Biographical / Historical
Raymond B. Witt was born in Lenoir City, Tennessee in 1915 and grew up in Chattanooga, where he attended public schools and graduated from Central High School. After graduating from college at the University of Chattanooga in 1937 and law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1938, Witt returned to Chattanooga to practice law. After his service in World War II, during which he served the Pacific Ocean theater as an officer in the Navy, Witt joined the Law Offices of Witt, Gaither, Abernathy, Caldwell, and Wilson.
In addition to practicing law, Witt served on the Board of Education in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a member and chairman. Witt was the chairman of the school board when the United States Supreme Court decided that segregation in public shools is unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka on May 17, 1954. Witt and the Board of Education unanimously agreed to desegregate public schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee, however the board advocated gradual integration. Six years after the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision was handed down, the NAACP backed James Jonathan Mapp to bring suit against the Board of Education of Chattanooga to force integration of public schools in the city. Raymond B. Witt served as chief legal council for the defendants in Mapp v. Board of Education of Chattanooga, arguing in favor of a gradual process of integration, in opposition to the plaintiff's call for instant integration of all grade levels and schools in Chattanooga. In 1960, Judge Leslie R. Darr ruled that the Board of Education must produce a plan for desegregation subject to approval by the United States District Court. Mapp v. Board of Education of Chattanooga dragged on for 25 years, however the public schools system in Chattanooga was integrated long before the conclusion of the appellate cases.
Raymond B. Witt ammassed Mapp v. Board of Education of Chattanooga legal documents, correspondence from citizens of Chattanooga, publications related to public school integration, and records related to Melton v. Young freedom of speech case tried in Chattanooga regarding the display of the Confederate flag in public schools in 1972.