3 members of Congressional Black Caucus back Muny

Three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairman, have called on the National Park Service to add Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin to the nation’s list of historic places.

Democratic U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, James Clyburn of South Carolina and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas said in letters this month to Stephanie Toothman, the Park Service’s keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, that the golf course merits listing because of its role in civil rights history.

Lions Municipal, also known as Muny, became quietly and peacefully integrated in the early 1950s, well before violent confrontations that characterized desegregation of public accommodations elsewhere in the South. It is considered one of the earliest, if not the first, municipal golf courses in the former Confederate states of the South to be desegregated.

Save Muny, a group whose name sums up its mission, nominated the course for the National Register. The Texas Historical Commission agreed and forwarded the nomination to the Park Service, which is reviewing the matter.

“I support this nomination and urge you to list Muny in the Register as a nationally significant place that should be preserved for its civil rights history,” Butterfield wrote to Toothman.

Clyburn wrote that Muny stands as “a teachable experience for the nation in our country’s civil rights history.” Johnson said a listing “would preserve a historical landmark while honoring the pride of Austin.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, previously wrote to Toothman in support of “preservation and recognition” of Muny’s role as a civil rights landmark.

Save Muny leaders say their research shows that two black youths integrated the course in the latter part of 1950, probably in September, when they walked on and began playing in brazen disregard of Jim Crow laws. City officials decided to let them play despite laws against it.

The 141-acre course, along Lake Austin Boulevard in West Austin, is owned by the University of Texas System and operated by the city of Austin. The UT System and UT-Austin oppose the proposed nomination, preferring instead that any listing on the National Register be confined to the clubhouse, greenskeeper’s cottage, a maintenance building, two limestone entry gate piers and a concrete statue of a lion.

The system’s Board of Regents has long contemplated leasing Muny for commercial and residential development, with revenues earmarked for the Austin campus. The UT board has said the city’s lease will not be renewed after it expires in 2019.

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