Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Local legal historic sites – Midtown Parking Center and Eagle Coffee Shoppe

February 8th, 2012 No comments
Midtown Parking Center

Midtown Parking Center

This ordinary mid-century parking garage once played an important part in the struggle to end segregation in Delaware. In 1958, William H. Burton, an African American and member of the Wilmington City Council, entered the Eagle Coffee Shoppe, a restaurant on the ground floor of the parking garage and was refused service. The restaurant, like most restaurants and theaters in Wilmington at that time would not serve African Americans.  The parking garage was built and maintained by the Wilmington Parking Authority, which had leased space to shops and a restaurant in order to defray the cost of the garage. Burton, represented by Louis L. Redding, filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery against the restaurant and Parking Authority. The case was eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court which found in Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority 365 US 715 (1961) that because the restaurant was in a government owned building, refusing service to Burton on the basis of his race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Eagle Restaurant menu

Eagle Restaurant menu from 1956. The restaurant moved to the Parking Authority garage in 1958.

In a 1998 interview, attorney Frank H. Hollis remembered how the case started. Seven African-American Chrysler workers had been arrested and charged with trespassing for trying to eat in the Eagle Coffee Shoppe. Hollis represented the seven. After conferring with Louis Redding and the NAACP, councilman Burton was asked to be a test case. When Burton was also denied service, Redding filed the suit against the Wilmington Parking Authority and the restaurant.

Burton’s attorney Louis L. Redding, was the first African American attorney in Delaware. He had a long legal career in Delaware and argued many important civil rights cases. Besides Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority he was also the attorney for the plaintiffs in Gebhart v. Belton which eventually was heard as part of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

The parking garage is now closed, though it still stands at the corner of 9th and Shipley. The Eagle Coffee Shoppe has been gone for many years and is currently the location of the Ninth Street Book Shop.

UPDATE: The Midtown Parking Center was demolished in 2013 to be replaced by an apartment complex.


Frank H. Hollis. My Memories of Law Practice in Wilmington, Delaware. Del. Law., SUMMER 1998, at 22

Carolyn D. Mack. The Other Side of Equity: The Court of Chancery and Civil Rights. 5 Del. Law. FALL 1986 at 20 (1986)

Harvey Bernard Rubenstein. Delaware Controversies That Have Shaped the Constitution. 6 Del. Law. 122 (1987-1988)

Robert E. Whiteside. Parking Facilities Developed in Merchant-City Programs. 13 Traffic Quarterly 294 (1959)

and thanks to Jack Buckley, Ninth Street Book Shop

Louis L. Redding, civil rights pioneer

September 8th, 2011 No comments
louis redding and thurgood marshall

Louis Redding confers with Thurgood Marshall

Louis L. Redding was the first, and for twenty six years the only, African-American attorney in the state of Delaware. Born in 1901, Redding grew up in Wilmington and attended Howard High School, at that time the only high school in the state of Delaware open to black students. He graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School.

In 1929 Redding passed the Delaware Bar Exam. His most difficult challenge had been finding a preceptorship, or clerkship, at that time a requirement for Delaware bar admission. No white attorney would offer Redding a clerkship, until Judge Daniel O. Hastings reluctantly agreed to serve as Reddings preceptor. Hastings encouraged Redding to never enter his office, so Redding did his studying at home or in the library.

Redding started a general practice in Wilmington, taking on criminal and family cases, but he also practiced in all three counties in Delaware. He was legal counsel for the Wilmington NAACP. Some of the many civil rights cases he handled were Parker v. Univ. of Delaware, 31 Del. Ch. 381, 75 A.2d 225 (Del. Ch. 1950) (which integrated the University of Delaware), Gebhart v. Belton, 33 Del. Ch. 144, 87 A.2d 862 (Del. Ch. 1952), aff’d, 91 A.2d 137 (Del. 1952) (which eventually became part of Brown v. Board of Education, integrating the public schools) and Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715 (1961) (ending segregation in publicly owned properties).

Louis L. Redding died in 1998. His many contributions were eventually acknowledged by the state of Delaware. The University of Delaware established the Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy and the City/County building in Wilmington was named after him. There is also a Louis L. Redding Middle School.

For more information on Louis L. Redding see:

Woolard-Provine, Annette. Integrating Delaware: The Reddings of Wilmington. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003. F174.W79 N4 2003

Williams, Leonard L., Louis L. Redding 16 Del. Law. 10 (1998-1999)