‘He studied nothing, but knew something about everything.’

In January 1903, Rep. John T. Crisp of Independence proposed a “Jim Crow” law for Missouri, requiring Black and white passengers to ride in separate railway coaches. “Col. Crisp’s bill is taken seriously by his fellow members at Jefferson City. It is necessary to say this for the reason that Col. Crisp’s colleagues do not always take him seriously,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported

The “portly orator” did, in fact, introduce such a bill, but he was beat to the punch by Rep. Lon B. Williams of Scott County, a fellow Democrat who hoped to ride Jim Crow racism straight to the lieutenant governor’s seat. The two bills were combined into one, but after considerable debate and lobbying, the legislation was soundly defeated, 55-70, with all of the House Republicans and a few Democratic leaders opposing the measure.

Vocal opposition from Black Missourians was key — they held meetings and rallies, and showed up in force in the Capitol to lobby lawmakers. (In the House gallery, Blacks and whites were required to sit in separate sections.) Another reason for the legislation’s defeat: the world’s fair planned for St. Louis in 1904. One Republican opponent pointed out that if the bill passed, fair visitors, including foreign dignitaries, would have to switch to segregated coaches when they crossed into Missouri. Black leaders also vowed to call on President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress to withdraw the federal appropriation to the fair if the Jim Crow bill passed.

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