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Charles Scott, Sr.

Charles Sheldon Scott was born in Topeka on April 15, 1921, to Elisha and Esther (Van Dyne) Scott. He attended Topeka public schools, graduating from Topeka High School. He served in the Second Cavalry Division and the Red Ball Express Transportation Unit with the U.S. Army during World War II. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Washburn University in 1948. He received his juris doctorate from Washburn in 1970.

Scott married Louise Crawford in Topeka on February 7, 1947. They had two children.

Joining his father’s law firm, Scott worked on several on civil rights cases including one to integrate South Park elementary school in Johnson County. Webb v. School District No. 90 was upheld to the Kansas Supreme Court in 1949 and African American children were allowed entrance to the school. He also worked on cases to end discriminatory practices at Topeka theaters, restaurants, and pools.

Scott, his brother John Scott, and Charles Bledsoe agreed to represent members of the Topeka chapter of the NAACP in 1950 when they decided to challenge the separate but equal doctrine applied to public education. 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.

In the 1960s Scott worked with other civil rights workers in the South and as national legal counsel for the Congress of Racial Equality. In the 1970s he taught in the political science department at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Scott was a longtime member of the NAACP and a founder of the Coordinating Committee of the Black Community. He was active in his church, Asbury Mount Olive United Methodist Church, the Elks, and kappa alpha Psi fraternity.

Scott died in Topeka on March 3, 1989.

Entry: Scott, Charles, Sr.

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.