Local activists, black and white, worked to integrate Sully's Pool in South Park (2022)

Black History Month: Local activists, black and white, worked to integrate Sully's Pool in South Park

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Other swimmers reacted quickly when the Rev. LeRoy Patrick shepherded six members of his congregation into the blue-green waters of South Park's biggest swimming pool.

"We got in the pool. They got out of the pool, most of them," Patrick says 50 years later. "For them we were a strange sight -- black people in the Corrigan Drive Pool."

The county-operated attraction had no sign saying "Whites Only," and no laws banned anyone. But whites patronized it in 1951 as they always had, while "Negroes" or "colored people" swam in a much smaller pool less than a mile away.

Local activists, black and white, worked to integrate Sully's Pool in South Park (9)

The quest for diversity

By Roger Stuart, Editor/South

There wasn't a single black journalist in the newsroom when I arrived in Pittsburgh as a cub reporter 40 years ago.

In the South suburbs, blacks and whites swam in separate pools. As recently as 30 years ago, one of America's most prominent African Americans, Muhammad Ali, was stymied in his quest to buy a home in Mt. Lebanon's exclusive Virginia Manor.

(Video) History Lessons - Chappelle’s Show

And decades earlier, the famed Homestead Grays starred as perennial champs of Negro National League baseball because there was no room in the major leagues.

As the stories on this page attest, a remarkable civil rights saga has unfolded in each of South's principal corridors - and the nation as a whole - thanks to people of great character and courage.

Related stories:

Mt. Lebanon's past of not selling homes to minorities is highlighted by Muhammad Ali's effort to buy in Virginia Manor

Homestead mayor hopes to rename High-Level Bridge after Grays

Local activists, black and white, worked to integrate Sully's Pool in South Park (10)

That pool, which officially was called One Hundred Acre Pool, was known generally as Sully's Pool, and it often was referred to by blacks and whites as The Inkwell.

Patrick, the young pastor of Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Homewood, had heard blacks didn't swim in the Corrigan pool and was surprised no one was questioning this. "I said, 'Let's see.' I got five or six young people from my church and said, 'Let's go swimming.' I didn't tell them or their parents what I was doing."

"Remarks were made" by white swimmers, so Patrick and his group retreated to the side of the pool, where they chatted and tried to pretend things were normal.

"White teen-agers were jumping over our heads into the water. I was desperately afraid for my young people. I was afraid they would be injured. We were in the pool for quite a while before the county police showed up and put an end to the whole business. We played for another 45 minutes or an hour. Then we left."

But Patrick returned later to the pool in South Park and visited white pools in Pittsburgh segregated by practice and tradition rather than by law.

(Video) Why So Many Black People In The U.S. Can't Swim

In the early 1950s, small groups of blacks and whites joined to swim in traditionally white pools and were supported by a variety of groups and organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Marguerite I. Hofer of Upper St. Clair was one of the whites who accompanied blacks to the Corrigan Drive Pool. Husband Lawrence J. E. Hofer and their son Richard went with her.

"Richard was only 8 or 9, I think, and he was the only white child swimming with black children in the kiddie pool. When white children asked him why he would swim with Negroes, he just shrugged and said, 'Because I want to.'

"My husband was a rocket scientist, and we had friends in the university and international communities. We had black friends to our home and friends from India and Ethiopia. We had Jewish friends."

Hofer regarded integration and tolerance of diverse peoples as very much a matter of Christian faith. "My name was in the newspapers. I got letters threatening my life. I got nasty phone calls. I guess I was too innocent or dumb to be worried about it."

Richard came home from school one day with his snowsuit covered with mud. Children had put him in a mud puddle and rolled him around to make him look like the people his parents had befriended.

"Richard was crying. We explained everything to him, and I think he was the better for it. Actually, it was part of his growing up. To this day he carries his lifetime NAACP membership card in his wallet."

Hofer's beliefs and volunteer work with the Presbytery led to a paid job in Presbytery's Church and Community Committee. She worked from 1952 through 1977 on issues both locally and in the South when the Presbyterian Church became involved in the voting rights of Southern blacks. "The swimming pools were just part of it. The Presbytery also worked with other groups on fair housing and fair employment."

Integration efforts at Corrigan Drive went relatively well compared to integration efforts at segregated city pools.

"We didn't take our son to the city pools, where situations were very volatile," Hofer said. "City police stood outside the pool facing crowds that threw bricks and stones at us. We swam on our backs [to see and dodge the projectiles]. One time a city pool had to be closed the next day and water drained out so maintenance workers could remove the bricks and rocks."

(Video) American Reckoning (full documentary) | FRONTLINE

John and Gladys Golightly of Pittsburgh's East End participated with Hofer and Patrick in pool integration efforts.

"We had a lot of friends who were liberal, and we would sit around and talk about how awful [segregation was]," Gladys Golightly recalled. "We decided to do something about it. We went to Corrigan Drive to swim. Black people were pushed, my husband was attacked by some young ruffians. It was somewhat scary."

"We were members of the NAACP," John Golightly said. "We felt pool integration efforts were badly needed. White people could not understand why we, being white, should be involved in this. There were a lot of good people involved."

"The white hooligans were very impressed with our black attorneys," Gladys Golightly said.

Among them was Wendell G. Freeland, now 75, who still has a Downtown law practice.

"In the late 1940s, white people and black people went together to city pools and were stoned," he recalled. "There were no laws barring blacks from certain city pools, but there was no protection for blacks. In 1951, we filed a lawsuit against the city, saying pools had to be made safe for Negroes or closed."

The lawyers won their lawsuit, but pools were still segregated.

"We moved on from the city pools to the South Park pools. We had some opposition from Negroes [who enjoyed going to Sully's]," Freeland said. But he never swam in the Corrigan Drive Pool or any other pool. "I couldn't swim," he said with a chuckle.

Integration groups succeeded in cracking the color barrier at the Corrigan Drive pool in 1954, according to old newspaper accounts. The county commissioners issued anti-discrimination orders covering both South Park pools.

"Negroes and whites have patronized the facility ever since," says a 1963 clip. In reality, though, most blacks continued to swim at Sully's while most whites went to Corrigan Drive.

(Video) White Slums of South Africa | Reggie Yates Extreme | Real Stories

County officials announced in 1963 that they would abandon their long-standing practice of assigning white lifeguards to the Corrigan pool and black lifeguards to Sully's. The staffs were to be rotated.

But the Presbytery and NAACP rebelled and that summer labeled Sully's a "symbol of segregation" that should be shut down for a while, renovated and re-opened at a later date with a new name and an integrated staff.

Not so coincidentally, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. keynoted that summer's March on Washington with his much heralded "I have a dream" speech.

In April 1964, the county commissioners changed the name of Sully's Pool to East Drive Pool. While admission had always been free, the commissioners imposed the same 50-cent charge for adults and 10-cent fee for children that were the going rates at the Corrigan Drive Pool and also started charging rent on the barn near the pool.

Attendance at East Drive Pool plummeted from 2,000 on weekends in 1963 to only 600 or 700 weekend swimmers in 1964, while overall pool use dropped 55 to 60 percent. But the parks director at that time attributed the plunge to the fees, not to integration efforts.

Sully's Pool was closed in 1977. Though attendance at the big Corrigan Drive Pool remained good, it was closed not long after the Wave Pool opened in 1978, and later was filled in and paved over.

The privately run South Park VIP now features miniature golf, roller-blading and banquet rooms at that site, and a picnic grove on the crest of the hill on 100 Acre Drive bears no memorial or marker that it was the location of Sully's Pool.

Even the South Park Historical Society has very little information. Society archives indicate that in 1930 Allegheny County paid $47,700 for a house, barn and 47.11 acres described as "a commercial grove of Sulli-Nesta."

The swimming pool opened in 1938, according to old newspaper articles. The grove surrounding the pool was used for picnics, with the barn serving as a popular dance hall that attracted blacks from all over the county.

The boarded-up barn and vacant two-story yellow house remain, fronted by a sign that says "100 Acre House." The house is rented for weddings and other parties, and it is booked solid during the summer.

(Video) Racism in America Small Town 1950s Case Study Documentary Film

A yellow and orange building that was the bathhouse now bears a year-round "Phantoms in the Park" sign attesting to the building's annual use as a Halloween haunted house fund-raiser for the Make- A-Wish Foundation.

The main pool was filled in and paved over, but the original oval in-ground kiddie pool sits next to the former bathhouse. A rickety bridge, built by the haunters, traverses the tiny pool, which is filled with pseudo-spooky things at Halloween time.

Patrick, 85, and Hofer, 80, meet regularly and remain active in groups that work for diversity and equality. Patrick is pastor emeritus of Bethesda Presbyterian Church after serving 35 years as pastor. In 1998, Patrick and Hofer were among 80 people the Urban League of Pittsburgh honored for leadership and service to the organization, which celebrated its 80th anniversary that year.


When were public swimming pools officially desegregated in the South? ›

One of the nation's first successful desegregation lawsuits was related to pools. The 1944 Lopez v. Seccombe case involved discrimination against Mexican Americans in San Bernardino, California, where Latino children were only allowed to use municipal pools on Sunday, after which the pools were drained and cleaned.

When was South Park wave pool built? ›

The South Park's swimming pool, which opened in 1931 as the country's largest naturalistic swimming pool, is considered the zenith of Riis' designs. TCLF added the North and South Parks to its Landslide program in 2009, after decades of budget cuts left them in a decrepit state.

When was the swimming pool invented? ›

Ancient Pools

The first known swimming pool dates back to ancient history. The Great Baths of Mohenjo-Daro, constructed around 2600 B.C.E., was one of the earliest known pools. Built out of brick and gypsum, the pool featured stairs and benches with a large surrounding deck.

Why are swimming pools called baths? ›

Bathing Pool Beginnings

Early American municipal pools in the mid-1800s were actually a Victorian-era attempt to ingrain cleanliness and decorum to the urban poor. They were called “bathing pools” or “plunge baths” rather than swimming pools.

What is the black swimming association? ›


The BSA aims to challenge the negative stigmas, narratives and relationships that people from African, Caribbean and Asian communities have with the water.

Who is David Isom? ›

Isom represents Trustee Area 7 on the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District Board of Trustees in California.

Are there still Buffalo at South Park? ›

Eleven bison currently live at the seven-acre enclosure at South Park's game preserve. Two bison stand in their South Park corral. Don't be fooled by Buffalo Drive just outside South Park; there are no buffalo there. Instead, you'll find the park's 11 resident bison on a small turnoff marked “Game Preserve.”

What is Bethel Park known for? ›

Bethel Park is home to many popular Pittsburgh spots like South Hills Village, the South Park Wave Pool and Hundred Acres Manor to name a few. Pittsburgh's first drive-in theater was the South Park Drive-In (1940-1985). It is now occupied by a Jiffy Lube, Arby's and other retail.

How long is Corrigan Drive in South Park? ›

South Park Bike Path

Along Corrigan Drive for 2.2 miles in South Park.

How much did a pool cost in 1989? ›

In 1989, the average pool and spa combination costs $16,000 to $24,000. “In the late 1950s you could buy a pool for $3,000,” said a salesman.

Who built the first swimming pool? ›

In Rome and Greece, swimming was part of the education of elementary age boys and the Romans built the first swimming pools (separate from bathing pools). The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the first century BC.

Who was the first to go the pool? ›

The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the 1st century BC. Gaius Maecenas was a rich Roman lord and considered one of the first patrons of arts. Ancient Sinhalese built pairs of pools called "Kuttam Pokuna" in the kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in the 4th century BC.

Is swimming good for weight loss? ›

Swimming is an efficient way to burn calories. A 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories an hour while swimming laps at a low or moderate pace. That same person may burn up to 715 calories an hour swimming at a more vigorous pace.

How deep is an Olympic pool? ›

How deep are the pools? FINA has determined that Olympic pools for the Games need to be a minimum of 2 meters deep (about 6.5 feet), but 3 meters is recommended (almost 10 feet).

Are Olympic swimming pools heated? ›

Though FINA has strict pool temperature regulations (Olympic competition must be 79 degrees, plus or minus one degree) and most competitive pools maintain temperatures between 77-82 degrees, it's been my experience of a much wider range of temperatures across a diverse range of pools.

Is Soul Cap Black Owned? ›

Based in London and California, SOUL CAP is a black-owned swimming brand – with a mission to make swimming inclusive for everyone.

How old is David Isom? ›

David Isom, 70, of Mulkeytown, Illinois, passed away July 9, 2020 at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. He was born July 31, 1949 in Chicago Heights, Illinois to the late John and Mary (Nardoni) Isom.

Does Pennsylvania have bison? ›

Now there are over 350,000 bison in North America. Bison are back! Bison are known for the large herds that once roamed the great plains but they also were found in the east…even in Pennsylvania. The bison in the east roamed in smaller herds because there was less grass and more trees here.

Are there wild bison in Pennsylvania? ›

The last Pennsylvania bison was killed in 1700 near Lewisburg.

Were there buffalo in Pennsylvania? ›

Although infrequently and only somewhat recently, buffalo were indeed in Pennsylvania at the time of European colonization. Some researchers suggest that the specie may have continued eastward in their range had Europeans not eradicated them.

What is the crime rate in Bethel Park PA? ›

Bethel Park has an overall crime rate of 10 per 1,000 residents, making the crime rate here near the average for all cities and towns of all sizes in America. According to our analysis of FBI crime data, your chance of becoming a victim of crime in Bethel Park is 1 in 97.

Is Bethel Park a nice area? ›

Bethel Park is in Allegheny County and is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania. Living in Bethel Park offers residents a dense suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Bethel Park there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

How old is Bethel Park High School? ›

Bethel Park High School
School districtBethel Park School District
PrincipalJoseph Villani
Staff100.26 (FTE)
13 more rows

Is North Park a state park? ›

North Park is a 3,075-acre (12 km2) county park in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is the largest in the county's 12,000 acre (49 km²) network of nine distinct parks.
North Park (Pittsburgh)
North Park
6 more rows

Did people have pools in the 1920s? ›

Municipal swimming pools were extraordinarily popular during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Cities throughout the country built thousands of pools—many of them larger than football fields—and adorned them with sand beaches, concrete decks, and grassy lawns.

When did the first swimming pool open in the US? ›

When did the first public swimming pool open in the U.S.? Most sources cite the book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming in America,” which says the Cabot Street Bath in Boston was the first swimming pool in the U.S. It opened in 1868 and served a neighborhood where most of the homes did not have baths.

What is de facto segregation? ›

Primary tabs. De facto segregation was a term used during the 1960s racial integration efforts in schools, to describe a situation in which legislation did not overtly segregate students by race, but nevertheless school segregation continued. In Balsbaugh v. Rowland, 447 Pa.

How many swimming pools are in the United States? ›

How Many Pools Are in the United States? There are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States, according to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP).

How much did a pool cost in 1989? ›

In 1989, the average pool and spa combination costs $16,000 to $24,000. “In the late 1950s you could buy a pool for $3,000,” said a salesman.

Who was the first to go the pool? ›

The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the 1st century BC. Gaius Maecenas was a rich Roman lord and considered one of the first patrons of arts. Ancient Sinhalese built pairs of pools called "Kuttam Pokuna" in the kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in the 4th century BC.

Who invented the pool noodle? ›

Steve Hartman is the CEO and president of Industrial Thermal Polymers, but he's got another claim to fam: He's the guy who first decided that colorful foam tubes make a pretty fun pool toy. Hartman invented the pool noodle three decades ago when he first went into business with his dad in Toronto, Canada.

Which country has the most swimming pools? ›

Australia builds more domestic swimming pools (per capita) than any other country in the world.

Was there a pool on the Titanic? ›

The Swimming Bath of the Titanic was located on F Deck above boiler room 5. The room was for First Class passengers only. The Swimming bath was part of the Turkish bath complex. The pool was open to women from 10 AM until 1 PM and open to men from 2 PM until 6 PM.

Are Olympic swimming pools heated? ›

Though FINA has strict pool temperature regulations (Olympic competition must be 79 degrees, plus or minus one degree) and most competitive pools maintain temperatures between 77-82 degrees, it's been my experience of a much wider range of temperatures across a diverse range of pools.

What are the 3 types of segregation? ›

  • Legal segregation.
  • Social segregation.
  • Gated communities.
  • Voluntary segregation.

What is de jure racism? ›

The decisionrested on a critical distinction in constitutional law between “de jure” segregation—resulting from purposeful discrimination by the government—and “de facto” racial imbalance de rived from unintentional or “fortuitous” actions by state and private entities.

Does de jure segregation still exist? ›

De jure segregation mandated the separation of races by law, and was the form imposed by slave codes before the Civil War and by Black Codes and Jim Crow laws following the war. De jure segregation was outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Which US state has the most swimming pools? ›

The Most Fascinating Swimming Pool Statistics

California and Florida have the most inground swimming pools in the United States.

What US city has the most swimming pools? ›

Most pools in the U.S. are concentrated in the southern and westernmost regions. Due to its relatively modest overall population compared to Los Angeles, Phoenix tops the list, with 32.7% of all homes featuring a pool.

What state has the most residential swimming pools? ›

Top 10 Pool-Loving States
RankState1 Pool Co. per X People
6 more rows
Jun 6, 2014


1. How can we improve Black maternal health care to reduce morbidity rates? | Basic Black | GBH News
(GBH News)
2. America's Black upper class - Rich, successful and empowered | DW Documentary
(DW Documentary)
3. Black Ga City Council Insulted by White Alderman, Circle City Classic Canceled, NC EPA Office
(Roland S. Martin)
4. The Psychology of Christian Nationalism
(Union Theological Seminary)
5. Springfield and Clark County, Ohio's Black History - Program Recording - Feb 24, 2021
6. Black Feminism, Intersectionality and Democratic Possibilities
(Montgomery College)

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Stevie Stamm

Last Updated: 06/19/2022

Views: 6342

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Stevie Stamm

Birthday: 1996-06-22

Address: Apt. 419 4200 Sipes Estate, East Delmerview, WY 05617

Phone: +342332224300

Job: Future Advertising Analyst

Hobby: Leather crafting, Puzzles, Leather crafting, scrapbook, Urban exploration, Cabaret, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is Stevie Stamm, I am a colorful, sparkling, splendid, vast, open, hilarious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.