50 years later: Monson Motor Lodge incident

By Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:18:28 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 17 2014 09:12:14 AM EDT

Civil rights demonstrators jumped into a segregated pool in downtown Saint Augustine because the manager refused to let Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and his guests enter the Monson restaurant.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

This week marks 50 years since an incident at Monson Motor Lodge in downtown St. Augustine that is credited with leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1964, civil rights demonstrators jumped into a segregated pool at the hotel because the manager refused to let Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his guests enter the Monson Restaurant.

The manager poured acid into the pool to force them out.

While the exact anniversary of the incident is Wednesday, the new hotel on that property -- the Bayfront Hilton -- will host a luncheon Tuesday for some of the civil rights veterans who were a part of this piece of American history.

An iconic picture was captured on June 18th, 1964 showing demonstrators in the pool and the owner of the lodge, Jimmy Brock, pouring acid into it.

Many of the demonstrators were arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

IMAGES: 1964 Monson Motor Lodge protest

The image of the incident went around the world, embarrassing the nation and causing President Lyndon B. Johnson to call key congressmen and senators, demanding passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The city of St. Augustine and the current manager of the Bayfront Hilton are holding a luncheon because they want people to feel at home there.

“The city and everyone involved is honored to memorialize, recognize, commemorate and honor this incredibly important event that not only led to the growth of the city of St. Augustine, but also the nation. It’s incredibly symbolic and important for America to realize what happened here 50 years ago,” said Dana Ste. Claire, one of the organizers of the commemoration.

Some of the people who will be attending the event will be J.T. Johnson from Atlanta, who was one of Dr. King's trusted companions and one of the demonstrators pictured in the pool.

“The best part is just meeting some of the people that were brave enough to come here and stand up to what was, at that time, a national trend that hadn’t been very successful,” said Bob O’Neill, general manager of the Bayfront Hilton .

Other civil rights veterans and city officials will be there as well. The luncheon is private but there will be more events going on throughout the city open to the public. Click for event details.

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