Desegregation of Rock Lake Pool, 1965-1967
Backstory and Context
Rock Lake Pool was opened in 1942 by brothers Joe, David, and Sam Wilans and operated until 1985. Built on the remains of a rock quarry which operated on the site during the 1930s, the pool featured rock cliffs on several sides. These walls accommodated high diving; the pool also featured a large slide and a trapeze. With few other pools in the area, Rock Lake was very popular. It hosted as many as 4,000 people in one day.
Despite the passing of anti-discrimination laws in the 1950s, Rock Lake Pool denied African Americans admission into the early 1960s. The pools owners claimed that the pool’s white patrons threatened to leave if African Americans gained access to the pool. In 1965, local ministers Homer Davis and Paul Gilmer organized protests against the pool. Protesters stood in the ticket line, only to be told they could could not enter; they then re-entered the line, continuing the process and clogging the gates.1 At one point pool employees sprayed protesters with water to disperse them. The protests eventually succeeded and Sam Wilan began allowing African Americans access to Rock Lake Pool in 1967.African Americans never patronized Rock Lake Pool in great numbers. The pool's popularity declined throughout the 1970s. Many pools, both public and private, were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, creating more competition; mounting insurance costs also made the facility economically unfeasible. Rock Lake Pool closed in 1985. New owners converted the pool property into an arcade and go-cart track in 1993. This facility closed in 2006 and was acquired by Rock Lake Presbyterian Church. The pool area is now filled and is the location of the church’s Community Life Center.