Unearthing a Town Pool, and Not for Whites Only

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STONEWALL, Miss., Sept. 11 — In the fearful cosmos of the segregationist South, the integrated swimming pool occupied a special place: race-mixing carried to an intimate level.

So it was that when integration came to this old mill town in the 1970’s, its magnificent pool, 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, the summer delight of generations of white children, had to close, people here thought. It was filled in with truckloads of red southern Mississippi dirt, covered over and forgotten for more than 30 years.

But last summer, an edge of something was sticking out when a local real estate developer, his own past entwined with the state’s racial traumas, was poking around in the ground, trying to spark a renaissance among the old buildings here. Spadework revealed fancy blue tile, underwater light fixtures and smooth white walls.

The businessman, a former political candidate named Gilbert Carmichael, decided to spend $25,000 of his company’s money to excavate the pool and rededicate it to all, blacks and whites, in this struggling town of 1,100 just south of the highway hub of Meridian. The pool, which should be open next summer, may charge a minimal fee for upkeep but will be open to the public.

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