Elbert Tuttle would often say that the segregation cases were “the easiest cases I ever decided. The constitutional rights were so compelling, and the wrongs were so enormous.”
Tuttle, a Republican, was nominated on July 7, 1954, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a new Fifth Circuit seat; he was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 1954 and received commission the next day.
It was Tuttle who, as chief judge of the federal appeals court covering the Deep South, ensured that the promise of the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings became a reality. (Emanual)
By the time Tuttle became chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, he had already led an exceptional life.
He had cofounded a prestigious law firm, earned a Purple Heart in the battle for Okinawa in World War II, and led Republican Party efforts in the early 1950s to establish a viable presence in the South. But it was the intersection of Tuttle’s judicial career with the civil rights movement that thrust him onto history’s stage.
When Tuttle assumed the mantle of chief judge of the Fifth Circuit in 1960, six years had passed since Brown v. Board of Education had been decided but little had changed for black southerners.
In landmark cases relating to voter registration, school desegregation, access to public transportation, and other basic civil liberties, Tuttle’s determination to render justice and his swift, decisive rulings …
… neutralized the delaying tactics of diehard segregationists – including voter registrars, school board members, and governors – who were determined to preserve Jim Crow laws throughout the South. (Emanual)
But this story is about the teenage Tuttle and his brother Malcolm …
Bud Mars is credited as the first man to fly an airplane in Hawaii on December 31, 1910. But it was the Tuttle brothers who were the first to lift off the ground in a homemade glider.
Malcolm and Elbert Tuttle arrived in Honolulu on the SS Sierra, on September 23, 1907. They came with their father and mother, Guy and Margaret Tuttle. Before the boys were born, Guy Tuttle had worked in Washington, D.C. as a clerk in the War Department.
When an opportunity came for him to be transferred to California, to the Los Angeles area, he took it, and he worked there for the U.S. Immigration Service. The Tuttles lived in Pasadena where Malcolm was born on March 20, 1896 and Elbert on July 17, 1897. (Hylton)
The boys entered Punahou School, Elbert in the fifth and Malcolm in the sixth grades. That first year at Punahou gave Elbert a chance to prove how excellent a student he was and earned him the right to skip the sixth grade. Malcolm and Elbert were then to be in the same class through the rest of their school years.
After school let out that first summer, the Tuttle brothers learned how to surf. Their favorite place was Waikiki Beach. In the fall of 1909 the boys turned their attention from the water to the air.
Punahou allowed students to choose and area of study, and Malcolm and Elbert chose aviation. Using silk, bamboo, wire and an electric motor, they constructed a scale model of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 biplane.
Later, following a 1-page ‘How to Build a Practical Glider’ article in their mother’s ‘Woman’s Home Companion’ magazine, they built a forty-pound glider, fifteen feet long and eighteen feet across. Wooden supports separated two overlaid wings, and the lower wing had an opening with arm rests.
On Sunday, October 23, 1910, Elbert and Malcolm Tuttle, ages 13 and 14, carried their glider seven blocks up the street to the Kaimuki Crater, where along Reservoir Avenue the hills sloped into the wind.
Malcolm was ready to try out the new glider, Elbert took hold of the tail and held it up off the ground. Then Malcolm lifted the wings over his head and ran down the hill.
They thought that a long run would be necessary before the glider would fly, but they were wrong. After two or three steps, the aircraft jerked upwards, Elbert let go of the tail, and Malcolm lifted off the ground.
Malcolm’s first attempt to control the glider brought it down quickly. On Malcolm’s third try, he flew the glider ten feet into the air and 40 feet along the ground.
‘Honolulu’s First Bird-Men Take To The Air,’ announced a headline in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser on October 30, 1910. The first page article stated…
“The Tuttle brothers of Honolulu have become the contemporaries of the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio, and their names will be perpetuated in history as the first aviators of the Hawaiian Islands.” (Hylton)
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