Shelley v. Kraemer | St. Louis Public Radio

Shelley v. Kraemer

Provided | Monica Holmes

The last living child of a St. Louis couple who broke residential segregation barriers has died. Chatlee Williams died last Wednesday at the age of 88. 

Her parents, J.D. and Ethel Shelley, made history when they brought their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s decision put an end to legalized residential segregation in 1948.

Monica Holmes, Williams’ granddaughter, said her grandmother always took pride in the historical legacy her parents left behind.

Shelley House Rededicated By Realtors, Community Groups, Leaders

Feb 11, 2019
Eric Friedman of St. Louis REALTORS; Erich Morris, who grew up in the home; Michael Burns, president of Northside Community Housing Inc.; Alderman Sam Moore; Morris' sister Mary Easterwood; and U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay participated in the rededication.
Steven Engelhardt | St. Louis American

When Mary Easterwood’s family moved into their home at 4600 Labadie St. about 60 years ago, the neighbors had tried to explain the history behind the house.

“But they couldn’t quite get the story together,” Easterwood said. “As we got older and we started to study, then we found out about the Shelley v Kraemer case,” decided in 1948.

Easterwood’s father, Lenton Morris, had bought the home from another African-American man, J.D. Shelley. When Shelley purchased the home, the title included a racially restrictive covenant – which was an agreement that prohibited the building’s owner from selling the home to anyone other than a Caucasian.

The latest episode brings the voices of the descendants of J.D. and Ethel Shelley to listeners as they share the story of their family’s place in American history.
The Copeland Collection

There’s no shortage of people who remember the 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision Shelley v. Kraemer and can talk about how it changed housing practices across the nation – plenty of historians and legal experts, for instance. But when the producers of St. Louis Public Radio’s We Live Here podcast decided to take another look at the pivotal case, they opted for different voices: those of the Shelleys’ descendants.

“There’s a certain kind of human truth that can only really be found by talking with family members who have this story that’s passed down generation to generation,” co-host/producer Tim Lloyd said Thursday on St. Louis on the Air. “It was a great episode for us – we really enjoyed putting it together.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 7, 2011 - The Rev. Dr. William G. Gillespie, who singlehandedly breathed life back into an abandoned church, developing it into a powerful community resource that spoke to the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of thousands for more than five decades, died Friday at Barnes-Jewish Hospital of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 80 and had lived in Pasadena Hills for more than 30 years.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 2, 2009 - Missouri has been at the heart of the nation's story of race from the first chapter. It entered the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise; it drove abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy across the river to Illinois where he was killed, and it deepened the divisions in the Union by claiming Dred Scott for slavery. So it isn't surprising that important chapters of the history of housing segregation played out on Missouri soil.