Justice Breyer honors judge known for integration ruling

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Courtesy of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota

The opening of a new school in Fargo is generating a larger than usual buzz in the community.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will attend a dedication ceremony Sunday for the school, named for U.S. District Judge Ronald Davies, known for his role during a key moment in U.S. History.

Born in Crookston, Minn., Davies was appointed a federal judge in North Dakota by President Eisenhower in 1955. In 1957 he was assigned to temporary duty in Arkansas, and found himself in the middle of the school integration case for which he is best remembered.

Local officials and Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus were trying to stop nine black students from enrolling in Little Rock Central High.

Davies ordered Faubus to withdraw National Guard troops the governor called to prevent the students from entering the school. A few days later, police surrounded the high school as a large crowd gathered.

President Eisenhauer responded by federalizing the entire Arkansas National Guard and sending members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to protect the black students.

At least two of the Little Rock Nine will be in Fargo on Sunday to take part in public conversation about their experiences.

The ceremony also will focus on Davies, who sat on the federal bench for 30 years. He died in 1996.

I had an unexpected opportunity to have lunch with Judge Davies when he was well into his 80’s.

I recall he loved to tell stories, had a sharp wit and a twinkle in his eye.

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