David and Shirley Northcross


David and Shirley Northcross

Shirley and David Northcross describe their swimming experiences, including a professor explaining to Shirley the “facts” about why African Americans could not swim.


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Shirley Northcross was born in 1936 and grew up near Dayton, Ohio. Her father ran the Miami View Golf Course, and she recalls visits from famous athletes like Joe Louis. She was the first Black student to graduate from Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio. After getting a degree in physical education from Michigan State University, Northcross started out a substitute teacher and a counselor for the Camp Fire Girls of America. She taught physical education at Northwestern High School in Detroit for over 30 years.

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David Northcross was born in 1937 and grew up in north central Detroit. His grandfather David C. Northcross Sr. established the first Black-owned hospital in Detroit, Mercy General Hospital, in 1917. His grandmother, father, and aunt also worked at the hospital. Interested in pursuing a different path, David Northcross graduated from Michigan State University and joined the Marine Corps. He was one of three or four other Black officers at Camp Pendleton in California. After a few years, he and his wife Shirley moved back to Detroit and Northcross started his lifelong career as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch.

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