The Memorial Pool

Page updated on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:13 PM

African Americans in Alexandria suffered along with others of their race when a segregated system prevented them from enjoying recreation facilities in their hometown.

Although the City had a municipal pool for white residents before 1952, African American residents in the City often swam in the Potomac River or Hunting Creek for relief from hot summer days. Although the City, in the early 1950s, provided transportation to a swimming pool in Washington, D.C., once a week, this was not enough for some youth. Walking two or three blocks to the Potomac River and Hunting Creek was too tempting to pass up. As a result, accidents and drowning were bound to happen, and did.

The Charles Houston Pool is proposed to be named the Memorial Pool in honor of African American youth who drowned in the Potomac River and local creeks during segregation, when they were not permitted to use the City pool on Cameron Street.

Listed below are the names of young African Americans who lost their lives:

1931 - James Kyer, age 16

1932 - Francis Gilliam, age 16

1940 - John G. Beckham, age 8

1944 - William Lewis, age 8

1949 - Theodore Exzell Watkins, age 9; Benjamin Watkins, age 11

1950 - Earl Jackson, age 14

1951 - Lonnie Richard Johnson, age 9; Morris Leroy Johnson, age 11

We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and at its going down,
we remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them. ...

At the shining of the sun and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.

At the beginning of the year and at its end,
we remember them. ...

As long as we live, they too will live,
for they are now part of us, as we remember them.

~Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer