Leon S. Dure

Leon S. Dure (1907–1993)

Leon S. Dure created the concept of freedom of choice of association, a philosophy embraced by segregationists after Massive Resistance—the state policies designed to oppose the desegregation of public schools—faded in 1959. Born in Macon, Georgia, Dure served as managing editor of the Macon Telegraph, White House correspondent for the Washington Post, managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and executive news editor of the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He retired in 1949 and returned to Virginia, where he lived on a farm in Albemarle County. During the desegregation crisis that followed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Dure publicized freedom of choice of association as a way to avoid the large-scale integration of public schools. Students could choose which school to attend, with white students receiving state-tuition grants to attend segregated private schools. While not entirely new, the idea was particularly palatable to suburban white voters. Dure's strategy persisted until the 1960s, when it received two key legal defeats in Griffin v. State Board of Education (1964) and Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (1968). Dure died in Florida in 1993. MORE...

 

Early Years and Journalism Career

Leon Sebring Dure Jr. was born on May 26, 1907, in Macon, Georgia. His parents, Leon Sebring Dure, a prominent businessman, and Kathleen McGregor Dure, were living separately by 1920. On January 15, 1929, in Bibb County, Georgia, Leon Dure Jr. married Katherine May Macken. They had two sons, Leon Jr. and Kendrick.

After receiving a BA from the University of Georgia in 1927, Dure got his start in journalism with the Macon Telegraph. During his rise from reporter to city editor to managing editor, the Telegraph included a separate section covering news of the black community and he later described it as one of the first southern newspapers to accord African Americans the courtesy titles "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Miss." From the autumn of 1933 through May 1935 Dure was a White House correspondent for the Washington Post. He also served breifly as the secretary-treasurer of the White House Correspondents' Association beginning in April 1935.

In the summer of 1935 Dure became city editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and in September of that year when the managing editor resigned, Dure succeeded him. During World War II (1939–1945) he took a leave of absence to serve as an intelligence officer with the Army Air Forces, part of the time in the Burma theater. He attained the rank of major. Dure resigned from the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the autumn of 1945 following a dispute with the publisher about how to cover the court-martial of a member of a prominent Richmond business family. Early in 1946 he moved to North Carolina to become executive news editor of the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem. When the paper's female sportswriter was denied access to the male-only press boxes at the state's major universities, Dure's threat to withdraw sports coverage convinced them to admit her. He strongly editorialized against the tobacco workers' strike in 1947. Dure retired in 1949 and returned to Virginia, where he acquired East Belmont, a farm in Albemarle County. In 1957 he was a visiting instructor in journalism at Washington and Lee University.

Freedom of Association

Dure's most significant involvement in public life began early in 1958, when he formulated a constitutional and philosophical concept that he believed could resolve the state's and the South's dilemma of how to respond to federal court orders to desegregate public schools. Virginia officials had initially reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 and 1955 Brown v. Board of Education rulings with a local option plan that would have provided state tuition grants for children to attend private schools. In 1956, however, the state's political leadership adopted a policy of Massive Resistance and threatened to close schools to prevent desegregation. Two years later, with the collision of federal and state authority imminent, Dure thought that the new freedom that he had adduced from the Bill of Rights, the freedom of choice of association, provided a way out of the crisis.

The core of Dure's argument was that freedom of association carried with it a corollary freedom not to associate. To him it was a natural extension of individual freedom of choice and liberty. A generous allotment of tuition grants to parents formed its practical aspect. In a tireless campaign, Dure promoted the concept through scores of letters to newspaper editors, guest editorials and columns, a pamphlet entitled A Way Out of Our Dangerous School Situation (1958) that he had printed and distributed at his own expense, and articles in the Georgia Review in 1961 and 1964 and in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1962. His argument received some early editorial support, but it also drew questions and criticism. Some critics saw in it potential unconstitutional support for religious education; others perceived in it a threat to drain needed funds from public schools; and lawyers for the plaintiffs in the desegregation cases saw it as a public subsidy of private prejudice. In 1962 the freedom of choice of association drew its most telling critique from the University of Virginia law professor Hardy Cross Dillard, who correctly predicted that federal courts would rule that Dure's new right was merely an unconstitutional perpetuation of racial segregation.

After the governor closed schools in three communities that were under court order to desegregate in the autumn of 1958, Dure's solution became attractive to a wide spectrum of white Virginians. The tuition grant proposal was not a new idea, but it fit the Massive Resistance strategy of abandoning public education. Far more useful overall was the seemingly novel and attractive ideological concept of freedom of choice. Ostensibly nonracial, it could justify retreat from a defiant stance of closing schools to a policy of limited desegregation. Moreover, it fit well the sensibilities of a crucial segment of Virginia's electorate, the urban and suburban white middle class, many of whom viewed racial segregation by law as unacceptable and preferred to let the subtle forces of economics and residential patterns preserve racial separation for them.

During the turbulent spring of 1959, after the governor pulled back from defiance of the federal courts, Dure's ideas occupied the center of public attention. Numerous legislators and public figures extolled his proposal as the solution to the desegregation problem in Virginia and other southern states. He was the lead witness before the special legislative commission that devised the plan that replaced Massive Resistance, and in a key address to the General Assembly the governor employed the language and concept of freedom of choice of association to describe his plan of limited desegregation. Freedom of choice became the rationale for school desegregation policy for the next decade.

Dure's preference for segregation was grounded in a paternalistic racism that rested on a belief that elites would inevitably rule. By early in the 1960s, he began to fear that his ideas had not been implemented in the way that he thought best and that he had been used by various political figures. In Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the concept of freedom of choice as a school desegregation policy, and in February 1969 federal courts forbade state tuition grants for use in segregated private schools. Dure nevertheless appealed to the commission revising the state constitution in 1968 to include in its statement of basic rights a section protecting freedom of assembly and association. The commissioners rejected it.

Later Years

After 1969, Dure returned to retirement. He told an interviewer in 1975 that he thought his campaign had accomplished something. In 1980 he moved to Fort Myers, Florida, where his wife died on March 9, 1987. Dure died in Fort Myers on October 26, 1993, after a fall. His remains were cremated.

Time Line

  • May 26, 1907 - Leon S. Dure Jr. is born in Macon, Georgia.
  • 1927 - Leon S. Dure Jr. receives a BA from the University of Georgia.
  • 1927–1933 - Leon S. Dure Jr. works at the Macon Telegraph in Macon, Georgia, rising from reporter to city editor to managing editor.
  • January 15, 1929 - Leon S. Dure Jr. and Katherine May Macken marry in Bibb County, Georgia. They will have one son.
  • Autumn 1933–May 1935 - Leon S. Dure Jr. serves as the White House correspondent for the Washington Post.
  • April 1935 - Leon S. Dure Jr. serves as secretary-treasurer of the White House Correspondents' Association.
  • Summer 1935 - Leon S. Dure Jr. becomes city editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • September 1935 - Leon S. Dure Jr. becomes managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • Autumn 1945 - Leon S. Dure Jr. resigns as managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch following a dispute with the publisher about how to cover the court-martial of a member of a prominent Richmond business family.
  • 1946–1949 - Leon S. Dure Jr. serves as executive news editor of the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
  • May 17, 1954 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that segregation in schools is unconstitutional, but fails to explain how quickly and in what manner desegregation is to be achieved. The decision leads to the Massive Resistance movement in Virginia.
  • August 27, 1956 - Governor Thomas B. Stanley announces a package of Massive Resistance legislation that will become known as the Stanley Plan. Among other things, the plan gives the governor the power to close any schools facing a federal desegregation order.
  • 1957 - Leon S. Dure Jr. is a visiting instructor in journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington.
  • 1958 - Leon S. Dure Jr. self-publishes a pamphlet arguing for the freedom of choice of association as a means of more palatably opposing the desegregation of public schools.
  • September 19, 1958 - Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. closes Lane High School and Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville to prevent desegregation.
  • September 27, 1958 - Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. orders white secondary schools in Norfolk to close to prevent desegregation.
  • May 5, 1959 - The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Judge Sterling Hutcheson’s ruling in the case of segregated schools in Prince Edward County and orders Prince Edward to integrate its schools by September 1, 1959. NAACP and Prince Edward County lawyers will continue to fight in court over desegregation of the schools for the next five years.
  • 1961 - Leon S. Dure Jr. publishes an article in the Georgia Review promoting the freedom of choice of association as a means of more palatably opposing the desegregation of public schools.
  • 1962 - Leon S. Dure Jr. publishes an article in the Virginia Quarterly Review promoting the freedom of choice of association as a means of more palatably opposing the desegregation of public schools.
  • 1964 - Leon S. Dure Jr. publishes an article in the Georgia Review promoting the freedom of choice of association as a means of more palatably opposing the desegregation of public schools.
  • May 25, 1964 - After Prince Edward County's public schools have been closed for the previous five years, the U.S. Supreme Court in Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County rules that the county has violated the students' right to an education and orders the Prince Edward County schools to reopen.
  • May 27, 1968 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia, that the New Kent School Board has to "convert promptly to a [school] system without a 'white' school, and a 'Negro' school, but just schools." The ruling quickens the pace of desegregation in Virginia.
  • February 1969 - Federal courts forbid state tuition grants for use in segregated private schools.
  • 1980 - Leon S. Dure Jr. and his wife, Katherine Dure, move to Fort Myers, Florida.
  • March 9, 1987 - Katherine May Macken Dure, wife of Leon S. Dure Jr., dies in Fort Myers, Florida.
  • October 26, 1993 - Leon S. Dure Jr. dies after a fall in Fort Myers, Florida.

References

Further Reading
Dunford, Earle. Richmond Times-Dispatch: The Story of a Newspaper. Richmond, Virginia: Cadmus Publishing, 1995.
Ely, James W., Jr. The Crisis of Conservative Virginia: The Byrd Organization and the Politics of Massive Resistance. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.
Heinemann, Ronald L. Harry Byrd of Virginia. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
Lassiter, Matthew D., and Andrew B. Lewis, eds. The Moderates' Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Hershman, J. H., Jr., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Leon S. Dure (1907–1993). (2016, October 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dure_Leon_S_1907-1993.

  • MLA Citation:

    Hershman, James H., Jr. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Leon S. Dure (1907–1993)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 6 Oct. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: February 12, 2014 | Last modified: October 6, 2016


Contributed by James H. Hershman Jr. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. James H. Hershman Jr. is a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.