Tallahassee — For the first time in the state of Florida’s 171-year history, a state park will be named after blacks who fought to integrate the state’s beaches.
Signed by the governor on Wednesday, legislation sponsored by Senator Chris Smith will now right a historical injustice long sought by the Ft. Lauderdale Democrat.
“This issue has left a long-standing stain in the history of Florida and I decided it needed to be corrected,” said Sen. Smith. “I spoke with leaders in the community and those who participated in the struggle. They encouraged me to correct history even if it ruffled some feathers. This is a momentous day in our community and we celebrate the Florida House, Florida Senate, and Governor’s Office for recognizing the importance of this overdue historical tribute.”
The John U. Lloyd State Park – a 117-acre tract originally established in 1954 as a “blacks only” waterfront park – was named after the attorney Broward County directed to keep the beaches segregated.
Now encompassing 310 acres stretching from Port Everglades Inlet to Dania Beach in the south, the park will be renamed the “Dr. Von D. Mizell and Eula Johnson State Park” in honor of the two pioneers who led the charge, joined by others, to integrate the beaches in Broward County. Their efforts in turn led to similar beach desegregations throughout the state, allowing everyone who lives, works, travels, and plays here to access Florida’s renowned coastal parks.
Dr. Von D. Mizell, founding president of the Broward NAACP, petitioned for the creation of a beach for Negro (Black) citizens in 1946, a time when blacks were denied access to the area’s public beaches. Over the next seven years, he kept the pressure on until authorities finally relented and directed Broward County Attorney John U. Lloyd to find a new location for the colored beach, which he did in 1951. The African-American community next asked for a road to be built to access the beach. The county agreed but waited 10 years and was pushed into action because of the famous “wade-in” staged, on July 4, 1961, by then-NAACP chapter President Eula Johnson.
Co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Evan Jenne, the bill also renames four structures at the park after other civil rights pioneers in the community:
The park boat ramp will be named as the “Alphonso Giles Boat Ramp” in honor of Alphonso Giles who ferried African-American residents to the beach in the days of segregation.The only way residents could get to the “Colored Beach” was by boat.When the bridge was delayed, Mr. Giles used his boat to ferry black residents to the beach.Mr. Giles and his boating club, the Jolly Anglers, successfully petitioned the City to build a dock for black residents who owned boats to use at the park.Mr. Giles was the first black member of the Broward County Marine Advisory Board.
The “Leatherback Pavilion” will now be known as the “W. George Allen Leatherback 22 Pavilion” in honor of Attorney George Allen, the first African-American to graduate from the University of Florida Law School who, as a young attorney, filed the law suits that led to the integration of the Broward County public schools and the Broward County’s public accommodations.
The Marina pavilion is now named the Dr. Calvin Shirley Marina Pavilion because of his efforts in the civil rights struggle. Along with the three other black doctors in town, Dr. Shirley sued to be permitted on staff at Broward General Hospital, now called Broward Health Medical Center. In the 1960s, he and his wife helped establish a county Health Department branch in the Sistrunk neighborhood. The pair also developed the curriculum for Broward’s first school for licensed nurses.
Osprey Pavilion is now named the George and Agnes Burrows Osprey Pavilion because of their efforts in the civil rights and business arena to create opportunities within the community. A child of Bahamian immigrants, Burrows was a World War II veteran who attended Bethune-Cookman College and became a state-licensed master electrician. He went on to fight against a segregated system that limited his services to the black community in Colored Town, and launched a successful career that spanned five decades.
Senator Smith’s legislation, which unanimously passed the Legislature, takes effect July 1st.