President’s Message

 

by Holly Reed

 

Preserving Black History in Austin

 

February is Black History Month, and we are honored and privileged to have a nationally recognized Civil Rights Landmark in our West Austin Neighborhood Group area. The Lions Municipal Golf Course (MUNY) was the first public golf course in the southern United States to become integrated. And this was a peaceful integration, that occurred without violence, and without litigation.

 

In late 1950, two Black children who were caddies at MUNY decided to play golf in defiance of Jim Crow laws. They were detained while city officials deliberated, and then released after Mayor Taylor Glass said to “let them play.” Following the courageous act of these children, Black citizens from all over Texas came to Lions Municipal to play golf. It was the first and only public golf course where they could play in 1950. Heavyweight champion Joe Louis heard about the integration of MUNY and came to the course repeatedly, as he advocated for equal rights to public places by playing golf on courses all over the nation.

 

Austin has a dark history of racial segregation. Schools and businesses were not completely integrated until well after the 1964 Civil Rights Act went into effect. The University of Texas did not integrate its athletic program until 1969. And Austin continued to be racially divided geographically, with Black residents having been forced to move to East Austin by the 1928 city master plan. There were very few places, if any, in West Austin where Black citizens felt safe, let alone welcome, in the 1950s and 60s. Clarksville, as a former Freedman Community and primarily Black neighborhood, was one. And MUNY became another. This rare bridge between two separated communities encouraged people to meet and recreate in a public place. And MUNY continues to be a bridge between Austin’s historically separated communities.

 

In 2009 Lions Municipal Golf Course was given a Texas Historical Marker and in 2016 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in Civil Rights history, in honor of the young Black children who bravely integrated the course. This year MUNY turns 100, established by the Austin Founder Lions Club and opened as Austin’s first public golf course in 1924.

 

One would think that a place of such significant Civil Rights history, and a beloved public green space, would be revered and preserved forever. But MUNY is in danger of being closed and commercially developed by the landowner, the University of Texas. Since 1973, the West Austin Neighborhood Group has opposed this proposition, along with thousands of citizens of all demographics from neighborhoods all over Austin and the nation. The fight to SAVE MUNY has been going on for over 50 years, and continues to this day.

 

On January 18th, during Martin Luther King Jr. week, the National President of the NAACP Derrick Johnson, Texas State NAACP Chair Gary Bledsoe, and Austin NAACP Chapter President Nelson Linder joined the Muny Conservancy for a press conference at Lions Municipal Golf Course. Leaders from Austin’s Black Community attended along with members of WANG, District 10 Council Member Alison Alter, and Board Members of the Save Historic Muny District. All stood in solidarity for the preservation of all 141 acres and 18 holes of this historic golf course.

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NAACP President Derrick Johnson summed up the importance of

preserving MUNY’s Black History:

“This golf course is significant. It’s significant for African Americans because it demonstrates the journey through which we have come…History will tell us what we should do or shouldn’t do for the future.”

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  • The West Austin Neighborhood Group supports the preservation of the entire 141 acres and all 18 holes of Lions Municipal Golf Course (MUNY) as a historic public golf course and open green space. We are working with the Muny Conservancy and Save Historic Muny District to preserve MUNY in perpetuity, for the citizens of Austin […]

  • The Forever Green Tournament was held on Sept. 15th at the historic Lions Municipal Golf Course. This beloved annual tournament benefits the Muny Conservancy and its mission to Save Muny for Good! The 4 person scramble with 8 AM and 1 PM shotgun starts was followed by a party with BBQ dinner and music at at […]