George Edward Chalmer Hayes

George Edward Chalmer Hayes

The Fifthteenth Laurel Wreath Wearer [1950]

George Edward Chalmer Hayes [Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter] was born July 1, 1894, in Richmond (VA) and raised in Washington (DC). He matriculated at Brown University and earned a degree (1915). He continued his education at Howard University earning a LLB degree [1918].

Hayes was highJy respected among his colleagues, who knew him to be calm, diligent, modest, and unassuming. He was noted for his elegance in language, manner, and ch·ess, and he projected an image of intel1igence and confidence. He was a Professor of Law at Howard Unive1·sity, a member of the University board of trustees for over 20 years, a confidant of Dr. Mmdecai Johnson, the first Negro president of the University, and general counsel for the University.

Hayes became involved in the civil rights movement in the 1940s. As a member of the DC Board of Education [1945-1949], he worked to desegregate the public schools in the city. In 1950, James Nabrit filed a lawsuit against the DC Boru·d of Education - Sharpe v Bolling - arguing segregation was illegal in the Disb·ict of Columbia. The US District Court dismissed the case based on a ruling by the Court of Appeals that segregated schools were constitutional in the District of Columbia. Nabrit solicited the assistance of Hayes, and together they appealed the lower court ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States.

While awaiting a hearing date, the Court notified them it was interested in considering their case along with four other segregation cases already pending before the Court. Sharpe v Bolling became a part of the landmark Brown v Board of Education cases that the Court ruled on in 1953.

In 1954, Hayes clashed with Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCa1·thy, chairman of a Senate Subcommittee investigating the infiltration of communist into the government. McCarthy accused a civilian employee of the Army Signal Corps of communist affiliation. Hayes defended the employee, who repeatedly denied the allegations against her. Hayes sl,arply criticized the investigative methods of McCarthy, and the presumption the employee was guilty. She was cleared of the cha1·ges, and the Secretary of Defense restored her to a position with the Army.

In 1955, President Eisenhower appointed Hayes to the District of Columbia Public Utilities Commission, making him the first Negro in nearly 100 years to serve in a supervisory capacity for a municipal agency in the District of Columbia. In 1962, the District of Columbia Bar Association named him to its board of directors, making him the first Negro to hold office in that group.

Hayes had open and sometimes bitter differences with the younge•􀂾 more lltilitant activists who assumed leadership of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. In 1966, they criticized him for accepting membership on the previously s gregated board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, one of the most conservative groups in the District of Columbia.

Hayes, a 1927 initiate of the Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter, was elected Polemarch in 1927 and eJected to five consecutive terms [1928-1932]. In 1929, the delegates at the 19th Grand Chapter meeting elected him the Senior Grand Vice Polemarch. Hayes was also elected to several terms on the Grand Board of Directors.

His exemplary and enviable contributions to civil rights, as an attorney, earned him the 15th Laurel Wreath.

Laurel Wreath Wearer Hayes died December 20, 1968. His funeral attracted dignitaries from throughout the nation, including several members of the Supreme Court of the United States.