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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Approved on December 18, 1907, Senate Bill One, also known as the coach law and to most as the state's first Jim Crow law, easily sailed through Oklahoma's first legislature. The bill provided that "every railway company, urban or suburban car company, street car or interurban car or railway company . . . shall provide separate coaches or compartments as hereinafter provided for the accommodation of the white and negro races, which separate coaches or cars shall be equal in all points of comfort and convenience." Another section of the legislation similarly stated that each railroad depot must have separate, adequately signed waiting rooms for each race. The penalty for disobeying ranged from one hundred to one thousand dollars for any company failing to provide separate facilities and from five to twenty-five dollars for any individual who, after being warned by the conductor, occupied any coach or compartment (including waiting rooms) not designated for his/her race. The bill authorized railroad officials to refuse service or eject violators. All fines were to go to the common school fund.

The Oklahoma Senate passed the bill on December 6, thirty-seven votes to two. The two dissenters were Republicans representing Kingfisher/Blaine and Logan counties. Republican Sen. H. E. P. Stanford refused to vote, stating that he stood for the law but objected to the measure as an emergency bill; he further objected to the clause allowing African American nurses and attendants in white coaches and to the provision mandating separate waiting rooms at all stations. The House of Representatives approved the bill ninety-one votes to fourteen. All fourteen of the votes against the bill came from Republicans representing the north-central and northwestern counties of the state, except for Republican Rep. William McAdoo of Okmulgee County.

Only one House Republican, Curtis Cay from Oklahoma County, and one Senate Republican, R. S. Curd representing Alfalfa and Major Counties, voted for the measure. In general, support for the bill came from the Democratic Party in the south and east, and opposition came from the Republican Party in the north-central and west.

African Americans protested the passage of Senate Bill One, with some demonstrations turning violent in Taft and Red Bird, All-Black towns. E. P. McCabe organized a legal battle, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law's constitutionality in November 1914. In 1952 the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation on interstate railways unconstitutional. In 1965 the Oklahoma Legislature repealed all segregation statutes for public transportation.

Larry O'Dell


General Statutes of Oklahoma, 1908 (Kansas City, Mo.: Pipes Reed Book Co., 1908).

Journal of the House of Representatives of the Regular Session of the First Legislature of Oklahoma (Guthrie, Okla.: Leader Printing and Manufacturing House, 1908).

Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate of the First Legislature of the State of Oklahoma (Muskogee, Okla.: Muskogee Printing Co., 1909).

Phillip Mellinger, "Discrimination and Statehood in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 49 (Autumn 1971).

James Scales and Danney Goble, Oklahoma Politics: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982).

Kaye M. Teall, Black History in Oklahoma: A Resource Book (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Oklahoma City Public Schools, 1971).

Arthur Tolson, "The Negro in Oklahoma Territory, 1889–1907: A Study in Racial Discrimination" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1966).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Senate Bill One,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SE017.

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