A Case of Mistaken Desegregation: Politics

Jun 12, 2016

In 1954, Hot Springs elected its first African American alderman in modern times by mistake. Fred W. Martin was a bathhouse attendant at the Arlington Hotel. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, Martin decided a new era of black freedom had begun. When he ran for election in the fall of 1954, whites did not expect it. There was a white man running for alderman in another ward called Clifford Martin. When Fred Martin was elected, white voters insisted that they had intended to vote for Clifford Martin instead. The morning after the election, a number of white voters turned up at the county courthouse to protest. But the result stood. A white candidate defeated Fred Martin at the next election in 1956.