Lloyd L. Gaines - Aftermath


Gaines left behind a duffel bag filled with dirty clothing at the fraternity house when he disappeared. Since he had had a history of leaving for days at a time with little or no notice to his friends and family, and often kept to himself, his absence seemed unremarkable at first. No report was made to the police in either Chicago or St. Louis.

His disappearance finally became an issue several months later. In August, Houston and Sidney Redmond went looking for him as they began to argue his case at the Missouri Supreme Court's rehearing. They could not locate him, and Redmond recalled that the Gaines family was neither concerned nor very helpful in trying to do so. The Lincoln University School of Law in St. Louis opened in late September to pickets denouncing it as a segregationist sham. While 30 students who had been admitted since it was created showed up, Gaines was not among them. Since only Gaines had been denied admission to the University of Missouri School of Law, only he had standing to pursue the case before the Supreme Court of Missouri, and the case could not proceed without him.

Near the end of the year the NAACP began a frantic effort to find him. There were rumors that he had been killed or committed suicide, along with rumors that he had been paid off to disappear and was either living in Mexico City or teaching school in New York. The story received widespread media attention, and his picture was published in newspapers across the country with a plea for anyone with information to contact the NAACP. No credible leads were received. In his 1948 memoirs, NAACP president Walter White said, "He has been variously reported in Mexico, apparently supplied with ample funds, and in other parts of North America."

Gary Lavergne notes that Houston, Marshall and Redmond never publicly called for an investigation of the disappearance or stated that they believed Gaines had met with foul play. Since extrajudicial abductions and murders of African Americans who challenged segregation were not unheard of at the time, and the three lawyers frequently spoke out and demanded investigations when they believed they had occurred, he thinks that they had no such evidence and believed that the erratic Gaines, whom they knew to have grown resentful of the NAACP and his role in the lawsuit, had purposely dropped out of sight. Fifty years later, near the end of his own career as a Supreme Court justice, Marshall recalled the case in terms that suggest this assessment: "The sonofabitch just never contacted us again."

In January, the state of Missouri moved to dismiss the case due to the absence of the plaintiff. Houston and Redmond did not oppose the motion, and it was granted.

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