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Constitution Day features historical perspectives

Lamar University’s Robert Robertson and Gene Preuss from the University of Houston-Downtown will speak at the annual Constitution Day conference Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the LIT Multipurpose Center Auditorium on the corner of East Lavaca Street and Jimmy Simmons Blvd.

Robertson is an adjunct history professor at Lamar University and author of the book, Fair Ways: How Six Black Golfers Won Civil Rights in Beaumont, Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2005). In his Constitution Day presentation, Robertson will discuss events in Beaumont during the summer and fall of 1956, when U.S. District Judge Lamar Cecil presided over Jackson v. McDonald, a lawsuit filed by NAACP attorneys Theo Johns, Elmo Willard and U. Simpson Tate to desegregate Lamar State College of Technology. Citing new Constitutional precedents established by the Supreme Court in 1954 in the case Brown v. Board of Education, Judge Cecil ordered immediate desegregation.         

Robertson is the author of numerous works with themes in American history, including two published books, Her Majesty’s Texans: Two English Immigrants in Reconstruction Texas (1998) and Fair Ways. He has published several articles as well, with topics ranging from Beaumont on the eve of the Civil War to U.S. District judge Joe J. Fisher and the Borel asbestos case. His writings appeared in journals such as the Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, the East Texas Historical Journal, the West Texas Historical Journal, Military History of the West, and the Massachusetts Historical Review. He earned his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and his M.A. at Lamar University.

Preuss will speak on “Sixty Years after Brown: A Historical Perspective on the Constitution and Education” In 1954, the Supreme Court overturned decades of entrenched segregation in public schools across the South by declaring that separate schooling could not be equal schooling. “Today, although segregation is illegal, many school districts are still predominantly dominated by one ethnic group or another,” Preuss said. “More troubling, over 600 school districts in Texas are taking the state to court over unequal school funding.

“Some people have argued that schools today are more unequal and still segregated,” Preuss said. “What does the Constitution say about education as a right? What have we learned from Brown and the struggle for civil rights, and what does it mean for the future?”

Preuss is the associate professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown. He is president of the East Texas Historical Association and is active in other state, regional and national professional history organizations. His research focuses on the history of minority education. Also a published author, Preuss has been awarded the East Texas Historical Association 2010 Otis Lock book award for his book, To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of School Reform in Texas (2009). He is currently working on a study of Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos (1989-1991) and researching African-American public schools in Texas. He earned his Ph.D. from Texas Tech University, and his M.A. and B.A. in history at Texas State University.

For more information, call Theresa Storey Hefner-Babb, chair of the Constitution Day event, at (409) 880-2135 or email at