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Case Basics
Docket No. 
William H. Burton et al.
Wilmington Parking Authority et al.
(argued the cause for the appellant)
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, urging reversal)
(argued the cause for appellee Wilmington Parking Authority)
(argued the cause for appellee Eagle Coffee Shoppe Inc.)
Facts of the Case 

In August 1958 William H. Burton, an African-American, entered the Eagle Coffee Shoppe, a restaurant leasing space within a parking garage operated by the Wilmington Parking Authority, and was denied service solely because of his race. The Parking Authority is a tax-exempt, private corporation created by legislative action of the City of Wilmington for the purpose of operating the city's parking facilities, and its construction projects are partially funded by contributions from the city. The Parking Authority provided the restaurant heating and gas services and maintained the premises at its own expense. Burton filed suit seeking an injunction preventing the restaurant from operating in a racially discriminatory manner on the ground that doing so violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A state court granted the injunction but was reversed on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.


Did the Eagle Coffee Shoppe's refusal to serve Burton constitute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision: 6 votes for Burton, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

Yes. In a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Tom C. Clark, the Court concluded that the restaurant, as a recipient of assistance by the Parking Authority, clearly benefited from the city's aid and "constituted a physically and financially integral and, indeed, indispensable part of the State's…plan to operate its project as a self-sustaining unit." As such, the Court found that the state, via the Parking Authority, had "made itself a party to the refusal of service."

Cite this Page
BURTON v. WILMINGTON PARKING AUTHORITY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 02 September 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1960/1960_164>.
BURTON v. WILMINGTON PARKING AUTHORITY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1960/1960_164 (last visited September 2, 2015).
"BURTON v. WILMINGTON PARKING AUTHORITY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 2, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1960/1960_164.