Dallas-reared blues icon Aaron “T-Bone” Walker prepares to drive at Hilliard Golf Course for Blacks in 1952. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Public Library’s Marion Butts collection.

THE DALLAS PARK BOARD unceremoniously announced in 1954 that the city’s municipal golf courses were desegregated.

L.B. Houston, who was the city’s parks director, told Leo Shead, who was president of the Dallas Negro Golfers Association, that there was no rule prohibiting Black residents from hitting the links.

We don’t know who was first to try it at Stevens Park, Cedar Crest and Tenison golf courses, but previously, Black people were not permitted to play them except on occasionally designated days.

Golf already was very popular among Black residents thanks in part to the city-owned Hilliard Golf Course on Lemmon Avenue, which opened with nine holes in 1950. Previous to that, Black Dallasites could play on the six holes added to Moore Park in the 1930s. But Hilliard was billed as the first municipal golf course for Blacks in the South when it opened.

The 65-acre course was never meant to be permanent, and it only lasted about four years.

The city built the course on land it had acquired for expansion of Love Field airport.

Prior to 1954, there was still Elm Thicket Park, which separated Highland Park from Elm Thicket/ North Park, an almost entirely Black neighborhood that started as a freedmen’s town around the end of the 19th century.

That neighborhood is quickly vanishing due to a frenzy of teardowns and new homebuilding.

The city took back Elm Thicket Park and Hilliard Golf Course in 1954, after reducing the course from nine holes to five, to expand the runway at Love Field. And only then was it decided that Black folks were allowed to play any of the municipal courses.


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