When Will Orange County Name a School After Legendary Olympic Diver/Civil Rights Hero Sammy Lee?

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News came out last week that the Los Angeles Unified School District plans to name a school after Dr. Sammy Lee, the legendary Olympic diver who served as a longtime coach for another legendary Olympic diver, Greg Louganis. And while that's a wonderful development, it just shows again how backwards Orange County is with the times, and how soon we forget.

Fact is, Lee is ALL Orange County, having lived here since the 1950s, and having coached Louganis in South County, along with many other Olympic divers over the years. Plus, there's that whole civil-rights thing Orange County always tries to forget.


As I wrote the last time Orange County tried to forget Lee's legacy as a civil rights hero:

In 1954, Lee--an Army vet, licensed doctor, two-time gold-medal winner and recent recipient of the Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in the United States--tried to buy a house in Garden Grove but was refused. Twice. All because he was Asian. Garbage Grove's racism was condemned worldwide for the obvious reasons, and even Ed Sullivan and then-veep Richard Nixon spoke publicly in favor of Lee, who eventually did buy a home (Click here for a Hearst Agency picture with the telling caption, "Sammy Lee and wife now welcomed to Garden Grove"). His struggle to buy a house was an important step in the battle to end housing segregation in Orange County that ultimately culminated in the Mulkey v. Reitman Supreme Court case.

Garden Grove would be a logical place to name a school after Lee--hell, rename Leo Carrillo Elementary, which is named after a movie star with no connections to Garden Grove that no one remembers and who advocated for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Or, if you want to the ethnic route, you can also place such a school in Fullerton, Irvine, or Buena Park, which has a large Korean-American population. Or, if you want to go to where Lee made his mark, have Saddleback Valley Unified School District name a school after him, as Lee coached generations of kiddies down there.

And it's not like OC doesn't name schools after Asian-Americans: there's at least four. Come on, OC: do the right thing, for once!

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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9 comments
vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

Asians aren't really considered a minority. We're smarter and more successful than the majority ethnicity. Unlike say hispanics or african americans. Noone cares that someone refused to sell you a house. Try buying a house or renting an apartment in Japan as a non-japanese. 

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

But the folks trying to keep Lee out were ultimately right, were they not? Hasn't Garden Grove changed beyond all recognition demographically? And not necessarily for the better, unless you got a thing for drinking coffee served by Asian girls in pasties. 

n2bigmuscle
n2bigmuscle topcommenter

Any chance you get you say OC has a racist past but me and my neighbors came after the 80's.  Just because we moved here why do we have to atone for the past misdeeds of misguide people??  Are there not more Pacific Asisns in Graden Grove then whites?

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Garden Grove: Where the course of your engineering career depends on whether you cross paths with ill sociopaths like former GGPD chief Stan Knee

Garden Grove: Where the law enforcement community, upon realizing they could no longer keep you from purchasing a home there, devised the fine art of violating your privacy and hurting you IN YOUR OWN HOME. So that you couldn't even escape into the sanctity of your own home for peace. Thank you unit 3 and unit 4 neighbors.  

Garden Grove: Where the living conditions became so intolerable that you left your own home (upon arrival of your fiancee to America in 1997) to live in an apartment in Rancho Santa Margarita just to keep her away from these imbeciles. Only to find how big of an imbecile Brad Gates and his boytoy Mike Carona were in South OC. 

By the way Stan Knee, after acting like a domestic terrorist before 9/11, you went off to Afghanistan to train people. I bet that you made a fortune on that excursion huh?


18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

"Garbage Grove's racism was condemned worldwide for the obvious reasons"

History repeats 

n2bigmuscle
n2bigmuscle topcommenter

It does not seem to be revelent in the way you write about it.  It's a fact, yes, but that was yesterday not the way it is today.  The OC is very diverse now. 

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