Victoria Kingdom, 92 and a Corridor of Fame golfer, drove for civil rights

RIVIERA BEACH – Step into the neat blue and white stucco home of Victoria Kingdom and you’ll be surrounded by the history of black women golfers – and black activism – in Palm Beach County.

There are golf trophies on the window sills. There is a plaque from Fairview Golf Club, the first for black golfers in the county. Another from the African American Golfers Hall of Fame. A fridge magnet reads, “I can’t stop playing golf.”

“Golf has been a big part of my life. I enjoyed sharing with wonderful people, ”said the lively 92-year-old, who says she has four holes in one.

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Born in Virginia, the African American Golfers Hall of Fame awarded the Founder Prize in 2019 for her commitment to teaching golf for local youth. She was the first black woman to work as a female locker room attendant at the PGA National Resort and Spa from 1985 to 1997.

“It was definitely positive to have a golf-loving companion in the locker room. Vickie was very reserved, but a very hard worker. Members loved Vickie, ”said Jane Broderick, director of golf at PGA National Resort and Spa, via email.

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Golf was never a part of Kingdom life until a friend introduced her to her future husband Joseph, an avid golfer, in New Jersey. Kingdom had lived in New York City and New Jersey for several years after graduating from Amelia County, Virginia, high school at 16.

Victoria Kingdom watches the 36th Annual MLK Gala Parade at Riviera Beach in January 2020.  Kingdom and her late husband Joseph visited Martin Luther Kings

After the couple married on July 4, 1952, they joined Shady Rest Golf and Country Club in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, America’s first black-owned golf club. They joined local civic organizations and civil rights groups.

The couple drove six hours in their Oldsmobile station wagon in August 1963 to join 250,000 people in the march in Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“The crowd started at 10am with cars, buses and trains. People with signs. Hold hands. Carry babies. We put our feet in the pool. We shared food. We told stories. We laughed. It was like heaven, ”Kingdom said, wearing a t-shirt that said,“ I have a dream ”.

Victoria and Joseph, who were in the maintenance business, traveled to Detroit, Las Vegas, and other places to play golf.

A closer look at some of the Victoria Kingdom awards and honors.

Kingdom joined Fairview Golf Club after moving to Riviera Beach in 1979. The black golf club was founded in 1965 at the Stevens Funeral Home Chapel on Tamarind Avenue. The founders were John W. Stevens, David Bennett, Pete Toomes, Howard Stevens, Wilson McDonald and Dan Calloway.

The seeds for Fairview were sown 10 years before the club started in 1955 when two black golfers, Stevens and Dr. Warren Collie. was denied permission to play at West Palm Beach Golf Club. They filed a lawsuit and eventually won that right in the appeals court.

Fairview, which has neither a clubhouse nor a golf course, became an organization later that year. The organization now has about 30 members between Stuart and Delray Beach. Fairview, which is open to all, regularly hosts golf tournaments. The organization distributes grants and lunch baskets and gifts for the holidays.

While at PGA, Kingdom not only continued to improve her game several times a week, but also led Fairview’s junior golf program.

“She picked up the children. She raised money for her clubs, snacks, drinks, and balls. She brought her home. She came to meetings and said, “You have to fund my program,” said Martha Clark, a former Fairview president and still a member.

Fairview golfers played their handicap, which means Kingdom often played with men.

“Your game of golf – and your dedication to helping children – were an inspiration to me,” said Clark.

Victoria Kingdom received the Founder Award of the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2019.

When friends and relatives came to town, Kingdom took them to the PGA Resort and Spa for a few laps.

“They were thrilled to be on this beautiful course,” she said.

Kingdom isn’t sure about the best part of her game, but she knows the worst: getting out of a sand trap.

“That was always the hardest thing for me,” she said.

Her top shot was one of her four aces – this one on the LPGA International course in Daytona Beach, where she did a 166 yarder in 1988.

Kingdom hasn’t played golf since Joseph died in 2012. The couple, who had no children, were married for 68 years.

“I still go out and cut a few in the back yard. Every now and then, ”she said, winking while holding a putter on her left shoulder.

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