Meet David Isom, the 19-Year-Old Who Broke The Color Line At A Segregated Pool In 1958


February 22, 2023

He decided to take a stand and changed history!

The history of Jim Crow is painful, and the reverberating effects of segregation still impact us today. No matter how bleak the history, it’s important to note that there were droves of Black people who stood up and fought back against what was considered the status quo, demanding fair and equal treatment under the law. There were those who demanded access to colleges and universities, freedom riders who refused to sit at the back of buses, and those who endured horrific violence for demanding they be served at dine-in restaurants. One courageous person whose story doesn’t get told enough is David Isom, the 19-year-old who broke the color line at a segregated pool in 1958.  



According to the Amityville Echo, The Spa Pool was a swimming pool in Florida that opened in 1955 near the Spa Beach. Since both facilities were reserved for white people only, Black people were relegated to using an area in Tampa Bay called “The South Mole,” a trash littered beach that had a tiny swimming pool area near it. On June 8, 1958, Isom decided that enough was enough, taking matters into his own hands and taking a bold action that would effectively change the course of history. 





He entered the Spa Pool after purchasing a ticket at the counter. The cashier later said that she was told to treat him “like any other citizen.” There were already about 45 white people at the pool that day, and Isom said he paid little attention to them as he got in the pool and swam alongside the other patrons. Tommy Chinnis, the lifeguard on duty, echoed those sentiments, saying that they also paid little attention to him because “he was like everyone else.” 

However, the Spa Pool manager, John Gough, closed the pool down after Isom’s swim, proving he wasn’t “like everyone else.” Gough said he was acting at the behest of city manager Ross Windom who told him the facility needed to be closed because “a n***** had used the facilities.” While the fallout from the incident was swift, both the Spa Pool and Spa Beach closing, Isom said that he didn’t actually experience any tension while there, maintaining that swimming in a clean pool should “not be a privilege, just a right.” 

The pool remained closed for the next four years, Florida city council members opening it again in 1959 under the direction of new city manager George K. Armes. In assuming his new position, Armes declared that the facility would remain open unless there was “trouble.”


Nonetheless, Isom had already made history, breaking the color line and standing up for what he knew to be right. In honor of his heroism and bravery, let us remember the contributions of David Isom to the freedoms we enjoy today. Because of him, we can!

Meet David Isom, the 19-year-old who broke the color line at a segregated pool in 1958/Photo Courtesy of Bettman/Getty Images

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