The integration of the American Bowling Congress: the Buffalo experience

The integration of the American Bowling Congress: the Buffalo experience

James H. Rigali

Bowling, a highly interactive sport, was by 1945, a billion dollar industry that touched the lives of an estimated 12 to 16 million Americans. It had reached this status in great part due to its promotion by the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII and because unlike football or baseball anyone with a few dollars and the desire could play. (2) But the American Bowling Congress (ABC), bowling’s governing body, had in its bylaws a “white males only” clause which it had strictly enforced since its incorporation in 1893. By 1945, at wars end, a number of civil rights and civic organizations and progressive white individuals concluded that segregation in American society was a baleful social malignancy that had to go. From organizations such as the NAACP, National Urban League, B’nai B’rith and others, plans were formulated to end segregation in America’s most popular participant sport.

These organizations joined with the United Auto Workers–Congress of Industrial Organizations (UAW-CIO) and other labor unions in the effort to end the whites-only policy of the ABC. All these organizations together then asked the Mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey to head up an umbrella organization called the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. Humphrey was the ideal person, for he was a long time supporter of labor and an ardent civil rights activist. In fact, as Mayor of Minneapolis, he had led the city in passing the first Municipal Fair Employment Practices ordinance in the United States. (3)

In 1945 the NAACP considered challenging the “whites only” clause of the ABC in the courts, but concluded the courts would not be sympathetic. (4) But the apparent lack of legal grounds to challenge the policy did not stop opponents of the ABC. Early efforts at challenging the discrimination clause in the constitution of the ABC were aimed at changing the organization from within, and that initiative came from the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and the UAW-CIO. The former’s role in the campaign was the result of Father Charles T. Carow, the Executive Director of the New York Bowling Association. He also sat on the Executive Board of both the CYO and the ABC. At the latter’s 1946 annual convention, Carow and the CYO sponsored a resolution to amend the ABC’s constitution. Its Board of Directors unanimously turned down the resolution and recommended that the convention delegates do the same. The International Union Executive Board of the UAW-CIO tried several times in 1944 to get the ABC to revise its policy. That year the Board adopted a resolution condemning the policy. (5) In 1946 the UAW-CIO moved towards stronger action when it unanimously voted at its December meeting to sever any connection with the ABC unless it changed its policy, and local union teams would be prohibited from seeking sanction from any ABC association. In the face of clear resistance to reform, the UAW-CIO took the initiative in organizing a grassroots campaign against the ABC.

At the same time the UAW-CIO recognized the value of the organizing skills of the NAACP and of activists in that organization. In 1940 the UAW called upon local and national leaders of the NAACP to help organize automobile workers. Among the most effective organizers were African Americans who had developed their skills as members of the Youth Council of the Detroit NAACP. As one historian of labor has noted, it was an innovative alliance between unions and community organizations. (6) It was not the only time the CIO and the NAACP worked together in the early 1940s. The two organizations had also cooperated closely on the Citizens Committee to End Discrimination in Baseball in 1942. (7) Thus, it was not surprising that when the UAW-CIO decided in the early months of 1947 to mount a major campaign against the American Bowling Congress, it enlisted the NAACP as a partner.

Olga Madar, Director of the Recreation Department of the UAW-CIO, appealed to the natural ties between the two organizations. “Your organization, as well as ours, is constantly confronting situations which threaten our basic democratic philosophy of fair play,” she wrote to Walter White, the Executive Secretary of the NAACP, in March 1947. She called the exclusionary policy of the ABC a “challenge which cannot be ignored,” and invited White to participate in a one day conference at the Maryland Hotel in Chicago on April 1. The UAW-CIO’s vision of a broad-based civil rights campaign was clear from Madar’s letter. “We are confident,” she wrote, “that religious, fraternal, civic and labor organizations can develop a unified program of sufficient strength to persuade the American Bowling Congress to change its policies. (8)

On March 28, as the all-white delegates of the ABC were settling in for their forty-seven day annual tournament in Los Angeles, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational opposition was gathering in the Maryland Hotel in Chicago to develop a long-term strategy to end the ABC’s “whites only” policy. The “Conference to Promote Democratic Participation in Bowling” affirmed the initial hopes of the UAW-CIO that it could build a broad-based coalition. CIO union members, including representatives from the United Steel Workers, the United Public Workers, and the United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Employees, comprised the majority of the delegates. The key organizers of the conference were UAW-CIO officials: Madar, William H. Oliver of the UAW-CIO Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department, and Victor G. Reuther of the UAW-CIO Education Department. But also attending were representatives from religious organizations such as Nissen N. Gross and Stella Counselbaum of the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, and Robert Senser of the Catholic Labor Alliance. William Prince, representing the Chicago Urban League, attended, as did staff members from two prominent black newspapers, Frank Young of the Chicago Defender and William J. Marshall of the Pittsburgh Courier. George Yamasaki of the South Side Bowling League was one of two Japanese-American delegates. Local civic organizations such as the American Veterans Committee, the National Recreation Association, and the Detroit Bowling Association, also sent representatives. Finally, local officials were also invited and played key roles, including Ralph Metcalfe, a former Olympic gold medalist, from the Chicago Mayor’s Committee on Human Relations.

Madar opened the conference with a discussion of the history of bowling describing its rapid growth in the 1930s. She set the tone for the conference when she attacked the ABC for its hypocrisy. She noted that the American Bowling Congress and other promoters of the sport, emphasized the democratic nature of bowling and its accessibility to low wage workers. She denounced the ABC’s claims and asserted that if the ABC practiced democracy, it was the “Georgia variety of democracy.” She ended her talk by suggesting that one possible strategy was to attack the ABC indirectly by organizing campaigns against owners of bowling alleys. She believed that by applying financial pressure on proprietors, they might be compelled to seek changes in the ABC’s policy. (9)

The conference delegates envisioned the campaign against the ABC as a true-grassroots effort. The day-to-day work would be done by local Area Committees which would be organized in the major cities of the north. The conference recommended that these local committees include “representatives of fraternal groups, organizations, unions and industrial groups affiliated with the American Bowling Congress … and such other community organizations and interested individuals as may concerned with the problem of discrimination and work in the field of human relations.” (10) The Area Committees would focus attention on the problem at the local level by organizing protests at city bowling alleys. It was clear from the beginning, however, that the campaign would not simply rely on economic pressure against bowling alley proprietors and the ABC. The Area Committees also would be clearinghouses for legal research. They were urged “to study local civil rights statutes and ordinances bearing upon discriminatory practices in public places, and to give consideration to invoking these laws in cases of established violation.” (11)

Because the conference was held in Chicago, Milton Senn of the local office of the Anti-Defamation League proposed the delegates put their plan into action and create a Chicago Area Committee. At the same time he specifically recommended that area committees be established in Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Buffalo. As a final act of the conference Senn proposed that the group be called the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling (NCFPB). In a little less than eight hours the delegates who met at the Maryland Hotel had laid the foundations for one of the most effective civil rights campaigns of the 1940s, with Buffalo as a premiere target.

The decision at the Chicago meeting to encourage various cities to organize resistance to the discriminatory practices of the ABC saw its first response in a letter from Robert E. Herzog, Director of the Buffalo Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith of Buffalo, New York, on July 3, 1947 to William H. Oliver. Herzog stated that as early as 1946, Mayor Bernard Dowd of Buffalo had issued a statement on segregation in the ABC, and that being the case, it seemed possible to him that there could be established in Buffalo an office of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. (12) Eight days later, Oliver replied and informed Herzog that he was “happy to learn that there are possibilities for the establishment of a Regional Committee for Fair Play In Bowling in Buffalo.” He enquired, also, when might be a good time for him to visit, so that a Regional Committee could be set up and put to work. (13)

On July 23, Herzog wrote again to Oliver and explained that there was in Buffalo a Committee on Minority Interests, as well as a State Commission Against Discrimination. Since these were there already, he thought that there was a good nucleus to begin the establishment of a Regional Committee for Fair Play In Bowling. (14) Responding quickly, Oliver informed Herzog that the “Honorable Mayor Nubert Humphries” (sic) in Minneapolis had consented to serve as the Chairman of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. He noted further that there were already established working committees in Chicago and Los Angeles, and that committees in St. Paul and Minneapolis would soon be ready. (15) To begin a successful program in Buffalo required that all possible participants would have to get together in the traditional manner, at dinner.

To achieve the highest possible attendance, Herzog and his colleagues Victor Einach, Charles Livermore, Elizabeth G. Ponafidine, and Pattie Ellis sent out a flyer on August 8, with a maxim on the flyer which read: “Ability–resides in man himself. No race holds a mortgage on achievement.” It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. In part, the flyer read:

Are you interested in fair play in bowling? Do you know that

the American Bowling Congress excludes American citizens who

happen to be of Chinese, Philippine, Negro, and Hawaiian

ancestry? Why is this important? It is important because the

American Bowling Congress controls tournaments, championship

awards, and substantial prizes.

It is comparable to excluding Joe Louis from boxing, Jackie

Robinson from baseball, Jesse Owens from track. A group of

citizens of Buffalo, who are interested in the sport and

American ideals, are meeting to register their conviction that

the sport of bowling should be protected from the black eye,

which discrimination of this kind is bound to give it. (16)

By all accounts, this meeting was a success. The minutes reflect that James B. Wilson, a former football and basketball coach, chaired the meeting with Charles Livermore. Present were William H. Oliver, a member of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, and Olga Madar.

Madar gave the history of bowling in the United States, noting that in its present charter it had the following clause:

City associations shall be composed of teams with membership of

three or more individuals of the white male sex who are members

of a league or leagues bowling a game of American ten pins

weekly or bi-weekly. (17)

This clause, said Madar, was the reason for the organization of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, and that, since within the UAW-CIO labor movement there were lots of people of Chinese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, and Negro ancestry, the UAW-CIO organization was opposed to this clause in the ABC’s charter.

The next speaker, Einach, reminded the conference that this matter had been brought to the attention of the State Commission Against Discrimination, and that a legal opinion had been prepared by the Commission’s counsel suggesting, that there might be a possible legal recourse within the State of New York to prevent discrimination in bowling.

Charles Livermore spoke, and expressed the hope that Buffalo “would distinguish itself” by having a Buffalo delegation that would be represented at the next convention of the ABC to press for a change in its discriminatory membership clause.

To do this a committee was set up to “increase itself with representatives from various committee-wide parties; to meet and call to prepare a program; and to report back to the people represented at this meeting.” (18)

Betty Hicks was the main speaker. She had been an outstanding woman golfer, and in 1941 became National Amateur Women’s Golf Champion. Also in 1941 she was voted the Outstanding Women’s Amateur by an Associated Press poll, and in 1944 she was the All-American Women’s Open Champion.

She was also Vice-Chairman of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. Hicks pointed out that her desire to become a member of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling was motivated not because she has any grudge against the American Bowling Congress, or even because of any special interest in bowling, but that as a golfer her experience had shown that outside the school leagues in America, the American sporting scene was not very democratic. She noted that even as a golfer, she had not played against any other non-white golfers, and therefore to call herself a champion meant that she was only a champion of white people. In conclusion, Hicks said that “any effort to democratize bowling would benefit the whole sporting scene,” and that she hoped that Buffalo would be able to do its part to get the American Bowling Congress “started down the right fairway.” (19)

A perusal of the attendees list shows that there must have been more than 100 people at this conference, many of them representing an amazing variety of agencies and leagues in Buffalo. For example, there were representatives from B’nai B’rith; the Labor Committee to Combat Intolerance; the Council of Social Agencies; the Jewish Center of Buffalo; the American Federation of Labor, Flour, Feed, and Cereal Workers; Local 55 of the UAW-CIO; the Department of Labor; Erie County American Legion; Cornell University; the State Commission Against Discrimination; the Board of Community Relations; the University of Buffalo; the International Institute; the Council of Church Women; the YWCA; the Memorial Center of the National Urban League; and officials representing the City of Buffalo.

Writing to Herzog after the Buffalo conference, Oliver sounded ecstatic at the outcome of the meeting. He suggested steps to be taken in the development of the Area Committee, but noted, “We are certainly grateful to you and your constituents, who made such a swell meeting possible.” (20)


Even though the leadership of the ABC must have known by August 1947 that the forces arrayed against it were gathering in Buffalo, it decided to open a new bowling alley there on September 6th. This immediately caught the eye of Charles Livermore, then chairing the Buffalo Area Committee for Fair Play (sometimes referred to as the Area Committee for Fair Play in Buffalo). He immediately wrote to Oliver in Detroit:

Dear Bill: I know that on September 6th, the following will be

on hand in Buffalo to open a new bowling alley:

* John O. Martino, President of the American Bowling Congress,

* Steve Dorsick, President of the New York State Bowling


* Steve J. Czerwinski, President of the Buffalo Bowling


* Mrs. Gene Leffers, President of the Bison City Ladies’ Bowling


It might be worthwhile, since you are going to be here on the

8th and the 9th, to possibly plan to come a little in advance,

and try to arrange an interview with them. What about it? (21)

In response, Oliver informed Livermore that he did not think that a meeting with the ABC leaders in Buffalo would serve any useful purpose, because he had met with them on April 16, 1947, in Los Angeles, in support of the Catholic Youth Organization resolution opposing the discriminatory clause in the ABC’s constitution. There, he said, “the ABC turned a deaf ear to our proposal.” Oliver confirmed that he would be in Buffalo on the evening of the 8th, that he would be staying at the Buffalo Hotel, and would “certainly like to see you at that time to discuss the matter further.” (22)

The August 15th meeting apparently stimulated the Buffalo Committee for Social Action to action. On October 2, in a meeting presided over by the Reverend Father Joseph E. Schieder, the discriminatory practice of the ABC became the main topic. In attendance at this meeting were Betty Hicks, Victor Einach, Olga Madar, Max L. Dozoretz, the new Chairman of the Buffalo-Area Committee, William Lang, Associate Director of the CYO, Edward Gray, Sub-Regional Director, UAW-CIO, and William J. Ryan, Vice-Chairman of the Labor Committee to Combat Intolerance, otherwise known as the LCCI.

At this meeting, the LCCI presented its resolution, in opposition to the ABC charter that membership be restricted to “white male sex.” The LCCI resolved that the ABC’s discriminatory clause was un-American and invalidated the spirit of the American Constitution. The LCCI further resolved that it had “gone on record as militantly opposed to the existing policy of the American Bowling Congress” and recommended that labor and the trade union movement unite in “combating this unfair practice in play” by taking “such militant action as your union thinks is in keeping with the spirit of democracy or for fair play.” (23)


The recalcitrance, stubbornness, and indifference of the ABC to the suggestions of the Buffalo Regional Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, as well as the pressure from the National Committee, caused a change in oppositional tactics by the Buffalo Committee and the National Committee. This change was reflected in the response of Jessie Corona, International Representative of the UAW-CIO Recreation Department, writing in behalf of Madar to Harold F. Wood, the Recording Secretary of Local Union #7742, in Buffalo, who had asked what was the bowling program being mapped out by CIO International Executive Board. The CIO, locally and internationally, Corona responded, was assisting local union recreation chairmen to “secure alleys which will enable them to organize unsanctioned leagues.” Furthermore, he said,

We are starting off here in Detroit with an over-average

tournament in October. Then we intend to have city, state,

regional, and national tournaments–all unsanctioned. It is our

aim to give one city tournament in every major city, and we must

have the cooperation of every union member, especially the

Recreational Directors, to successfully carry this program


We are trying to offer everything that the ABC offers–and

more! That is, like bonding the league secretaries, keep records

of bowlers in regional offices, give $50 for all three-hundred

games together, give a ring or belt and certificate–there will

be no charge for this service. The prizes for the tournaments

will be larger than those for corresponding tournaments. In

other words, we are out to compete with the ABC until they

remove the Un-American, undemocratic, discriminatory clause in

their constitution.

He added that his office was ready to assist in any problem that may arise, and reminded Wood that “All we ask is a little advance notice as to time, place, and date of any meeting, and we will try to be there to assist you.” (24)

It can be seen from this exchange that the UAW-CIO appeared ready to move away from moral suasion to head-to-head league competition. At this time the UAW-CIO was one of the nation’s largest unions, and competition of the sort contemplated by the UAW-CIO could seriously damage the revenue and prestige of the ABC. There were other organizations, however, that still hoped to convince the ABC through moral pressure to mend its ways. The Buffalo Labor Committee to Combat Intolerance was one. Its Chairman was Thomas F. Casey, and Pattie Ellis its Educational Consultant. This committee had quite a number of people, from apparently all walks of life and organizations, such as the Catholic Inter-Racial Council, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Negro Labor Committee, and the Presbyterian Institute of Industrial Relations.

Taking up the cause of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, Ellis informed Oliver in October that her committee had started “an extensive educational campaign against the discriminatory policy” of the ABC, and requested a leaflet titled “Time for Fair Practices in Bowling” which Oliver had put together. Ellis noted that there would be a mass meeting on November 18, therefore she needed 500 copies for that meeting. (25) In reply, Oliver informed Ellis that he was delighted to send the leaflets, and asked that her committee send resolutions from the National Committee protesting ABC’s discriminatory policies before the end of November. (26) By November 7, the Buffalo Conference for Fair Play in Bowling had not received the resolutions, so A. A. Abraham, the Secretary of the Buffalo Conference and a member of the city’s Board of Community Relations, contacted Hubert Humphrey, pressing for the newletters and the resolutions. (27) Apparently there were two resolutions, but Humphrey wasted no time in sending two copies of each resolution to Abraham. (28)

In mid-November, Ellis reported to Madar that her group intended to have a luncheon meeting on Thursday, November 20 at the YWCA in Buffalo. The subject, would be “The Social Consequences of the Discriminatory Policy and Practice of the ABC.” Could Madar come to such a meeting and report on what was being done in other metropolitan areas? (29)

Neither the files nor newspapers consulted show whether or not this meeting occurred, but a tentative program indicated that representatives from this meeting would have come from the CYO, the UAW-CIO, and the Labor Committee to Combat Intolerance. The chair would have been the Reverend Father Joseph E. Schieder.

If it is assumed that this meeting took place, in November, it was clear that a number of organizations in overlapping areas were ready to confront militantly the ABC. It is not surprising, then, that on January 9, 1948, a group calling itself the “Buffalo All-American Bowling League, UAW-CIO,” signed a contract with the Amherst Bowling Center to put on a tournament to be played on Saturday and Sunday, February 28 and 29. (30) It was clear from its title that the UAW-CIO was a leading force behind this initiative. This was a new approach because, even though a number of organizations had met in Buffalo to protest and hopefully rid the ABC of its discriminatory clause, the large membership in the UAW-CIO in Buffalo at that time guaranteed that any highly promoted contending tournament would be a success. Not only that, since quite a number of these members of the union were bowlers in the ABC leagues, if they were to leave for an opposing tournament, such action would seriously undermine the status of the ABC with regard to numbers, as well as quality of bowling.

In view of its intentions to do so, Humphrey and Hicks called for an organizational meeting of the National Committee for January 30 and 31 at the Picadilly Hotel in New York City, to set up a program committee, a legal committee, a research/publicity committee, and a finance committee. The National Committee announced that the UAW-CIO would be sponsoring an International Bowling Tournament to be held in Detroit commencing April 3 through May 2. Prizes “will be of liberal allowances, with a First Prize of $750 for men and $300 for women.” Gold medals would be awarded for high games in each event, and cash prizes would be awarded for high games in each squad. This tournament would be “open to all people throughout the world, regardless of race, color, or creed …” a flyer said. (31)

It was filled with other interesting news. It announced that the National Committee had decided to go head-to-head in sponsoring better tournaments than that of the ABC, and that there would be a tournament at Windsor, Ontario, Canada on February 21 through the 28, and another one March 6 through 13. Once again, the National Committee stated “This tournament is open to all who wish to participate, regardless of race, color, creed, or sex.” (32)

This was to follow a tournament that had been held at Detroit’s Eastern Market Recreation Center during the month of December 1947, which was very successful, with approximately 1,000 persons participating. Included in this group were representatives from 20 local unions, five church groups, and 15 miscellaneous civic organizations. Prizes totaling $2,200 were awarded to the bowlers. In addition, trophies were given to individual winners.

A tournament to be held on April 3 in Detroit, Michigan was also announced, as well as a note that Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis had just joined the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, and had said he would “exert his energies toward abolishing bias in one of the nation’s fastest growing pastimes.” (33)

Buffalo was not left out of the National Committee’s plans. The Committee announced that there would be an All-American Bowling Tournament in Buffalo that would get underway on February 28 and 29. It would be at the Amherst Street Bowling Center, which was “one of America’s most beautiful and modern bowling establishments.” (34) Potential bowlers were encouraged to contact Ed Gray, who was then the United Auto Workers SubDirector of Region 9, as well as Charles Livermore of the Buffalo Interracial Staff. These two were co-chairmen of the tournament.

To promote the Buffalo tournament, a circular went out from the Buffalo Committee for Fair Play in Bowling inviting all members of CIO local unions in western New York to participate in the upcoming tournament. The circular highlighted the discriminatory clause in the ABC’s constitution that excluded from membership “all persons other than male members of the Caucasian race,” and reminded potential participants that with this clause many American citizens such as Filipinos, Negroes, Chinese, and Native American Indians were excluded from playing in ABC-sanctioned events. The Committee pointed out that on the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling apart from Mayor Hubert Humphrey, there were many influential people such as Walter Reuther of the UAW, New York Senator James Mead, and Walter White of the NAACP. The circular ended with this assurance, “With this assistance, this enterprise can be made a tremendous success, providing great pleasure for the participants, and substantial progress for the principles of fair play for, by, and between all Americans.” (35)

On February 10, 1948, the National Urban League got involved. Its Secretary, William L. Evans, put out its own flyer titled “Release to Sports Commentators.” The NUL gave the usual information disseminated by other organizations, but it brought a more personal tone to its flyer. In one paragraph it noted: “A number of instances have been reported where a fellow who had been invited to bowl with the same fellows he worked with in a shop team has been given the choice of dropping out, or knowing that his presence makes it impossible for his team to participate in the regular contests.” It noted that the UAW was putting up over $800 in guaranteed cash prizes for the high men’s and women’s teams, and the high doubles. Local merchants were contributing additional prizes. It showed a long list of sponsors, covering a wide range of ethnic groups and ethnic organizations as well as social organizations in the city. (36)


By all accounts the bowling tournament of February 28 and 29 was a success. Reporting on the event on March 3, Ed Gray informed Madar on how the bowling tournament had come about. He recalled that in late December 1947, the Buffalo tournament had been contemplated by himself, John D’Agostino, Director of the International Department, UAW-CIO, and Madar, and that until the tournament he was not sure that things would have worked out as well as they did. What he noted, now that the tournament was over, was that the Soliciting Committee had been successful in getting approximately $300 worth of merchandise contributed to the tournament from local merchants. In addition, he said, $400 in cash donations had come from various other organizations.

He pointed out, too, that the Recruiting Committee had been very successful in getting bowlers from every section of the community to participate. And so, he recalled, individuals had come to the tournament from the American Legion, B’nai B’rith, the YMCA, the YWCA, business organizations such as retail stores, industrial organizations, the A.F. of L. and CIO unions, and Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant religious organizations, as well.

He took special note that “Numerous Negro teams and individuals, both male and female, entered the Tournament. (A Negro girls’ team won the Women’s team event).” (37) It was also important to point out that of the 795 entries, the overwhelming majority were from groups and organizations that were not part of the labor movement.

The Publicity Committee also came in for praise. “The Publicity Committee rendered yeoman service in publicizing the Tournament,” Gray said, “as is evident from the type and amount of publicity received prior to, during, and after the tournament.” (38) He recalled that more than 23 newspapers had carried one or more articles on the bowling tournament. Not only that, but radio sports commentators had featured several of the flyers that they had sent out. Commenting on the response of the ABC to the tournament, Gray detailed their activities. The local ABC officials, he said, missed no opportunity to discourage participation in the Tournament …

Efforts were made prior to the tournament to bar Max Dozoretz,

Chairman of the Buffalo Committee, from bowling in his league.

The proprietor of the Amherst Bowling Alleys said every means

short of physical intimidation were used to persuade them [sic]

(1) not to hold the tournament, or (2) take action that would

interfere with the tournament and ensure its failure. (39)

Gray was very enthusiastic and happy with the results of this tournament, for he felt that “viewed from every angle, we can safely consider the Tournament a success.” (40) He felt that as a result of the type and amount of publicity the tournament generated, it could safely be said Buffalo was now quite conscious of the unfair and discriminatory rules of the ABC, whereas one year ago, no such knowledge existed. He pointed out that prior to the tournament, on February 29, there had been a banquet, and this was a Jewish-Christian banquet in recognition of National Brotherhood Week. This banquet was attended by several hundred community leaders from every phase of life, and one prominent local businessman speaking at the banquet had commended the Buffalo Committee for its activities, praised the tournament, and introduced Max Dozoretz for recognition by the group. (41)


Gray was considerably exercised and outraged that the local ABC league had barred Dozoretz from bowling in any ABC sanctioned league because of his association with the All-American Bowling League. He informed Madar that not only had Dozoretz been barred, but another member of his committee would be barred also. This case created quite a stir, because according to Gray, the newspapers were sufficiently interested in the Dozoretz case to feature it prominently on the sports pages every day since the tournament. The whole business was so egregious to him that he told Madar that “We are now planning to file a court case protesting the barring of Dozoretz and/or any other members of the ABC who participated in the tournament and are barred by ABC, and intend to fully publicize all such action on our part to increase public awareness of the rules of the ABC, and conduct of its officials.” (42)

The ABC action against Dozoretz outraged also Joe Gross, a member of the Buffalo Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. Writing to D’Agostino on March 5, Gross too emphasized that “just in case you haven’t heard, a colored girls’ five men team was the winner of that event and their picture was taken together with the white men’s team with Max Dozoretz in the middle, presenting the check to each of them.” It is important to note that in this letter to D’Agostino, Gross underlined colored girls and added, “several of the colored people won prizes, and pictures were taken of the various winners and groups.” (43)

He then noted that perhaps the Buffalo Bowling Association, which was a subset of the ABC, might take action against the manager of the Amherst Alleys for having allowed the All-American Bowling Association to bowl there, and informed D’Agostino that if this takes place, “our attorney who was hired yesterday may be able to prove that the ABC has a monopoly on bowling.” (44) So even after a very successful counter-Tournament, a number of local organizations were thinking of a legal route in the fight against the ABC.

Interestingly, in Detroit, Madar was entertaining similar thoughts. In a long letter to Abe Zwerdling of the CIO, Madar informed him that she was sending over a copy of the Cleveland Kegler in which the ABC had warned bowlers not to participate in unsanctioned tournaments like the one that had been held in Buffalo. She added that,

It seems to me we might check the possibility of a legal suit

on the basis of the constitution of the American Bowling

Congress forcing bowling proprietors to violate civil rights

laws in the states where we have them. A long shot angle may be

that the constitution of the ABC is prohibiting high-average

Negro bowlers from earning a living. Many topnotch bowlers spend

most of their time in tournaments which are sanctioned by ABC

and which have high prizes. Our Negro bowlers and also the

Japanese bowlers who have high averages would like to earn some

of this prize money, but are not permitted to enter …

You will note in one of the articles, the bowling manufacturers

must file an affidavit with the ABC to receive approval on the

equipment they manufacture. This may be pertinent in an attempt

to prove a monopoly.

All of the bowling organizations are now coordinated in a

Bowling Council. A short account of the activities is given in

the enclosed Kegler. The establishment of this Council should

prove conclusively that manufacturers, proprietors, the WIBC,

ABC and the Junior Bowling Congress are really working together

to control bowling … In many of our meetings, committee

members have discussed the possibility of a legal suit. I feel

that we should investigate fully and determine once and for all

if such action is feasible. Needless to say, if we do have

grounds for such a suit, such action will make the ABC move

faster in changing their constitution. (45)


It should be noted at this point, that by March 1948 there had been other tournaments of a similar nature in other cities like the successful one in Buffalo. In March, Madar reported on other UAW-CIO sponsored tournaments to the International Executive Board. There had been one in Detroit where they had encountered many difficulties in securing a bowling alley because as soon as the Detroit Bowling Association heard of their intentions, it put pressure on the proprietor not to rent the alleys for the UAW-CIO tournament. But in the end, the tournament, she said, was more successful that she had anticipated, even though it had received little cooperation from local unions because of the pressure exerted by the Detroit Bowling Association.

At the time she was writing, another tournament was in progress in Windsor, Canada. She expected the participants would exceed the 1,000 mark. This would be a good turnout, but she also pointed out that “In Windsor we did not have the pressure of the American Bowling Congress, although the tournament would do a great deal to break down the ABC because they are attempting to organize the Canadians under the same set up as in the United States.” (46) Madar observed that because of the work of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling and because of the attitude of the Canadian people, and the fact that the Windsor tournament seemed already successful, the ABC would find it exceedingly difficult to spread its influence in Canada. The local unions there also were very supportive, apparently more supportive than they had been in Detroit.

She also reported on the Buffalo Tournament. There she noted Max Dozoretz had been barred from bowling in his regular league in Buffalo by the proprietor of the establishment where he bowled. She informed the Executive Board that “Plans are now under way to force this proprietor to allow our secretary to continue bowling, and if necessary, we will take legal action in regard to this matter.” (47) Once again the legal approach is broached, and by the end of the year the idea for lawsuits appeared preferable in most venues.

Madar pointed out that there would be similar tournaments held throughout the country at later dates; one was planned for Chicago, one for St. Paul, and that the International Bowling Tournament would be held sometime later in Detroit.

Since the ABC seemed to be recalcitrant and stubborn, she suggested that very soon now,

If the ABC remains adamant and does not change its

constitution in ’48, then these organizations must lend their

financial support and with the programs we are building in the

UAW, with the cooperation of the National Committee for Fair

Play in Bowling, plus the financial aid from other

organizations, it would be possible to establish a rival

organization, possibly to be known as the All-American Bowling

Congress. If the two staff people are retained, they can be the

contribution of the UAW. With financial aid from other

organizations, we can set up a few representatives in the main

bowling cities and sanction people under the name of the All-

American Bowling Congress. (48)

Madar noted though, that while an All-American Bowling League would be interesting, its main function would be not to establish something permanent, but something that would force the ABC to change its constitution, because in actual fact the UAW-CIO did not really want to be in the business of running a league. So she added, “Meanwhile, if we can take legal action which will force the ABC to change their constitution at the April 16 meeting, we need not worry about establishing non-sanctioned leagues.” (49) Madar, however, had some recommendations to make.

* That the International Executive Board instruct the legal department to investigate the feasibility of legal action against the ABC.

* That we immediately begin plans for the coming season and retain the two staff people assigned to bowling in order that they may begin organizing non-sanctioned leagues, and

* That the International Executive Board give their official blessing to the establishment of an All American Bowling Congress, open to all regardless of race, color or creed, and that the Recreation Department and the Fair Practices Department work with the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling in securing their financial support in organizing this All American Bowling Congress.” (50)

Madar’s reference to the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling was timely for on March 23, Hubert Humphrey and Betty Hicks wrote to Senator James M. Mead of New York, whose headquarters was in Buffalo, inviting him to an international tournament which was being sponsored by the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. This event was to take place on April 3 in Detroit, and Mayor Humphrey pointed out to the senator that,

Our experiences have proven that the sport of bowling can be

conducted on a democratic basis.

The international tournament which opens in Detroit on April

3 is another demonstration of how effectively all groups can

play together.

We wish very much to have you with us to participate in the

opening ceremonies which will take place on the evening of April

3, 1948 at the establishment mentioned above. (51)

Yet even as the opposing tournament concept was being pushed, the legal approach too was warming up. On April 19, Humphrey sent the members of his National Committee a copy of a legal brief that he wanted submitted to the Board of Directors of the ABC. The brief argued the unconstitutionality of the ABC’s discriminatory clause. Humphrey circulated the brief to all the various committees of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, as well as to other progressive organizations. The ABC meeting was to take place at the Shelby Hotel in Detroit, on April 12, and it was hoped that this brief, sent to them by a large number of persons, from across the United States, particularly in towns where the ABC held its major tournaments, such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angels and Buffalo, would persuade the ABC to remove its racially discriminatory clause. (52)

Back in Buffalo, Max Dozoretz, who had been declared ineligible to play in ABC tournaments as a consequence of his association with the Buffalo tournaments sponsored by the UAW-CIO and the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, received an uplifting letter on April 28, from John D’Agostino. It read;

Hello Max: How’s the boy? Swell, I hope! I thought it was

about time I sent you a letter of thanks for your cooperation in

making Buffalo’s first All-American Tournament such a wonderful


I’m also wondering what were the results of your fight with

the Buffalo Bowling Association. I contacted Ed Gray and he

couldn’t give me too much information. In addition, I would

appreciate your sending me a picture of yourself with a 500-word

story on your activities in the Jewish community work and a

little information on that progress of your fight against the

ABC. (53)

It should be noted that at this time in Buffalo, there was an air of good feelings, so much so that many diverse groups came together to end segregation in bowling. This is not to imply that groups had not gotten along together ordinarily, but it is interesting and uplifting that at a time when segregation was alive and well in most parts of the United States, and that in 1948 there was not yet a Supreme Court decision such as Brown v. Board, nor were there any Civil Rights Act like that of 1964, that Dozoretz, for example, would participate in the activities of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling and at the same time, was an important activist in the Jewish community. It is further interesting that D’Agostino would want a 500-word story of Dozoretz’s activities in the Jewish community with a picture of Max for distribution to members of the international community of the UAW-CIO.


On April 30, 1948, Gray wrote to Oliver and suggested a meeting in Buffalo to plan a bowling program for the coming year. (54) This letter appears to have been prompted by the success of the bowling tournament earlier that year. In reply Oliver said he would be discussing the matter with Madar, and would get back to Gray very shortly. (55) Gray was apparently very enthusiastic about another tournament, so instead of writing again he telephoned Oliver and worked out an agreement for Oliver and Madar to visit Buffalo on Tuesday, May 18.

Joseph Gross was also desirous of carrying on the next year, this desire propelled by the decision of the ABC not to change its discriminatory practices, even after the barrage of resolutions sent to their annual meeting.

On May 5, Oliver wrote to Gross to say “I am sure that you realize that we are most unhappy about the decision rendered by the Executive Committee of the ABC.” (56) Oliver also informed Gross that he would be in Buffalo on May 18. The meeting did take place, and on May 25 Madar sent the minutes to Oliver. It was titled, “Meeting of the Buffalo Committee for Fair Play in Bowling and Other Matters.”

In the minutes and comments, Madar noted that several recommendations were made at the Buffalo meeting, with most of them falling under the jurisdiction of Oliver’s department, that is, the Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department of the UAW-CIO. These recommendations were:

1. That immediate steps be taken to enact State Legislation in

New York and New Jersey and other states to make discriminatory

practices of the American Bowling Congress illegal. This was to

be a recommendation to the National Committee but was hoped that

plans could begin immediately.

2. The Buffalo Committee would like to recommend that an office

or personnel be established in New York City for the purpose of

raising funds to enact such a legislation and also to publicize

the work and purposes of the committee (sic) for Fair Play in

Bowling. It was suggested that the following people or

organizations be contacted: “Mayors Committee on Unity,” the

“NAACP,” the “Civil Liberties Council,” “American Jewish

Committee and Congress,” “Catholic Inter-Racial Council” (Father

LaFarge, S.J.), “Committee on Harlem” (Dorothy Norman) and Joe

Lash A.D.A.

3. Committees be established in all cities where there are

Regional Fair Play Committees to contact the members of the

American Bowling Congress of the board (sic) of Directors in

their particular area.

4. Regional committees should contact the executive secretaries

of local associations of the American Bowling Congress and

arrange a meeting with the “Mayors Inter Racial Committees” in

their own community.

5. It was recommended that we investigate the possibility of

organizing a rival organization, and that we begin to lay the

foundation for such an organization, with the hope that it will

be established within a year’s time.

6. That regional committees should do all that they can to help

groups organize unsanctioned leagues and secure alleys for such

league play.

P.S. What about financial support from other CIO Internationals,

and also what is their policy in regard to bowling program? (57)

By December 1948, there was a feeling in certain quarters that 1949 would be the year of change. On December 20, Walter P. Reuther, the President of the UAW-CIO, (who despite the fact that he had been shot and partially paralyzed in April), a member of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, wrote to Phillip Murray, President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He pointed out that the UAW-CIO had conducted All-American Bowling Tournaments in Buffalo, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Windsor and Detroit with great success, but that he along with Father Carow, George Demetrou who represented Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey of Minneapolis, the Chairman of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, had met with the Executive Board of the American Bowling Congress at its session in Detroit on April 12. There the ABC had rejected any appeal to change its discriminatory practices, even though a strong minority on the ABC Executive Board expressed sympathy. He believed that “next year is the crucial year, that with a real push the American Bowling Congress will change its rules at its next convention in 1949, at Atlantic City.” (58)


By early 1949 the campaign against the American Bowling Congress shifted from direct protestation and alternate tournaments. All of the activist groups decided to put pressure on states to ban the ABC from doing business in their jurisdiction as long as the ABC persisted in maintaining its discriminatory policy. William Oliver, writing to Bob George, the Executive Secretary of the Mayor’s Committee on Human Relations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, outlined the change taking place. It is important to note here that this letter was carbon copied also to–by this time–Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (MN), Betty Hicks, and Olga Madar.

Oliver informed George that for the past three years in meetings between the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling and the UAW-CIO, the American Bowling Congress executive body had refused to change its all-white policy. He gave a hint of the shift in approach of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling informing George that in New Jersey,

Mr. Joseph Bustard, Assistant to the State Commissioner on

Education and on behalf of the State’s Division Against

Discrimination sent a letter to the New Jersey CIO Council which

stated, “I might state officially that as long as the American

Bowling Congress continues its policy of exclusion of Negroes

from participating in such tournaments, the Division Against

Discrimination in New Jersey will resist any effort on the part

of this organization to hold a tournament in this state.” (59)

Oliver also noted that Michigan’s Governor Williams had made a similar statement and added, “I understand that Governor Dewey of New York, has an unofficial statement to this effect.” (60) Not only were states now being opposed to the policies of ABC, but a number of organizations, many of whom were not even participants of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, became active. For example, the New York public school system; the American Legion; the Jewish War Veterans Post in Yonkers, NY; the Cook County Post of the American Legion, Chicago; the Michigan Association for Health and Physical Education; the Amvets and the United Steelworkers of America–CIO.

Oliver informed George that “I would like to emphasize that the Caucasian rule in the ABC constitution does not specifically prohibit Negroes from participation in ABC sanctioned tournaments on a state and national level, but this rule affects Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Indians, etc., as well.” (61)

It was clear from this statement that the National Committee now placed heavy responsibility on Area Committees to put pressure on state officials to prohibit any activity by the ABC within their states. This had become very important because in this same letter Oliver pointed out to George that the UAW-CIO had not sponsored any alternate tournaments lately, not because of ABC’s attitude, but because of the question of finances.” (62)

This new approach soon began to bear fruit. On October 24, 1949, State Attorney John S. Boyle filed suit in the Cook County, Illinois Superior Court against the ABC. The suit identified the ABC as “an Illinois not-for-profit corporation defendant,” against which he sought an injunction. In this beautifully written brief, Boyle pointed out that the ABC had been certified on April 24, 1903, by the Secretary of State for the State of Illinois, as the authority to organize and produce bowling tournaments. It was granted the authority to make rules for the operation of its tournaments, as well as make laws and bylaws as to how the game should be played and what the membership should be. The brief noted several instances where the phrase “white males” appeared to be in opposition to the general climate of opinion in Illinois.

The brief had 26 separate sections. Paragraphs 1 through 11 described the American Bowling Congress in detail including its charter and the various rules that it had promulgated. Paragraphs 12-26 were citations against the ABC. Paragraph twelve for example, pointed out that the ABC contravened and violated Section 1, Article 2, of the Bill of Rights of the Illinois Constitution which provided in part “all men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights–among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….” (63)

Section 19 reads: “The said player color requirements and qualifications enacted, adopted, promulgated and enforced by the American Bowling Congress violates the said Civil Rights statutes of the State of Illinois set forth in Paragraph numbered eighteen (18) hereinabove.” (64) And Paragraph 18 in the brief reads: “It is provided by Section 125 of the Illinois Civil Rights Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1947, c. 38, $1) as follows:

All persons within the jurisdiction of said State of Illinois

shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the

accommodation, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns,

restaurants, eating houses, hotels, soda fountains, soft drink

parlors, taverns, roadhouses, barbershops, department stores,

clothing stores, hat stores, shoe stores, bathrooms, restrooms,

theaters, skating rinks, concerts, cafes, bicycle rinks,

elevators, ice cream parlors or rooms, railroads, omnibuses,

buses, stages, aeroplanes, streetcars, boats, funeral hearses

and public conveyances on land, water or air, and all other

places of public accommodations and amusement, subject only to

the conditions and limitations established by laws and

applicable alike to all citizens; nor shall there be any

discrimination on account of race or color in the price to be

charged and paid for lots or graves in any cemetery or place for

burying the dead.

In this same paragraph 18, the Act stated that if anyone were convicted of violating any of its provisions, the convicted “shall be fined not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or shall be imprisoned not more than one year, or both. (65)


Phillip Murray, President of the CIO and President also of the United Steelworkers of America, along with a number of other leaders within the CIO filed an Amicus brief. Interestingly Arthur J. Goldberg, later a member of the United States Supreme Court, served as General Counsel for the CIO, and with him was Irving J. Levy, General Counsel of the United Automobile Workers of America. Goldberg et al pointed to a couple of additional significant items. One was that since its incorporation on April 24, 1903 in Illinois, the ABC had become a big business. Now they said “It possesses one of the most iron-clad monopolies in the United States, having over one million members (Bowling, June 1946) and exercising an absolute control over the largest single competitive sport in the United States and the largest organized competitive sport in the world.” (66) Not only that, said Goldberg et al, “The ABC has long since ceased to be a mere private club and has assumed public or quasi-public status.” (67) Because of this, Goldberg et al argued that it had no right to these discriminatory policies. They even pointed out that much had been attempted by several organizations to have the ABC change its charter, and it had not even pretended any real consideration for those suggestions.

It should be noted that Goldberg et al were representing moreso those United Steelworkers members who had been banned from membership in the ABC because, they and a Negro player had played in an unsanctioned tournament in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, on April 10, 1949. The CIO’s action was on behalf of those bowlers of the United Steelworkers Union, but they were also seeking to “prevent a repetition of such violations of the law by the defendant corporation involving other members of the organizations your petitioners represent.” (68)


Three months after Cook County filed its case, New York State Attorney General Nathaniel Goldstein, under heavy pressure from the NAACP, which provided him with the brief he used, filed suit in the State Supreme Court. The People of the State of New York, plaintiffs, against the ABC, Defendant, was somewhat similar to the one in Illinois. The New York brief referred repeatedly to the constitution of the ABC, and its racially discriminatory clause. Of its 18 paragraphs, 14 detailed the various offensive aspects of the ABC’s constitution, and the last 4 outlined its case against the ABC.

The defendant,

by practicing, enforcing and compelling discrimination based on

race and color, as aforecited in paragraphs “NINTH” to

“FOURTEENTH” inclusive, is exercising and carrying out, and

threatens to continue to exercise and carry out, its corporate

franchese (sic), privileges, rights, objects and activities in

a manner contrary to the public policy of the State of New

York. (69)

The 16th paragraph read thus: “That defendant is doing business in the State of New York without first having obtained from the Secretary of State a certificate of authority as required by section 210 of the General Corporation Law of the State of New York.” (70) This was serious business, because on that alone, the ABC was in violation of New York state law.

Paragraph seventeen got to racial matters. It said, “That defendant’s activities in the State of New York are detrimental to and imperil the welfare and morals of the people of the State of New York and unless enjoined will continue to the imminent and irreparable injury of the People of the State of New York.” (71) Finally, paragraph 18, succinctly stated “That plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law.” (72)

The Attorney General asked for an injunction against the ABC, that it may not exercise or promote any of its activities in the State of New York and asked that the plaintiffs have any other further relief that the court decided just and proper. (73)


In the New York suit, unlike in the Illinois case, the NAACP as noted earlier was directly involved. Two days after filing, Goldstein properly acknowledged the role of the NAACP in the matter. In a letter to Thurgood Marshall he said:

I am pleased to enclose a copy of the summons and complaint

in re People of the State of New York, plaintiffs, against

American Bowling Congress, defendant. Service was effective

yesterday on the Treasurer of the defendant and the papers were

filed in the County Clerk’s office this morning.

I should greatly appreciate if you will have Mr. Williams

communicate with Assistant Attorney General Wagman of my New

York City office so as to give him the benefit of any ideas he

may have. (74)

But the Acting Secretary of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins, determined not to be left out of what already appeared to be a successful litigation, was also fast on the draw. In a January 19 telegram to Goldstein he enthused: “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People congratulates you for your forthright action in instituting proceedings to ban the lily-white American Bowling Congress from New York State.” (75)

By mid-April, as the suits progressed in Illinois and New York, Leonard E. Russack, Assistant to the New York State Attorney General Goldstein, sought additional information in the state’s suit against the ABC. On April 26 he received important information from Madar. She gave him information as to the experiences of the National Committee against the ABC in Cleveland, Chicago, in Windsor, Canada, and in Detroit, but she emphasized the 1948 Buffalo experience with particular reference to the ouster of Max L. Dozoretz by the ABC. She also noted that although the Amherst Bowling Center in Buffalo had been threatened in very subtle ways, no action was taken against it, and so she thought that the expulsion of Dozoretz would be useful in the suit against the ABC in New York State. (76)


On April 22, 1950, Judge John A. Sbarbaro of Cook County Superior Court, slapped a $2,500 fine on the ABC and threatened to revoke its charter unless it amended its constitution to eliminate its racial exclusionary clause.

A month later, May 12, the delegates at the ABC’s annual convention, faced with Sbarbaro’s threat to revoke its charter in Illinois, as well as the threat to its New York State corporate charter, used just twenty seven minutes to remove its racially regressive and illegal whites-only clause from its constitution.

The demise of the “white males only” rule in the American Bowling Congress’ constitution came as a result of three modes of attack by progressive whites, African Americans, and other minorities. They were, moral suasion, direct competition in the form of an All-American Bowling League, and legal action.

In the beginning, opponents of the ABC tried moral suasion. Most of the members of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling including its leader, Mayor Hubert Humphrey of Minneapolis, thought most white Americans were now predisposed to racial tolerance, particularly after the horrific lessons learned in WWII. All Americans, they believed, would now respond positively to the mantra of “Fair Play.” The members of the Nation Committee thought the war against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, as well as racist Japan must have convinced Americans to see that racial discrimination and racial genocide were inhuman and essentially savage.

And in the territory of the ABC which never went further south than Louisville, Kentucky, most white Americans had indeed shown signs of an important lesson learned. But the ABC, not a Southern entity, surprisingly behaved as if it was the product of the heart of darkness of Mississippi or the other sick Southern states. It must have come as a surprise to people like Father Carow and Hubert Humphrey that the ABC, a northern entity, showed all the stubborn racist recalcitrance of the South. Sensing failure in this approach the National Committee gave up, and with the assistance of a militant UAW-CIO moved determinedly to the second approach, oppositional tournaments, and direct economic confrontation. The basis of the economic confrontation was the All-American Bowling League which put on tournaments in the major cities where the ABC usually held theirs, cities such as Milwaukee, Detroit, Windsor (Canada) and Buffalo, New York.

In Buffalo there were several members of the local committee of the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling who were enthusiastic about having a tournament in 1949, since the one in 1948 had been so successful. Other cities too were enthusiastic for the establishment of a rival bowling league. But at the CIO, President Phillip Murray, (also the President of the United Steelworkers Union), and lawyers for that group including Arthur Goldberg, came to the conclusion that the earlier proposal suggesting litigation, was now a timely option. Litigation could be based on the federal constitution, but the best possible approach would be a state constitution with a provision against racial discrimination. Fortunately, Illinois had such a clause in its constitution, placed there as an amendment in 1947. This amendment was very much the same as the United States Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gave rise to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but unlike the 14th Amendment, the Illinois amendment was clear and direct, and could not be subverted legally as had been the case of the United States 14th Amendment.

Under pressure from the NAACP, the State Attorney General, Nathaniel Goldstein, moved to have the ABC banned from New York State for violating the state’s public policy. This was in January, 1950. The combined legal pressure in Illinois and New York, made it clear to the ABC as it met for its annual convention in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950, that the end was inevitable.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the ABC’s swift capitulation in 1950. It must have been clear to the ABC that it was one of the last nonintegrated sports. Furthermore, all its tournaments were held in northern cities, Louisville, Kentucky excepting. It had no base at all in the South, a place that might have offered refuge. A move to the South would have spelled disaster. It seems reasonable to conclude then, that the combination of an oppositional All-American Bowling Congress, and a pariah status in racial relations, became obvious to the ABC by 1950. Furthermore, negative rulings were to be expected in Illinois, Wisconsin, and in New York, sites of some of its largest tournaments. To be banned from such states would cause serious damage.

Despite its racism, the ABC’s leadership enjoyed all the perks of that leadership. To decline in status was personal and was not to be countenanced. It seemed better to them to capitulate than lose the high standing and luxuries to which they had become accustomed. And despite expostulations by Elmer Baumgarten, the ABC’s secretary, that people had a right to privacy in their own organizations or clubs, he knew that this was empty rhetoric, and as the official history of the American Bowling Congress has shown, within a couple years the ABC became far more viable and far more profitable than it had ever been. the early assessment of one bowling alley operator that the main reason Baumgarten and the ABC’s Executive Board, did not want to compete with Negroes and other minorities, was “them ABC birds don’t want to be licked by a lot of Negro pinboys.” (77) In fact, this almost immediately came to pass, because very soon after, Black bowlers won several championships far out of proportion to their population in the ABC, just as had happened in baseball, and football, programs integrated before 1950.

In Buffalo the various members of all the organizations who had participated with the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling in its sterling efforts to integrate the ABC, could congratulate themselves. They had played a pivotal role in the campaign to integrate the ABC, had worked hard in an ecumenical manner, and had set an important example for other cities in the fight to integrate a major American sport.

(2) Al Matzelle and Jerry Schneider, History of the American Bowling Congress: Celebrating 100 Years of Service to the Sport of American Tenpins, (Milwaukee: American Bowling Congress, 1995), p. 26.

(3) Winthrop Griffith, Humphrey: A Candid Biography, (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1965), p. 124.

(4) Thurgood Marshall to Walter White, October 15, 1945, Group II, Box B-60, NAACP Papers, Library of Congress. Hereinafter cited as NAACP Papers.

(5) Cleveland The Call and Post, March 22, 1947.

(6) Robert H. Zieger, The CIO 1935-1955, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), p. 123.

(7) Madison Jones to White, July 31, 1942 and Golda Huntman to White, August 24, 1942, NAACP Papers.

(8) Olga M. Madar to Walter White, March 11, 1947, NAACP Papers.

(9) Report of Conference to Promote Democratic Participation in Bowling, April 1, 1947, NAACP Papers, p. 2.

(10) Report of Conference, p. 9.

(11) Report of Conference, p. 9.

(12) Herzog to Oliver, July 3, 1947, Box 1, Folder: Buffalo Regional Bowling Commission, 1947-1949, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Unless otherwise noted, the Buffalo Regional Bowling Commission, 1947-49 will be cited as BRBC.

(13) Oliver to Herzog, July 11, 1947, BRBC.

(14) Herzog to Oliver, July 23, 1947, BRBC.

(15) Oliver to Herzog, July 29, 1947, BRBC. What Oliver clearly meant was Mayor Hubert Humphrey, who later became Vice President of the United States, serving one term with Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1965-1969.

(16) Flyer, August 8, 1947, BRBC. The main participants noted in text were activists in major civil rights organizations in Buffalo. Einach was the Regional Director if the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. Livermore was a member of the Buffalo Board of Community Relations. Ponafidine was a member of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination, and Pattie Ellis was an Educational Consultant for the Labor Committee to Combat Intolerance as well as Chairman of the Buffalo Committee for Social Action.

(17) Minutes of the Buffalo Conference for Fair Play in Bowling, August 15, 1947, the Statler Hotel, Buffalo, NAACP Papers, p. 1.

(18) Minutes of the Buffalo Conference, p. 2.

(19) Minutes of the Buffalo Conference, p. 3.

(20) Oliver to Herzog, August 19, 1947, BRBC.

(21) Livermore to Oliver, August 28, 1947, BRBC.

(22) Oliver to Livermore, September 4, 1947, BRBC.

(23) Resolution submitted at the meeting of the Buffalo Committee for Social Action, October 2, 1947, signed by Thomas F. Casey, Chairman, and Pattie Ellis, Educational Consultant, BRBC.

(24) Wood to Olga Madar, October 2, 1947, and Corona to Wood, Octobers 6, 1947, UAW Recreation Department, Series 1, Box, 1, Folder: Bowling Questionnaire, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Hereinafter cited as UAWRD.

(25) Ellis to Oliver, October 31, 1947, BRBC.

(26) Oliver to Ellis, November. 4, 1947, BRBC.

(27) A. A. Abraham to Humphrey, Chairman, National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, BRBC, November 7, 1947.

(28) National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling to Abraham, November 14, 1947, BRBC.

(29) Ellis to Madar, November 18, 1947, UAW Recreation Department, Series 1, Box 1, Folder: Fair Play in Bowling–Buffalo, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(30) Copy of contract in UAWRD.

(31) Flyer, from the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, January 22, 1948, NAACP Papers, p. 2.

(32) Flyer, p. 2.

(33) Flyer, p. 3.

(34) Flyer, p. 3.

(35) Circular to all local unions in western New York from the Buffalo Committee for Fair Play in Bowling, January 23, 1948, UAWRD.

(36) National Urban League flyer, February 10, 1948, UAWRD.

(37) Gray to Madar, Report of the Buffalo Bowling Tournament of February 28 and 29, March 3, 1948, BRBC.

(38) Report, BRBC, p. 2-3.

(39) Report, BRBC, p. 3.

(40) Report, p. 3, BRBC.

(41) Report, p. 3-4, BRBC.

(42) Report, BRBC, p. 4.

(43) Gross to D’Agostino, March 5, 1948, UAW Recreation Department, Series 1, Box 1, Folder: Fair Play in Bowling–Detroit, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(44) Gross to D’Agostino, March 5, 1948.

(45) Madar to Abe Zwerdling, March 10, 1948, UAW Recreation Department, Series 1, Box 1, Folder: Fair Play in Bowling–Detroit.

(46) Report of the International Recreation Department to the International Executive Board, March 1948, UAW Recreation Department, Series 1, Box 1, Folder: Bowling–General, p. 2.

(47) Report, p. 3.

(48) Report, p. 6.

(49) Report, p. 8.

(50) Report, p. 8.

(51) Humphrey and Hicks to Mead, March 23, 1948, BRBC.

(52) National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling to Committee Members, April 7, 1948, NAACP Papers.

(53) D’Agostino to Dozoretz, April 28, 1948, UAWRD.

(54) Gray to Oliver, April 30, 1948, BRBC.

(55) Oliver to Gray, May 4, 1948, BRBC.

(56) Oliver to Gross, May 5, 1948, BRBC.

(57) Madar to Oliver, May 25, 1948, BRBC.

(58) Reuther to Murray, December 20, 1948, UAW Recreation Department Collection, Series II, Box 2, Folder: Reuther, Walter, Correspondence, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(59) Oliver to Bob George, August 17, 1949, c.c. Senator H.H. Humphrey, Mr. Herman Stettes, Mr. John M. Sorensen, Miss Betty Hicks, Miss Olga Madar, William Oliver Collection, Box III, Folder: Minneapolis Regional Bowling Commission, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(60) Oliver to George, August 17, 1949.

(61) Oliver to George, August 17, 1949.

(62) Oliver to George, August 17, 1949.

(63) Quote in brief of the State of Illinois v. the American Bowling Congress, October 24, 1949, William Oliver Collection, Box 1, Folder: Chicago Regional Bowling Commission, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(64) Brief, p. 6.

(65) Brief, p. 5-6.

(66) Amici Curiae, filed March 7, 1950, William Oliver Collection, Box 1, Folder: Chicago Regional Bowling Commission, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, p. 3.

(67) Amici Curiae, p. 3.

(68) Amici Curiae, p. 3.

(69) Copy of brief of the Attorney General of New York, in the Case of People of the State of New York v. American Bowling Congress, January 16, 1950, in NAACP Papers, p. 4.

(70) Brief, p. 4.

(71) Brief, p. 4.

(72) Brief, p. 4.

(73) Brief, p. 5.

(74) Goldstein to Marshall, January 18, 1950, NAACP Papers. Franklin Williams was a member of Marshall’s legal team.

(75) Western Union telegram, Wilkins to Goldstein, January 19, 1950, NAACP Papers.

(76) Madar to Russack, April 26, 1950, William Oliver Collection, Box 1, Folder: Brooklyn Regional Bowling Commission, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

(77) Quoted in “Supplemental Fact Sheet on American Bowling Congress ‘Caucasian’ Membership Rule,” May 3, 1950, in NAACP Papers, p. 5.

James H. Rigali and John C. Walter (1)

(1) James H. Rigali is an Adjunct Lecturer in the American Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Washington, John C. Walter is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington.

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