Evans v. Abney - 396 U.S. 435 (1970)


U.S. Supreme Court

Evans v. Abney, 396 U.S. 435 (1970)

Evans v. Abney

No. 60

Argued November 12-13, 1969

Decided January 26, 1970

396 U.S. 435

Syllabus

By his 1911 will, Senator Bacon conveyed a trust of land in Macon to the city for the creation of a park for the exclusive use of white people. This Court held, in Evans v. Newton, 382 U. S. 296, that the park could not continue to be operated on a racially discriminatory basis. The Georgia Supreme Court then held "that the sole purpose for which the trust was created has become impossible of accomplishment, and has been terminated," and remanded the case to the trial court, which held the doctrine of cy pres to be inapplicable, since the park's segregated character was an essential and inseparable part of the testator's plan. The trial court ruled that the trust failed, and that the property reverted to Senator Bacon's heirs, and the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed.

Held:

1. The state courts did no more than apply well settled principles of Georgia law to determine the meaning and effect of a Georgia will. Pp. 439-443.

2. The Georgia Supreme Court's action declaring the trust terminated did not violate any constitutionally protected rights. Pp. 396 U. S. 443-446.

(a) The termination of the trust was not the imposition of a drastic "penalty," the "forfeiture" of the park merely because of the city's compliance with the constitutional mandate of Evans v. Newton, supra, but was the result of the construction of Senator Bacon's will to the effect that Senator Bacon would rather have had the trust terminated than have had the park integrated. P. 396 U. S. 444.

(b) This is a case where the racial restrictions were solely the product of the testator's social philosophy, not that of the State or its agent. The decision below eliminated discrimination against Negroes in the park by eliminating the park, a loss shared equally by both races. Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U. S. 1, distinguished. P. 396 U. S. 445.

(c) There is no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment where a state court applies, without any racial animus, its normal

Page 396 U. S. 436

principles of construction to determine the testator's true intent in establishing a charitable trust and concludes, because of neutral and nondiscriminatory state trust laws, that everyone is to be deprived of the benefits of the trust. Pp. 396 U. S. 445-446.

(d) The trust "failed" under Georgia law not because of the unspoken premise that the presence of Negroes would destroy the desirability of the park for whites, but because the testator intended that the park remain forever for the exclusive use of white people. P. 396 U. S. 447.

224 Ga. 826, 165 S.E.2d 160, affirmed.



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