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White Virginians had long been concerned with carefully defining the legal rights of different races.
Whereas the General Assembly had defined "colored" in 1910 as someone with one-sixteenth or more "negro blood," Plecker defined it as someone "with even a trace of negro blood on either side." This included nearly all Virginia Indians, according to Plecker, because they had so thoroughly interbred with African Americans.
In 1923, the Anglo-Saxon Clubs suggested that a new racial integrity bill be enacted, and the group's motivation, in part, was for the law to catch up with how government officials such as Plecker were already behaving with regard to race. In its original form, it required that all Virginians fill out a certificate of racial composition to be approved by the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
The Senate passed the modified bill on February 27 by a vote of 23 to 4. Byrd Sr., and twelve other senators abstained.) After voting down the earlier version on February 21, the House followed the Senate's lead, approving the bill on March 8 by a vote of 72 to 9. Lee Trinkle signed the Racial Integrity Act into law on March 20.. Citing the Racial Integrity Act, he refused to issue a license and Johns immediately sued in the Circuit Court of Rockbridge County.
Testifying before Judge , and Silas Coleman, a resident of Amherst County, provided anecdotal corroboration.