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My name is Solomon Hughes Jr., the only son of Solomon Hughes Sr., representing the Hughes family. We are adamantly opposed to changing the Hiawatha course from 18 to nine holes (“Hiawatha 9-hole course progresses”, August 18), and we ask the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to vote against it, again, on September 7 . Nine holes is no compromise; it is an affront to my family and our community.
During Jim Crow, many towns had nine-hole courses for blacks, a fact that limited access, enforcing segregation in public places. In 1928, Gary, Ind., opened an 18-hole course for whites, and a few years later a nine-hole course for blacks. In 1938, the Park Board opened the 18 holes of Hiawatha to black golfers. In 1940, there were approximately 5,000 courses in the United States. Twenty of them allowed black golfers to play. Hiawatha has a rich historical significance in the area of civil rights and equal access for all.
Solomon Hughes Sr. came to Minneapolis from Alabama in 1943, after winning the national championships on the United Golfers Association (UGA) circuit. He made Hiawatha his home golf course, training for tournaments and teaching golf, becoming part of the community of people of color in Hiawatha who played and competed on a professional 18-hole course. Since the 1930s, Hiawatha has hosted dozens of 18-hole championship golf tournaments.
Upon his arrival, he joined the fight against “whites only” at the Hiawatha clubhouse and changed that in 1952. Now that clubhouse bears his name. He befriended Joe Louis in Alabama and went on to win the Joe Louis Open in Detroit. When Louis asked my dad to be his coach and help him break the color barrier at the PGA, he chose to stay in Minneapolis to care for his young family and recommended Ted Rhodes, another black golfer to whom he had also given lessons. as a coach. From 1948 to 1952, my dad and Ted Rhodes fought to get into the PGA-sponsored St. Paul Open. He led pioneering changes, creating a path that would allow black golfers, like Rhodes, Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder, and eventually one of the greatest players of all time, Tiger Woods, to play in the PGA.
The Park Board, to quote its website, “has been working on equity, inclusion, and diversity since 2011.” But today the Park Board is trying to divide communities of color, promote its nine-hole plan, without compromise. The same park board that solved the water problems caused by Minnehaha Creek at Meadowbrook Golf Course and never proposed to destroy the 18-hole course there. The same board that solved the water problems at Columbia Golf Course and never talked about a Jim Crow nine-hole course there. Equity?
My dad taught me that sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do. I hope the park board does the right thing: avoid the water hazards of your nine-hole course without compromise and re-engage the community in seeking a green solution that does not destroy this historic 18-hole cultural treasure. .
Solomon Hughes Jr. lives in Big Lake.