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The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, 1959-1968 - Home
Introduction
Restrictive Covenants
O'Meara v. Washington State Board Against Discrimination
State Fair Housing Legislation
The NAACP Request
The Citizens' Advisory Committee on Minority Housing
Protest: Sit-in and Freedom March, 1963
"An Open Hearing for Closed Minds"
The People Vote
Years of Ferment: 1964-1967
Open Housing, 1968
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The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, 1959-1968

O'Meara v. Washington State Board Against Discrimination

Most real estate agents, operating under unwritten rules, would not show houses in all-white neighborhoods to people of color. On the rare occasion that a non-white buyer was shown a house in an all-white neighborhood, purchasing the house was difficult, as Robert Jones discovered.

1960 map
1960 map

In 1959, Robert L. Jones and his wife attempted to buy a house outside the Central Area. The owners, John O'Meara and his wife, refused to sell to the Jones family because of their color. Jones appealed to the Washington State Board Against Discrimination. The Board upheld the Jones' appeal and declared that the O'Mearas' refusal to sell the house to the Jones family because of their color was an unfair practice as defined in RCW 49.60.217.

The O'Mearas appealed the decision to King County Superior Court, where their decision not to sell to Jones was upheld. The case went to the Washington State Supreme Court (O'Meara v. Washington State Board Against Discrimination) which ruled on a 5 to 4 vote in favor of the O'Mearas.

The Court's majority, noting that the State law conveyed "the right to secure publicly assisted housing without discrimination," argued that the O'Mearas' FHA loan did not meet the definition of publicly assisted housing. The opinion further stated: "The personal characteristics of the home owner and would-be buyer are irrelevant to the constitutional protection of private property, which is absolute."

In February 1962, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition to review the case. Local events such as the Jones/O'Meara case, and awareness of the burgeoning national civil rights movement, inspired fair housing activists in Seattle to begin pushing for open housing legislation.

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