White flight led to swimming pool's integration
Dallas: Bombings couldn't stop changes in Exline Park area
08:32 AM CST on Wednesday, February 22, 2006
By MICHAEL E. YOUNG / The Dallas Morning News
The walls of segregation came crashing down across Dallas in the 1950s, and perhaps nowhere more than in the Exline Park area south of Fair Park.
From the beginning of 1950 to the middle of 1951, 11 separate explosions ripped into buildings around Oakland Avenue – all of them properties recently purchased by black buyers in an area that had been overwhelmingly white.
On June 24, 1951 – a Sunday – three explosions shook the neighborhood, including one at a rental property purchased a month earlier by businessman C.A. Galloway, who later became Dallas' first black City Council member, and another at a home on Eugene Street, bought a month before by a black family.
Two months earlier, the two-block stretch of Eugene Street between Central and Waldron avenues had been all white. But two black families moved in one weekend. By Monday, a dozen homes were on the market.
The Texas Rangers joined Dallas police in investigating the bombings, and a number of arrests were made.
Two of those arrested said they'd been paid to toss bombs at black homes by the leader of a neighborhood homeowners group, but investigators were never able to prove his involvement.
In the end, just one man stood trial, and he was found not guilty after a prosecution witness recanted her testimony. The grand jury called to investigate the cases ended its term in frustration.
"The plot reached into unbelievable places," the jury concluded. "There was evidence that lay and religious and community groups, through misguided leadership, entered an action, perhaps unwittingly, that resulted in violence and destruction."
But the bombings stopped. And within a couple of years, Exline Park changed from being all white to almost all black, a transformation repeated in many neighborhoods across Dallas.
So when city parks officials decided to make the formerly whites-only swimming pool at Exline Park the first integrated pool in Dallas, they didn't meet a lot of opposition.
"They didn't really integrate the pool, because everyone who had lived there had moved out if they could afford to do it," said Donald Payton, a historian of Dallas' black communities. "The white people went off to Forest Lane and another group moved down to south Oak Cliff.
"And that left Exline just sitting there. So this wasn't really a planned integration move. It was more a sign of white flight."
Mr. Payton and former City Council member Al Lipscomb each contrasted the integration of the Exline Park pool with the city's actions regarding another public pool in Fair Park.
"They had this beautiful pool over at Fair Park, and sometimes we'd go over and watch people swimming in it – we couldn't swim in it ourselves," Mr. Lipscomb said. "There was talk of integrating it, but instead of doing that, they decided to fill it in and cover it over instead."
And even with that one tiny step at Exline, segregation remained solidly entrenched in most aspects of daily life.
When the Jehovah's Witnesses baptized 470 people on July 15, 1955, in connection with the religious group's Dallas convention, the 435 white members were dunked in the pool at Randall Park. The 35 black members being baptized went to the pool at Exline, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Three years later, in April 1958, The News wrote about plans to improve and expand facilities at Exline Park.
"This will provide the same type of major recreation building for South Dallas as the Park Board attempts to offer in other areas," Park Director L.B. Houston said.
The article noted that the 4.72-acre park at Pine and Latimer streets was "now used almost entirely by Negro citizens."
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