Joe Biden tells story of Corn Pop from Wilmington swimming pool
Delaware News Journal
Published 10:26 AM EDT Sep 16, 2019
WILMINGTON — Yes, “Corn Pop” is a real person.
This weekend, a clip of presidential candidate Joe Biden recalling his time as a Wilmington, Delaware, lifeguard in the 1960s went viral. Biden was speaking in Wilmington in 2017, where the pool he worked as a college student was being named after him. At the time, he was the only white lifeguard at the pool. To many in Wilmington, Biden’s time as a lifeguard marked the beginning of his close relationship with and understanding of Delaware’s African American community.
The 2-minute clip made many people wonder on Twitter who Corn Pop is and if the incident actually occurred. In short, William L. Williams was very much a real person. He died in 2016, in which his nickname was included in his short obituary in The News Journal. Williams was associated with The Romans, a Wilmington gang that was prominent in the 1960s.
Former Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams confirmed to CNN this weekend that Corn Pop was as “real as the moon in the sky.”
Biden told the story of Corn Pop at the naming ceremony event in 2017. The former vice president recalled that Williams was not wearing a swim cap, which was required of swimmers at the time who had pomade in their hair. Biden told Williams to get off the diving board and kicked him out of the pool.
“Corn Pop was a bad dude,” Biden said at the event. “And he ran a bunch of bad boys.”
The two exchanged words, according to Biden, which resulted in a confrontation near the parking lot. Biden said Corn Pop and two others had straight razors in their hand.
Biden said he stood his ground Corn Pop, but apologized for the words he used. It led to Corn Pop walking away, according to Biden.
This story has been reported previously and confirmed by local African American leaders. The Washington Post published a story about Biden’s time as a lifeguard in July. The Root wrote also wrote about Corn Pop in 2010, when Biden was still vice president.
During the 2017 naming ceremony, Biden said he wanted to work at the pool because he wanted to “get more involved” with the black community in Wilmington.
“I’d turn on the television and I’d see and listen to Dr. (Martin Luther) King and others, but I didn’t know any black people,” he said. “So, I wanted to work here.”
Biden was a New Castle County Council member in 1969 before representing Delaware for 36 years as a U.S. senator.
“The neighborhood’s always had my back, and God-willing, I’ve always had your back, and I’ll always have it as long as I’m around,” Biden also said at the event.
Many Wilmington and Delaware politicians were at the pool naming ceremony, including Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. She said at the time that the pool is representative of Biden’s character.
“He was saying ‘stay woke’ before the millennials,” she said.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MereNewman.