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Tureaud, A. P. (1899-1972) | Amistad Research Center

Name: Tureaud, A. P. (1899-1972)
Fuller Form: Tureaud, A.P. (Alexander Pierre)

Historical Note:

A.P. Tureaud was a major influence in constructing the legal strategies used to challenge the constitutionality of segregation in civil rights cases of the twentieth century. He served as an advisor and mentor to many leading jurists, public officials and activists, and was co-organizer of the New Orleans Federation of Civic Leaders, principal attorney for the Louisiana NAACP, legal counselor to the Louisiana Education Association, and Roman Catholic Knights of Peter Claver.

Alexander Pierre Tureaud was born February 26, 1899, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tureaud was one of three sons and two daughters born to Louis and Eugenie Tureaud. In 1907, Tureaud began attending Bayou Road Elementary School, one of only two Black schools in the downtown section of New Orleans.  After completing his studies at Bayou Road Elementary, Tureaud transferred to the Thomy Lafon School. Once his studies were complete, Tureaud pursued employment as a cement finisher, found it very difficult to find employment and decided to move from New Orleans to seek better opportunities. In 1916, Tureaud moved to Chicago where he worked as a laborer on the railroads and began seeking employment outside of the Chicago area in 1919. At the invitation of his brother, Tureaud settled in Harlem, New York; there, Tureaud witnessed the various activities of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which influenced him to pursue a career as an attorney.

Tureaud enrolled in Howard University's Law School where he was exposed to the practice of civil rights law and attained his Juris Doctor Degree in June 1925. After a brief period of practicing law in Washington D.C., Tureaud returned to New Orleans and took a position as a deputy controller of customs.  In 1927, Tureaud became a member of NAACP, serving the organization as an attorney. He also became a member of the Louisiana bar, becoming one of only four African Americans practicing law in state at this time. From the years 1937-1947, he was the sole Black lawyer in the entire state.

Tureaud was an active member of the Black community in New Orleans and from 1928 to 1935 was an organizer and the president of the Eight Ward Civil League and co-organizer and vice president of the New Orleans Federation of Civic Leagues. In these roles, he urged African Americans to pay their poll tax, register, and vote. In 1931, Tureaud resigned from the Executive Committee of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP, when the organization dismissed him and some other African American lawyers from a registration case and replaced them with Whites. This action led a group of young men to oust the old guard of the NAACP from office and aimed the organization in the direction of action on civil rights.

In 1931, Tureaud married Lucille Dejoie, who was born in New Orleans in 1906. Her parents were Joseph and Louise Dejoie. Lucille attended grade school at Xavier Preparatory and completed high school at Talladega College in Alabama. She also went on to Howard University, where she received a degree in Pharmacy in 1926. They were married for forty-one years and had six children.

From 1921-1948, Tureaud aided Rev. Roger Coleman in his efforts to open up the use of the Municipal Auditorium by Blacks. He also became the first National Advocate for the Knights of Peter Claver, serving in that post a total of nineteen years from 1932. In 1935, Tureaud, along with C.C. Haydel, co-authored the book, The Negro in Medicine in Louisiana. In that same year Tureaud was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

In 1940, the NAACP in New Orleans summoned the legendary litigator Thurgood Marshall to represent it in the case of Joseph P. McKelpin v. Orleans Parish School Board. The case was initiated by Black teachers from the segregated public school system, who had sued the school board for salary equal to their White counterparts. Marshall retained Tureaud as local counsel on the case. The case was settled out of court on September 1, 1942, and African American teachers were offered a graduated pay increase over the next two years. In that same year, Tureaud resigned his post at the Customs House and entered private practice. For the next thirty years, he represented plaintiffs on dozens of significant cases, which gradually chipped away at the institution of segregation in New Orleans and Louisiana.

Tureaud led a three-man NAACP team to Minden, Louisiana, in 1946 to investigate the lynching of John C. Jones, a Black Army veteran, and supplied the United States Department of Justice with the names of the killers. The Louisiana Legislature adopted a minimum salary schedule without discrimination for public school teachers in 1948, a direct result of Tureaud's legal actions on behalf of his clients seeking equalization to teachers' salaries in various parishes. In 1949, he was one of the founders of the Orleans Parish Progressive Voters' League and also filed suit to open New Orleans' City Park facilities to African Americans.

In 1950 and 1951, Tureaud represented plaintiffs in  Daryle Foster v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University (LSU), Roy Wilson v. Board of Supervisors of LSU and Payne v. LSU in federal court. He won all three cases, which forced Louisiana State University to admit Blacks. Tureaud represented the NAACP in Edward Hall v. T.J. Nagel, Registrar of Voters in 1952, which eliminated voting procedures designed to exclude Blacks from voting. Tureaud represented parents in Earl Benjamin Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board in February 1956, which echoed the earlier Supreme Court decision Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, of May 1954. The decision from that case, rendered by Federal Judge J. Skelly Wright suppressed the Louisiana state legislature's attempt to preserve segregated public schools through the use of legislation. Tureaud's many petitions following this decision led directly to the desegregation of New Orleans Public Schools over the next decade.

As the Civil Rights movement intensified throughout the South, Tureaud took the cases of three students in Baton Rouge, who had been arrested for disturbing the peace during a sit-in protest. With the support of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, Tureaud took Garner v. Louisiana, to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of plaintiffs on December 11, 1961. The decision legalized protest at segregated private business and restaurants. Tureaud represented Mary E. Jamison, a White woman attempting to enter historically-black Grambling State University in 1965. He represented teachers from Madison Parish in Linda Williams v. George Kimbrough in 1969 who had been fired and replaced by White teachers. That same year he won Dana Hubbard v. Fred Tannehill, which banned text books from Louisiana public schools that supported White racial superiority. The defendant, Fred Tannehill, of Pineville was president of the Louisiana State Board of Education. Tureaud filed formal complaints and multiple lawsuits against City Hall in New Orleans to desegregate City Park, Audubon Park, public buses, the New Orleans Airport restaurant and other public facilities.

The magnitude of Tureaud's contribution to the civil rights movement in Louisiana and throughout the United States cannot be understated. Tureaud retired from law in 1971, and died in New Orleans in 1972 at the age of 73.

Sources: A.P. Tureaud papers
Note Author: DLL

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