Jesse Lewis Smith Park

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The August 1, 1947, Decatur Daily published an article with the headline, "Negro Park Big Success."  The article documented the beginning of the park, originally named the East Decatur Negro Park.

"The park was begun in 1940 when Mrs W. R. (Jesse) Smith went to former Mayor R. N. Harris and asked his permission to establish a recreation spot for the Negroes in East Decatur.  He agreed to the plan but told her that the city could give no aid.  With the help of a small group of Negroes and whites, Mrs. Smith bought some equipment, which the WPA (Works Progress Administration) placed in the park," the article reported.

At the time all of the city parks were legally off limits to the black community.

"Jesse Lewis Smith was a white lady who established a park for Negroes before there were any parks in Decatur for Negroes.  It is a historical park and not many people know that."

After 1940 and the park's creation, the East Town neighborhood formed the East Side Negro Park Club to raise funds for future additions.

"Mrs. Smith hopes that enough money will be raised to build a house to store the equipment, to provide a sheltered meeting place and to provide restrooms," the article said.

Now, 71 years later, the park features a shelter with picnic tables and restrooms built in 2003.

The above is quoted from the Decatur Daily, July 26, 2010, by Staff Writer, Catherine Godbey, who did significant research into the origins of Jesse Lewis Smith Park.

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