Near Fort Walton Beach in Okaloosa County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
John C. Beasley Park Commemoration
Created out of the frustrations of racial segregation, John C. Beasley State Park opened in 1960 as an area For Colored Only, as the Highway 98 gated entrance sign read. The Park resulted from the efforts of members of the Negro community and the Commanders of Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field. No Negro, either local or military, could visit the nearby Newman Brackin Wayside Park, or any other area beaches to enjoy the beauty of the Playground Area.
The Park was named for a recently deceased, respected white member of the community, John C. Beasley. The Park's first Ranger was Andrew Hill. Ranger Hill, a resident of Ft. Walton Beach since 1940, lived, worked and worshipped with the majority of the Park's visitors. He was friendly and outgoing, and made the Park a safe and exciting place to visit. Being the only place for Negroes to safely congregate, the Park became a haven for them to visit, enjoy the beach, and to glory in a place built just for them.
May 1959 Chamber of Commerce
28 May 1959, Playground News: "...the Negro population of Okaloosa County has no beach area of their own. Efforts have been made by the Chamber and the City of Fort Walton Beach over the past two years to develop an area for the Negroes to use."
2 June 1959, Florida Parks Board approved expenditure of $14,400 for "immediate construction" of a Negro Park on Okaloosa Island.
19 March 1960, Dedication of John C. Beasley State Park for Negroes. Program arranged by the Indian Mound Elks Lodge #1205. Parade began at 10 AM and included bands from Washington Junior High of Pensacola and Carver-Hill School of Crestview, and participation of students from Brooks Elementary School in Ft. Walton Beach.
1960 Andrew Hill appointed as Park Ranger.
1964-65 John C. Beasley State Park desegregated; Ranger Hill retired from the Florida Park Service; Racial Segregation ended and all people regardless of race were welcome at any Florida State Park.
27 May 1976 Park transferred from the State of Florida to Okaloosa County.
Erected 2015 by Okaloosa County Commission.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans Civil Rights • Parks & Recreational Areas • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is March 19, 1960.
Location. 30° 23.641′ N, 86° 35.044′ W. Marker is near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in Okaloosa County. Marker can be reached from Miracle Strip Parkway, SE (U.S. 98) 0.8 miles east of Pier Road, on the right when traveling east. Located on Okaloosa Island. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1550 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach FL 32548, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Jacqueline Cochran (approx. 0.6 miles away); Lenah Higbee (approx. 0.6 miles away); Cathay Williams (approx. 0.6 miles away); Jonita Ruth Bonham (approx. 0.6 miles away); Leigh Ann Hester (approx. 0.6 miles away); Revolutionary War Patriots (approx. 0.6 miles away); Sharon Ann Lane (approx. 0.6 miles away); Margaret Corbin (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Walton Beach.
Regarding John C. Beasley Park Commemoration. John C. Beasley moved to Fort Walton Beach in 1941 from Montgomery, Alabama. He was noted for being active in civic organizations and government, including his donation of time and effort
John Beasley Park was considered the only black beach in Northwest Florida during the era of segregation. It was known as a Park where black citizens could enjoy the Gulf while being banned from other recreation areas.
Also see . . . NPR Channel WUWF dedication on radio and text. (Submitted on February 19, 2022, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 19, 2022. It was originally submitted on February 19, 2022, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 348 times since then and 189 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 19, 2022, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.