On September 12, 1958, in an extraordinary session, the U. S. Supreme Court found that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution” and all state officials must adhere to the Court’s decisions and follow the rules laid down in those decisions in similar future cases.
The genesis of this decision (Cooper v. Aaron) was at the heart of the matter as to whether the Little Rock schools would remained integrated (albeit severely limited) or return to a segregated state. With the SCOTUS ruling, the road that was set before the LRSD was integration.
Following the decision, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement that the schools would open as planned on Monday, September 15, 1958. One of the School Board members, Henry V. Rath, resigned his position on the board that day. He was frustrated that the School Board was caught between federal law and state law.
Later that afternoon, Governor Faubus signed several bills into law which had been passed in a special session. These bills were designed to make it more difficult to integrate public schools. One of them gave the Governor the authority to temporarily close schools to keep them segregated. The Governor would then call a special election for the voters in that district to decide whether to remain closed or be opened and integrated. (One of the other laws, which would come in to play later during the school year, laid out the plans for a recall of school board members.)
Shortly after signing the law which gave him the authority to close the schools, Governor Faubus did just that. He announced that Little Rock’s four public high schools would not open on Monday, September 15. He set October 7 as the date for the special election about keeping the schools closed.
No one seemed to know what the next steps were.
That night, high school football took place, as previously scheduled. Central came from behind to defeat West Monroe, Louisiana, by a score of 20 to 14.
Over the weekend, there were many meetings and phone conversations as people were trying to figure out what to do.
One meeting that took place on September 12 was at the home of Mrs. Adolphine Fletcher Terry. She invited a few friends over to discuss what role the women of the city could play in solving this crisis. The group decided to meet on the following Tuesday, September 16, at Terry’s house. It would eventually grow to over 1,300 members and have the name of Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Public Schools.