BY REBECCA BENNETT — The Prince George’s Pool (PG Pool) dedicated a new shade structure in the memory of Raymond Bowlding on Aug. 5 as approximately 20 of his family members looked on. It was the first time any of his children had probably seen the inside of the private pool complex, his son Raynard Bowlding said, even though they group up down the street in Mount Rainier, Md. Before Raymond Bowlding challenged the whites-only status quo in 1974, African Americans were prevented from joining the pool because new members had to be sponsored by two existing members, according to PG Pool President David Nolan.
“Growing up in Mount Rainier, we were one of the first Black families to move into the area, so it was changed not just for us, but it was changed for the whole of the neighborhood,” Raynard Bowlding said.
Nolan said Raymond Bowlding worked with the NAACP to file complaints with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the Maryland Commission on Human Rights for denying membership to non-white members. They won and PG Pool was told they had to allow African American members. But the Bowldings never joined the pool.
“My dad didn’t feel safe enough to allow us to come here,” Raynard Bowlding said. The Bowldings instead walked to a pool a mile and a half away in the District. “I hate that I was not able to be a part of this growing up,” he said.
Going through pool records, Nolan found documents about the Bowldings’ case and the pool’s integration. Nolan told The Washington Post he wanted to honor Raymond Bowlding. To contact the family 40 years later, Nolan said, “I wrote to every Raymond Bowlding in the white pages.” And one of his sons called him back. His family traveled from all over the East Coast to be present for the dedication.
PG Pool was founded in 1952 and officially opened in 1956. After struggling on and off to stay out of the red, the cooperative pool capped membership in 2011 and currently has a waitlist of more than 1430 people.