The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the state of Texas and in favor of Heman Sweatt. Chief Justice Fred Vinson wrote: “We hold that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that petitioner be admitted to the University of Texas Law School.” Vinson elaborated: “The University of Texas Law School, from which petitioner was excluded, was staffed by a faculty of sixteen full-time and three part-time professors, some of whom are nationally recognized authorities in their field. Its student body numbered 850. The library contained over 65,000 volumes. Among the other facilities available to the students were a law review, moot court facilities, scholarship funds, and Order of the Coif affiliation. The school’s alumni occupy the most distinguished positions in the private practice of the law and in the public life of the state. It may properly be considered one of the nation’s ranking law schools. The law school for Negroes, which was to have opened in February 1947, would have had no independent faculty or library. The teaching was to be carried on by four members of the University of Texas Law School faculty, who were to maintain their offices at the University of Texas while teaching at both institutions. Few of the 10,000 volumes ordered for the library had arrived; nor was there any full-time librarian. The school lacked accreditation.”Vinson went on to write: “Whether the University of Texas Law School is compared with the original or the new law school for Negroes, we cannot find substantial equality in the educational opportunities offered white and Negro law students by the state. In terms of number of the faculty, variety of courses and opportunity for specialization, size of the student body, scope of the library, availability of law review and similar activities, the University of Texas Law School is superior. What is more important, the University of Texas Law School possesses to a far greater degree those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school. Such qualities, to name but a few, include reputation of the faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, traditions and prestige. It is difficult to believe that one who had a free choice between these law schools would consider the question close.”
Vinson added: “The law school, the proving ground for legal training and practice, cannot be effective in isolation from the individuals and institutions with which the law interacts. … The law school to which Texas is willing to admit petitioner excludes from its student body members of the racial groups which number 85% of the population of the state and include most of the lawyers, witnesses, jurors, judges, and other officials with whom petitioner will inevitably be dealing when he becomes a member of the Texas bar. With such a substantial and significant segment of society excluded, we cannot conclude that the education offered petitioner is substantially equal to that which he would receive if admitted to the University of Texas Law School.”
SOURCE: For a full treatment of Sweatt v. Painter see Gary M. Lavergne. Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice. University of Texas Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-292-72200-2.