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Charles E. Bledsoe

Charles Edward Bledsoe Born: March 3, 1891, Topeka, Kansas. Married: Carrie S. circa 1914. Died: February 16, 1972, Pima, Arizona.

Charles Edward Bledsoe was born in Topeka, Kansas, on March 3, 1891, to Ledbetter and Raney (Crider) Bledsoe. He married Carrie S. circa 1914. He worked as a fireman and was in the Washburn University law school class of 1937.

He became active in the NAACP and led Topeka chapter’s legal committee. When members of the Topeka NAACP decided to challenge the separate but equal doctrine applied to public education, Bledsoe brought in Charles and John Scott to serve as co-counsel and eventually contacted the national NAACP Legal Defense Fund to assist.

See the letter from Charles E. Bledsoe to the NAACP Legal Department, September 5, 1950.

McKinley Burnett, a longtime community activist and president of the Topeka NCAA, joined the group of attorneys as they began to develop a strategy for the challenge. Their plan involved enlisting the support of fellow NAACP members and personal friends as plaintiffs in a class action against the Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools. In 1951, after parents were denied the right to enroll their children in school, the attorneys filed a case in federal district court. After this case was defeated, attorneys filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. There it was combined with NAACP cases from three other states and Washington, D.C., where it became known as Oliver L. Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka. Bledsoe and the Scotts joined a team of other civil rights attorneys on the landmark case. The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision led to the integration of the nation’s public schools.

Bledsoe moved his law practice to Chicago. He died in Pima, Arizona, in February 1972.

Entry: Blesoe, Charles E.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2017

Date Modified: January 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.