JE Ralph to William G. McAdoo




Joseph E. Ralph justifies the dismissal of an African-American employee following a violation of segregation.


US National Archives and Records Administration 450/79/10/3 box #6 entry 12A1


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum




Requires proofreading.


Digital copy acquired from federal archives by previous WWPL Archivist, Heidi Hackford.


Honorable William G. McAdoo
Secretary of the Treasury.


I have the honor to return herewith letter of the 1st instant addressed to you by the Secretary to the President, requesting you to let the President have a report and recommendation in duplicate in the case of Rosebud A. Murraye, and inclosing letter from the latter and one addressed to the President by Mrs. Belle C. La Follette, and beg to make the following statement with regard to the matter:

Mrs. La Follette says she fears that she may have been indirectly responsible for Miss Murraye's removal from office and apparently associates the discharge of Miss Murraye with the question of race segregation at this Bureau in which Mrs. La Follette was interested. She is mistaken, however, in this view as the dismissal had no connection whatever with anything that Mrs. La Follette may have done in the matter of her investigation of race segregation, but was an ordinary case of insubordination which was handled and acted on in exactly the same way as a great number of other case have heretofore been treated, without regard to the race of the person involved or her connection with the race segregation matter, and the Chief of the division in which Miss Murraye was employed had no knowledge whatever of the discussion relative to the use of the tables in the lunch-room at the time she made the recommendation for Miss Murraye's removal from the service.

There has been no change under this administration in the practice that prevailed previous thereto with regard to the segregation of colored employes. It has been usual in this Bureau for a great many years to provide the colored employes with separate lockers and dressing rooms and they have used the lunch-rooms in common with the white employes except that there have been tables provided which the colored employes usually occupied. There has been very little difficulty with regard to this question until recently when, as stated in Mrs. La Follette's letter, three colored employes persisted in using tables assigned to white girls after a committee of white girls from the Printers' Assistants' Labor Union had made objections to them occupying the same tables and it was necessary to give them positive instructions on the subject. Aside from these three instances, there have been no objections on the part of the colored girls to having separate dressing rooms and tables in lunch-rooms. Colored employes have expressed themselves as believing that arrangements of this kind, including separate toilet conveniences, were very satisfactory and proper, and it would seem that the claim of discrimination is made only by colored persons who do not desire to associate with members of their own race. A number of colored assistants preferred to keep together at lunch-time and eat their luncheons in the dressing rooms instead of at the tables in the lunch-room and to accommodate these girls, stools and tables were provided in an enclosed portion of the dressing room very near the lunch-room and this arrangement has proven very acceptable and satisfactory to those that take advantage of it.

As to the suggestion of Mrs. La Follette that the punishment of dismissal was rather severe for the offense in the case of Miss Murraye and that a reprimand or suspension might have served the purpose of discipline with an employe of eleven years' standing, I would state that my experience as an employe of this Bureau for the past twenty years, for the last five of which I have been Director in charge of it, better qualifies me, in my judgment, to decide as to the proper punishment in such cases. In this particular instance, the language used by Miss Murraye, when read as she states it, may not seem to be so flagrant an offense, but, when the manner of speech and the insolent demeanor on her part to her forewoman and chief of division, together with the publicity of the disrespectful conduct, which occurred in the presence and hearing of a number of employes, were considered, the necessity arose for prompt and decisive action to impress upon all employes, not only colored but white as well, that such conduct could not be permitted. The strict enforcement of discipline is of the greatest importance and is absolutely necessary in the management of a factory such as this which employs 4,000 persons and there is absolutely no discrimination as to colored employes in punishing infractions of rules, insubordination, or disrespectful behaviour such as that of which Miss Murraye was guilty. On the contrary, while about ten per cent of the employes of the Bureau are colored, the records will undoubtedly show that proportionately more white persons have been punished in this way than colored persons. Unfortunately, however, when the delinquent happens to be a colored person, the claim is usually made that there has been discrimination on account of color.

It is believed that, in view of the circumstances of the offense, the punishment was a just one and that the case should not be reconsidered.

(Sgd) J E Ralph
Director JER

Original Format





Ralph, Joseph E., 1863-1922, “JE Ralph to William G. McAdoo,” 1913 December 6, SE120613, Race and Segregation Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.