, the brightest blue yonder may be a job with a commercial airline. And so it seemed, in 1957, to Captain Marlon D. Green. Green was a highly qualified pilot; in his nine years in the Air Force, he had logged 3,071 hours in multi-engine bombers and cargo planes. When he resigned from the Air Force, Green applied to at least ten U.S. airlines for a pilot’s position. He was turned down by all. For Marlon Green is a Negro.

Finally, Green applied to Denver’s Continental Air Lines—leaving blank the place in the form marked “racial identity” and deliberately failing to send along the two requested photographs. He was summoned for flight tests. But despite the fact that he had logged more hours than any of five applicants hired at the same time, there was still no offer.

Green filed complaint under a Colorado anti-discrimination law, and Continental fought the case. While the complaint moved through the courts, Green worked as a pilot for the Michigan highway department, ferrying VIPs from place to place, quit in protest against inadequate foul-weather navigation equipment on state planes. To support his wife, who is white, and his children, he went to work cleaning milk cans in a dairy.

The Colorado Supreme Court found against Green, ruling that the state had no business trying to impose its laws on carriers in interstate commerce. But last week, on yet another appeal, the United States Supreme Court unanimously Overturned the Colorado decision, ruling: “We hold that the Colorado statute as applied here to prevent discrimination in hiring . . . does not impose a constitutionally prohibited burden upon interstate commerce.” The decision presumably opens the way for Marlon Green, 33, to become the first Negro commercial airline pilot in the U.S.

Last week the court also:

»Overturned, 5 to 4, the conviction of Raymond Downum on federal charges of check forgery. A key witness had failed to appear at the opening of Downum’s trial in San Antonio, and at the prosecution’s request the jury was dismissed. A new jury was impaneled only two days later and the trial begun. But, ruled the Supreme Court, the jury switch nonetheless amounted to double jeopardy. It was the third civil liberties decision in five weeks in which President Kennedy’s two appointees were split. Each time Justice Byron “Whizzer” White has voted with the minority of judicial “conservatives,” while Justice Arthur Goldberg has voted with the “liberal” majority. » Agreed to give a hearing next fall or winter to an appeal by New York Racketeer Frank Costello, 72, against deportation proceedings. Costello, convicted of income tax evasion in 1948 and 1949, has been fighting deportation to his native Italy for two years.

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