February Monthly Luncheon – SOLD OUT
Perspectives on Little Rock Desegregation:
Two Races, Two Generations, Two Times
Honorable Henry L. Jones & Johnny Bilheimer
Montgomery, Alabama. Little Rock, Arkansas. Birmingham, Alabama. To someone coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s, these were the names of the places where the Civil Rights battles were being fought. And of the images, of jeering crowds, firehoses, dogs, and bombed churches.
The first media-captured school confrontations were in Little Rock in 1957, outside of Central High School. The confrontations and their aftermath impacted the lives of two boys, one African-American and one white, who grew up in Little Rock separated by race. Those boys, that impact, and how school desegregation and integration guided their lives into and through adulthood, is the heart of this program.
The closure of the Little Rock high schools by Governor Faubus during 1958-1959 led the white boy, Johnny Bilheimer, to leave Little Rock for an elite Massachusetts boarding school. The reopening of the high schools forced a decision upon Henry Jones, the African-American boy—between the nominally integrated Central High where baseball was not available, or the historically segregated Horace Mann High School where baseball was available. Henry chose Horace Mann.
Their lives continued to diverge. Johnny returned home to the University of Arkansas, before attending Harvard Law School. Henry traveled east to Yale University, before attending Michigan Law School. And then their lives intersected. Both returned home to practice law, and to clerk for United States District Judge G. Thomas Eisele. They practiced law together in the first integrated law firm in Arkansas. Henry’s mother, a teacher, taught the Bilheimers’ white son. And over time, that son was joined by an African-American sister, a child of Little Rock whom the Bilheimers adopted.
Both led distinguished careers in the law. After private practice, Henry was appointed the first African-American federal Magistrate Judge in the South. Johnny continued to conduct a private practice, including civil rights cases, until, in the late 1980s, he moved to Washington, D.C. to practice tax law for the United States Department of Justice. With their families, both reside in the Washington area, sharing a passion for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Today, sixty-one years after the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High School, Henry and Johnny return to the city of their growing up, to remember those events and what followed them, and to discuss, through the prism of their friendship and experience, the history and outcomes of the desegregation of Central High School.
When: Friday, February 8, 2019
Where: Little Rock Club – Regions Bank Building – 30th Floor
Buffet Opens: 11:30AM
Tickets: $20 Members | $25 Guests
Two Ways to Reserve Luncheon Tickets
No tickets will be sold at the door. Substitutions are always welcome.
Free parking is available in the Regions bldg. The Little Rock Club management has arranged for alternate parking if the deck is full in the Bank of America building parking deck at 277 W. 4th (entrance on 4th street). As usual, please bring your parking ticket with you to the meeting to be validated.