Bowman Gray Memorial Pool

Carolina students were excited when the Bowman Gray Memorial Pool opened on April 15, 1938. There had been no pool on campus since the closing of the pool in Bynum Gymnasium in 1924. The new pool was built as part of Woollen Gym. When it opened, the Daily Tar Heel proclaimed it to be the "largest indoor swimming pool south of Philadelphia." While primarily built for recreational swimming, the pool was also used by the UNC swimming teams. While the U.S. Navy pre-flight school was on campus during World War II, it was used for training exercises by navy cadets. The pool was one of many contested sites on campus when the first African American students enrolled in 1951. Harvey Beech, who entered the UNC School of Law that year, recalled receiving a swimming card when he first enrolled, only to have it taken away, told that it was given to him "by mistake."
The pool is named for alumnus Bowman Gray Sr., who had a successful career at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. After Gray's death in 1935 his family gave money for the construction of the university pool and supported multiple institutions in Winston-Salem, especially Wake Forest University.


Students in the Bowman Gray Memorial Pool, ca. 1930s. UNC Image Collection, North Carolina Collection Photo Archives, Wilson Library.