December 25, 1955
The Holmes brothers and Charles Bell finally played at Bobby Jones, teeing off on Christmas Day, 1955 – nearly 22 years after Bobby Jones first played on his namesake course on December 30, 1933. The round was the culmination of a long legal and political battle initiated by the trio and Hamilton M. Holmes after being turned away from the course in 1951, and began the transition of African American golfers from caddies to players at Bobby Jones. Historians have often noted the role of Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield in this process.
Then Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin, a staunch segregationist, was in favor of shutting down or privatizing the courses instead of complying with the new law. However, Hartsfield reportedly convinced white golf course employees that desegregation was preferred to losing their jobs if the public courses were either closed or sold to avoid complying with the Supreme Court’s orders. Ever the politician, Hartsfield is also said to have convinced District Court Judge Sloan to delay implementation of the desegregation orders to the holiday season. A time with numerous distractions and golf’s off-season, this strategy was designed to defuse white segregationists’ anger.
Sources: Catherine M. Lewis, Rooting for the Home Team, 2013.