[Congressional Record Volume 156, Number 83 (Friday, May 28, 2010)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E997]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. JAMES E. CLYBURN

                           of south carolina

                    in the house of representatives

                          Friday, May 28, 2010

  Mr. CLYBURN. Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an unsung 
civil rights pioneer and educational justice advocate. Mrs. Viola 
Duvall Stewart, who is currently 90 years old, filed the first lawsuit 
in 1945, seeking equal pay for African American teachers in South 
  Viola Louise Duvall was born the only child of Vincent and Pearl 
Duvall in Charleston, South Carolina on June 30, 1919. She was named 
for two of her mother's sisters who died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 
that era. After her mother and Vincent Duvall were divorced, she 
married Coleman Wheeler and Viola gained two sisters, Angela and Ruby.
  Viola graduated as salutatorian from Conception High School in 1937. 
That fall she enrolled in Howard University from which she earned a 
Bachelors of Science degree in chemistry in 1941.
  In 1944, Viola Duvall was in her third year teaching science at Burke 
High School in her hometown of Charleston making just $12 a week. She 
was recruited by the South Carolina NAACP to be the plaintiff in a case 
to equalize teachers' salaries in the State. Due to the intimidation 
and fear of losing their job, many teachers refused to participate in 
the lawsuit. Ms. Duvall was shunned by her fellow teachers and 
neighbors, who were fearful to associate with her for the public stand 
she was taking.
  The case went to trial in April 1944. Ms. Duvall was represented by 
NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall, who was nervous about being in 
South Carolina for the first time. The judge on the case was U.S. 
District Court Judge J. Waites Waring, a member of an old Charleston 
  The case didn't have an auspicious beginning when Judge Waring asked 
the School Board attorneys for the date of the Donald Murray case in 
Maryland. Mr. Marshall jumped up to respond and was dismissed by the 
judge. The same line of questioning continued, each time Mr. Marshall 
knew the response because he had been the attorney on all the cases in 
question, but the judge would not allow him to speak. The packed 
audience began to whisper because they feared Judge Waring would not 
give Ms. Duvall and her distinguished attorney an opportunity to be 
heard. And they were right.
  Without giving the plaintiff the chance to present her case, Judge 
Waring turned to Mr. Marshall after he ended his questioning of the 
School Board attorneys and apologized for seeming rude. It is reported 
he said, ``This is a very simple case, but what I wanted to find out 
from the School Board was how long it knew it was supposed to pay Negro 
teachers equal salaries and hadn't paid it. There's no need to take the 
court's time on this.'' In less than 15 minutes, without either side 
making an argument, the case was decided in favor of the plaintiff, 
Viola Duvall.
  As a result of Ms. Duvall's determination and sense of justice, it 
took just a matter of months to ensure all of South Carolina's 6,000 
black teachers received the same pay as their white counterparts. 
However, she didn't remain in South Carolina long to enjoy the fruits 
of her labor.
  Ms. Duvall met her future husband, Nathaniel C. Stewart, a second 
lieutenant with the Tuskegee Airmen on a blind date in 1945, when he 
was stationed in Walterboro, South Carolina. They were married on 
August 14, 1945, and later that year moved to his hometown of 
Philadelphia so he could attend pharmacy school. He graduated and went 
onto become the first African American department head at Philadelphia 
General Hospital as the director of pharmacy services.
  Mrs. Stewart took a break from teaching to focus on her family. She 
did return to the classroom in 1964, as an intenerate special education 
instructor serving visually handicapped children around middle and high 
schools in the Philadelphia Public School District. She retired from 
teaching in 1981.
  Viola and Nathaniel Stewart had two sons, Nathaniel, Jr. and Louis, 
and five grandchildren. She currently resides in Silver Spring, 
Maryland. She is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She also 
served for many years as Treasurer of Galilee Baptist Church of 
Philadelphia, where she has been a member for more than 50 years.
  Madam Speaker, I ask you and my colleagues to join me in recognizing 
the contributions of this remarkable woman. Viola Duvall Stewart is one 
of the many heroes whose selfless acts led to a better life for so many 
people. Her name is not one that is recognized, but her actions left an 
indelible mark on the teaching profession and the civil rights movement 
in South Carolina. It is my honor to thank Mrs. Stewart for taking a 
stand despite the tremendous challenges of the day. It is because of 
people like her that I, and so many others, are where we are today.