City Holds Dedication Ceremony for Charles Houston Recreation Center Gymnasium and Pool
- Ceremony dedicates gymnasium and pool in the recently rebuilt Charles Houston Recreation Center
- Naming honors Louis Johnson and Morris Siebert, who coached and mentored African American youth, and memorializes African American youth who drowned in local creeks and rivers because they were not allowed to use the City pool during segregation
The City of Alexandria invites the public to a dedication ceremony to name the Charles Houston Recreation Center gymnasium and pool in honor of African Americans in Alexandria who, from 1920 to 1965, played a significant role in the struggle for equal opportunity. The event will take place on Saturday, February 27, at 3 p.m. at the Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe St.
The recreation center is located on the former site of the Parker-Gray School, constructed in 1920 to replace two older African American elementary schools. After the school was closed, and T.C. Williams High School was integrated, the Charles Houston Recreation Center was built there. The center was named for the civil rights lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston, who spearheaded the effort to improve the quality of education for African Americans in Alexandria.
Charles Houston Recreation Center’s new gymnasium and pool will be named in honor of the following individuals:
- The gymnasium will be named the “Johnson-Siebert Gymnasium,” in honor of two men who served the City’s African American youth. Louis R. Johnson, Parker-Gray High School coach and athletic director, produced some of the best teams and athletes in the Commonwealth of Virginia over a 20-year career. Morris R. Siebert, one of Johnson’s star players, was a World War II veteran, Pentagon employee, and part-time City Recreation employee who provided guidance and mentoring to youth in the Parker-Gray community for more than two decades.
- The pool will be named “The Memorial Pool,” in honor of African American youth who drowned in the Potomac River and in local creeks during segregation, when they were not permitted to use the City pool on Cameron Street because of their race.
The recommendations for naming the gymnasium and pool were developed by the Ad Hoc Charles Houston Naming Committee, a group of current and former City residents, many of whom are Parker-Gray alumni. The Committee’s recommendations were approved by City Council in November 2009.
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