The Miami Springs Golf Course is the oldest municipal golf course in South Florida. In fact, the Miami Open golf tournament was held at the Springs Golf Course from 1925 – 1955.  That predates the 1926 incorporation of “Country Club Estates”…the original name for the City of Miami Springs.

Miami Springs Golf and Country Club
Miami Springs Golf Course

According to an article published by ESPN, in the late 1940s, a black man named Garth Reeves would play golf at the Miami Springs Golf and Country Club on Mondays (when the City would mow the grass and put on the sprinklers).  That was the day black golfers were allowed to play on the course.  However, Mr. Reeves, who had studied at FAMU and served in World War II, felt that as an American, he had the right to play on any day he wanted.  In June of 1949, Mr. Reeves showed up to play golf with some friends on a Wednesday.  He was denied access and with the help of the NAACP, filed suit against the City of Miami.  (The City of Miami owned and operated the Miami Springs Golf Course until it was sold back to the City of Miami Springs back in the late 1990s.).

 

Miami Springs Golf and Country Club
Miami Springs Golf and Country Club (Photo credit: MiamiSprings.com)

According to the article, the case lingered in the court system for years, but it got the job done.  Eventually, the City of Miami dropped the Monday-Only rule. And the integration led to a winter tournament created by a New York based black golf promoter called Ray Mitchell.  The winter event was dubbed the North-South tournament.  And it drew some of the biggest names from the black community including “golfers, entertainers, politicians, businessmen, and pro athletes to Miami” for the weeklong event held every February.

“The North-South Tournaments 1953 to 1989 were the biggest black sponsored competition in the nation. They were not only important golf events, they were enormously important social affairs. Over the years they attracted top pro golfers such as Ted Rhodes, Charlie Sifford, Jim Dent, Joe Roach and Althea Gibson. Well-known amateurs included Joe Louis and Ann Gregory and Jackie Robinson. Entertainers, athletes and businessmen came to see and be seen. It was not unusual for as many as 300 businessmen and professionals to attend the event, with friends and families bringing 2,000 visitors to Miami. 1954 and ? 1953 (Conflicting references) the event was held in Jacksonville. The North-South tournament quickly out grew the Jacksonville facilities and moved to Miami Springs Golf Course in 1955. Ray Mitchell’s North-South Tournaments must be regarded as a vital historic legacy and important subtext to the fight for desegregation.” – Yvonne Shonberger (Miami Springs Preservation Board Member

Jacky Robinson and Althea Gibson at the Miami Springs Golf Course

Baseball legend, hall of famer, and pioneer, Jacky Robinson playing golf at the Miami Springs Golf and Country Club alongside tennis champion Althea Gibson.

Embed from Getty Images

Thanks to the Wolfson Archives’ WTVJ Collection, we’re able to share this look back at Miami Springs history and the day when the Golf Course (at the time owned and operated by the City of Miami) fully integrated to allow blacks to play on the greens any time they wanted.

Here’s the description of the caption from YouTube:

“In the case of this clip, three African-American men playing golf made news — because they were playing at the Miami Springs Golf Course…On a Thursday. Previously the course had been open to black Miamians only on Mondays, but on April 17 1958 the City [of Miami] Commission threw in the towel, deciding not to appeal a federal court decision that ruled its segregated policy illegal.”

Garth Reeves

The Miami Springs Golf Course became the first racially integrated golf course in South Florida (and possibly all of Florida) thanks to the hard work and tenacity of Garth Reeves.  So who was this well educated American patriot who fought for his country?

Well, we learned that he was the son of a businessman and publisher of The Miami TimesMr. Henry E. S. Reeves.  According to Wikipedia, The Miami Times was a tabloid that catered to the black community.  Garth worked with his father at the paper and helped it grow during the 50s and 60s.

After succeeding with the golf course integration, Mr. Reeves and other black leaders challenged Dade County’s segregation of the beaches.  A the time, blacks were only allowed to use the beach on Virginia Key.  In 1957, they “took their tax bills to a meeting with white officials in an effort to integrate Dade County beaches.”  Reeves is quoted as stating: “We’re law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, and we’re going swimming this afternoon at Crandon Park.”

When Mr. Reeves and the other black men arrived at Crandon Beach, they were greeted with intimidation by what was described as “angry [white] policemen lining the beachfront, but the black men were unmolested for testing the waters in a brief dip.”

The bold Garth Reeves was quoted saying “From that day we swam at all the beaches.”

Garth Reeves passed away at his Aventura home just before COVID hit, on November 25, 2019 at the age of 100. Reeves proves you don’t have to look far to find bold people that made a difference in the lives of so many others.  He died an American patriot and pioneer for civil rights.

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