Topeka school in desegregation case to be auctioned, starting at $50,000

? Potential buyers got an opportunity to check out the former all-white Topeka school that the daughter of the lead plaintiff in the historic Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case wanted to attend.

Sumner School was open for tours Wednesday. The former school property will be auctioned off Jan. 22. Minimum bids for the structure must start at $50,000.

In the fall of 1950, Linda Brown’s father, Oliver Brown, tried unsuccessfully to enroll his daughter at Sumner School. Several other black Topeka parents also tried to enroll their children in all-white schools that fall.

They sued, and that case was combined with similar cases from Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware and Washington, D.C. The case led to the Supreme Court’s May 17, 1954, ruling that overturned segregated education.

Sumner School was built in 1936 and closed in 1996 as part of a desegregation plan. The city of Topeka bought it in 2002.

Dan Kooser is under contract with the city to auction off the school, and he was on hand for the tours that lasted two hours and drew about 10 people Wednesday. The school is special to the 48-year-old Kooser because he attended kindergarten through sixth grade there.

“I have lots of memories there,” Kooser said.

Among those who toured the school were representatives of the Topeka-based nonprofit group Community First Inc., which wants to turn Sumner into a charter school and community center.

Interested buyers must give the city a financial plan by Jan. 8.

From there, Kooser is to auction off the school building at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in the first-floor conference room of the city’s Cyrus K. Holliday Building.

Kooser said he expected the bids that come in to be at least the minimum $50,000.

“I think they’ll get it sold,” he said.

Kooser will be paid up to $1,200 for advertising the sale of the property, and then will get a percentage of the sale cost from the buyer as a commission, said city spokesman David Bevens.