History of the American Pool Checker Association

In examining the history of the American Pool Checker Association, one must consider the history of pool checkers in Detroit, Michigan and how it influenced two men, John Otis and Nathaniel Leach to visualize organizing players into a strong .single body. These individuals had witnessed checkers being played on street corners, alleys, barber shops and anywhere that two or more people could congregate in a challenging atmosphere to out-wit, out-think, out-move and out-talk each other. Players during that time, the early 1930's, would travel from one section of the city to another to satisfy that competitive zeal.They took special delight in "mugging" (beating their opponents five straight games) or "hooding" (beating their opponents ten straight games) their victims. However, winning was not as much fun as it was to have the loser to buy a bottle of soda pop and personally bring it to the winner while the winner shouted indignities to him as he sat waiting for his turn to get even.

The game was called "Spanish Pool" Checkers and it was played predominately by Blacks throughout the United States. Straight Checkers was too slow and not exciting in moving or jumping so it was not as appealing as the former. There were no written rules to govern play nor were there any recorded accounts of games or players. The players agreed on local rules or those endorsed by the majority. There were no tournaments, no divisions and no instructions. The streets or the barbershops gave the group its name. What was happening in Detroit was also occurring in other major cities where there was a checkerboard.

Mr. Leach and John Otis were quite disturbed with the lack of organization that existed. These men of vision proceeded to start a checkers club in the Young men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the early 1930's there in Detroit. In 1938, the St Antoine Checkers Club held its first recognized city wide tournament. In 1940, the club created two divisions for that year’s tournament: Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Divisions.

Playing unorganized checkers as it had been played was one thing, but to get club members to pay dues, 25 cents a month, to help defray heating and light expenses was like "pulling a hen's teeth." Refusing to accept some responsibilities for overhead costs, many players returned to the street corners and it was difficult to find them as they left no addresses or formal names as most played under nicknames, such as, "Schoolboy", "Little George", "Mack" and etc.. With a few faithful followers the club continued to meet in various homes and recreation centers.

The idea of unorganized play in the Spanish Pool Checkers tradition didn't set well with these two men of vision and in 1960 they presented the idea to Newell Banks, a grandmaster and a blindfold expert in Straight Checkers, whose guidance proved to be invaluable in the formation of an organization designed to teach its members in the fine point of play and to keep individual records.

In 1961, the American Pool Checker Association was registered in the city-county building (See Appendix A.) and was granted a charter as a non-profit organization to organize all checkers players in the United States. The first big event was the Midwest Open Tournament held in 1965 along with the publication of Point Manual and Rules based on the American Pool Checker Association (A.P.C.A.) philosophy. Then in 1966, the dream began to become a reality as the Association sponsored its first national tournament in Detroit, bringing together checker players from all parts of the country. The dream became a reality when on December 1, 1976, the Georgia Pool Checker Association became the first to receive its charter of affiliation..

As the organization grew it found itself having to make modifications to accommodate its members. The Divisions were changed to the following divisions representing the level of play: Top Master, Master, Jr. Master, Gold Bar, and Blue Ribbon. Subsequently, rules and regulations were adopted to govern the organization and tournament play. Today, the American Pool Checkers Association holds annual tournaments in various cities throughout the United States.