DATE OF EVENT: Wednesday, March 31, 1954
DATE PUBLISHED: Thursday, April 1, 1954, in The Kansas City Times
Editor’s note: The Swope Park swimming pool reopened in 1954, this time to swimmers of all races. The pool had been closed for two summers during a civil rights legal battle. After a 1951 lawsuit challenged segregation at the pool and a judge ruled in the defendants’ favor, city leaders closed the pool during a two-year appeal process. No appeal was granted, and the integrated swimming pool “turned out much better than many people had predicted …without the slightest threat of an incident,” The Star would write in an editorial that fall.
The Swope park swimming pool, which has been closed the last two years, will be open June 12 for all swimmers regardless of race.
The decision was announced late yesterday by the park board after conferences with David M. Proctor, city counselor, and other city officials.
Proctor informed the board that under a decision May 7, 1952, by Judge Albert A. Ridge in the federal court here, which was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme court, segregation would have to be eliminated or an equal pool would have to be constructed in the park.
Officials pointed out that construction of another pool was out of the question because of lack of funds. The present pool was built in 1941 at a cost of $400,000 in WPA funds. The city share of $125,000 was paid with savings from operating expenses.
Proctor said the Ridge decision held that the Paseo swimming pool for Negroes was not a facility equal to the Swope pool. It was not based on the question of segregation.
Proctor said the United States Supreme court is expected to hand down important decisions in June on segregation in two school cases. But even if the court upholds the equal facilities principle of law, the city would have to construct another pool in Swope park.
The suit against the city was filed by three Negroes who were denied admittance to the pool June 20, 1951, on the grounds that segregation for swimming had been a matter of policy and custom for many years by the park department rather than on the basis of any regulation or ordinance.
In June last year the board refused to open the pool after the city council voted 4 to 2 that it should be opened. That was before the United States Supreme court denied an appeal of the city from Judge Ridge’s decision October 12, 1953.
Admittance fees at the pool will be increased from 40 to 50 cents for adults and from 20 to 25 cents for children under 12, the board announced.
In announcing the decision to open the pool, Frank A. Theis, president, said the (three) board members were not unanimous on the matter. The other board members are Paul M. Fogel and Ned J. Fortney.
Later Fogel said he had voted against reopening the pool, taking the position that the city should wait until final decisions on segregation in the school cases now before the Supreme court.
“I do not believe it is to the best interests of the public to open the pool,” he said. “I am convinced that its operation will be at a big loss to the city.”
In explaining their reasons for not opening the pool last year, the board members pointed out that elimination of segregation at the two public pools in St. Louis had resulted in 90 per cent loss in patronage …
Before making their decision, the park board members discussed the situation recently with Mayor William E. Kemp and other members of the council. The board members pointed out that under the law the responsibility for opening the pool was theirs but that they desired that the council be acquainted with the facts.