ARCHIVING THE LEGAL FIGHT TO INTEGRATE THE INDIANAPOLIS RIVIERA CLUB
The Riviera Club, founded on January 12, 1933, is one of Indianapolis’ most famous private swimming facilities. The designation as a private club ensured that members would only be surrounded by residents of the community they actively wanted to engage with. For some Hoosiers, like my Jewish father, membership was firmly denied.
Lawrence Reuben was, first and foremost, a proud Jew. His passion, however, was his career as a tough-as-nails attorney in which he sought opportunities to use the legal system as a form of activism. Even so, Lawrence, or Larry, was not always afforded the privilege to push back against injustice. He and his brother and sister had grown up only a couple of houses away from the elaborate swim club, and like many children living in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood during the 50s, they also wanted to swim at the facilities. But as my dad so eloquently put it, “Being Jewish wasn’t popular.”
In fact, the unspoken rule at the Riviera Club wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret: No Blacks. No Jews. The Riviera Club offered socialization and relaxation at an affordable price, that is, if you met the criteria for the Membership Board’s approval. Unfortunately, an overwhelming amount of acceptance letters were sent to all-white, Christian families, whereas families composed of religious and ethnic minorities were all too often rejected. Larry was not one to be pushed around. He dreamed of the day that the Riviera Club would become desegregated. That’s why when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped, becoming the lawyer leading the charge against the Riviera Club’s discriminatory membership policies.
This creative project serves to archive the Bates v. Riviera Club Inc. legal case, wherein my father, Larry Reuben, and many other brave individuals led the charge against racial injustice in Indianapolis’ Butler-Tarkington neighborhood.