Constitutional Law – Equal Protection – Determinable Fee as Devise to Impose Racial Restrictions on Use of Land

Land was conveyed by deed to the Park and Recreation Commission, a municipal corporation. The grant was in the nature of a determinable fee, with the land to revert to the grantor if it was ever used by members of any race other than the white race. Members of the colored race petitioned the Park and Recreation Commission for permission to use the recreational facilities erected on the land conveyed and the commission then sought a declaratory judgment as to the legal effect of the possibility of reverter contained in the deed, joining the petitioners and the grantors of the land as defendants. The lower court held that there was a valid possibility of reverter and that upon use of the land by non-whites the fee would terminate by its own limitation and the estate would automatically revert to the grantor. Upon appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court, held, affirmed. The possibility of reverter is valid and operates independently of judicial enforcement by the state courts. Thus, its operation is not a violation of the equal protection of the laws given to the petitioners by the Fourteenth Amendment. Charlotte Park and Recreation Commission v. Barringer, 242 N.C. 311, 88 S.E. (2d) 114 (1955), cert. den. sub nom. Leeper v. Charlotte Park and Recreation Commission, (U: S. 1956) 76 S.Ct. 469.