18 February 2021

Joan Nabors' Story About Fair Housing

Ads from SL Trib June 28 1963 and SL Trib July 15 1963;
Also showing an older image of the duplex from SLCo Assessor
This Duplex at 1806-1808 Hillcrest Ave SLC was the site of a small win in fair housing during the 1960s.

In 1958, the University of Utah hired its first Black faculty member, Chuck Nabors. His wife, Joan, joined him and moved to SLC in 1961.

In 1963, Chuck and Joan decided to look for a larger apartment and Chuck found a two-bedroom duplex for rent in the Highland Park neighborhood of SLC.

Chuck met with the owners, Elmer and Leone Hale (a White couple). Elmer was a retired SLC Policeman who had downsized to this duplex after their children were grown.

Chuck wanted his wife to see the apartment before he formally rented the place, so he and Joan went to meet with the Hales.

According to Joan’s oral history, the Hale’s “were a little shocked when [Joan] arrived.” Apparently the Hales had thought Chuck was White as he had light skin, but Joan’s skin is darker according to her own description.

The Hales were surprised to find the Nabors were a Black couple but they decided to rent the apartment to them anyway. Chuck and Joan put down a $100 deposit and were given a key. All seemed well until Elmer Hales called a few days later and asked for the key back and refunded the deposit.

The Hales soon advertised the apartment in the newspapers again, this time specifying that they desired “White, LDS” tenants.

A few weeks later, the Nabors received a call from Mr. Hale asking if they had found a new apartment to rent. The Nabors were having trouble finding a place that would rent to a Black couple and said they were still interested.

Elmer Hale said that “he and his wife decided that if they were going to do anything about the problem in Salt Lake, they needed to start now, and that the apartment was open to [the Nabors].” Chuck and Joan Nabor soon moved in and stayed there for many years.

Source: Interview Joan Nabors, 1987. From Marriott Library 

A note: The reason why I consider this a win is that the Hales decided that the previous social norms they adhered to were not appropriate and to make their community better they would make a personal change. This was at a time when civil rights were being discussed on a national level but before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress.
1806-1808 Hillcrest SLC, 2017. From Google street view.

1806-1808 Hillcrest SLC, 2021.

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