Memorial Park

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This article is about the Birmingham city park. For other uses, see Memorial Park (disambiguation).
Memorial Park
Bham Park and Rec logo.jpg Birmingham City Parks
Years 1942present
Location 524 6th Avenue South, (map)
North Titusville
Area 7.18 acres

Memorial Park, formerly Colored Memorial Park and Negro Memorial Park, is a 7.18 acre Birmingham City Park located at 524 6th Avenue South, between 6th Street South and Alpha Street, across from the Birmingham Department of Public Works in North Titusville. It houses Memorial Park Recreation Center, a swimming pool, four tennis courts, an outdoor basketball court, a football/soccer field, and a baseball diamond. There are two playground areas and two barbecue shelters. The park is the home field for the Titusville Knights youth football team.

Alabama State Federation of Civic Leagues leader William McAlpine lobbied the city to create a park for Black residents. During their May 27, 1942 meeting the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board discussed a motion by member Laura Sharp to use the name Rayfield Memorial Park, for architect Wallace Rayfield who had died the previous year, but it was not adopted. The park was dedicated on May 31. The Parker High School Band and the Jubilee Singers performed at the ceremony, which featured speeches by Mayor Cooper Green, South Elyton Civic Assocation president Rufus Jones, Junior South Elyton Civic Association president Ocie White, and resident H. J. Harris. Park superintendent R. S. Marshall also presented development plans for the park and St Mark's CME Church pastor J. W. Parham offered an invocation.

In 1947 the park featured baseball and softball diamonds and tennis courts along with "a vast expanse of treeless terrain", and was reported to draw more use than any other park in the city except for Tuxedo Park, which had a swimming pool. The South Elyton Civic League was attempting to raise $6,000 to acquire and install a 120-foot by 40-foot Quonset hut for use as a field house. Longer-range plans included a swimming pool and a proper field house large enough to house a basketball gymnasium.

In 1951 the Birmingham City Commission purchased a 2.5-acre parcel for $10,000 to expand the park and make room for athletic fields, which were illuminated for evening games using funds raised by the South Elyton Civic League. A. G. Gaston and J. W. Goodgame were involved in lobbying the commission for investment in parks for Black children.

In August 1952 about 700 people participated in "Play Day" at Memorial Park, capped by a square dance to music by the 60-piece Local 733 Concert Band. The group played an open air "starlight concert" sponsored by the Park and Recreation Board, the Performance Trust Fund, and American Federation of Musicians Local 733. Amos Gordon and Iva Williams directed the group, which was managed by Fess Whatley.

The South Elyton Civic League dedicated a miniature golf course at Memorial Park in August 1953. The Civic League operated a concession stand at the park. Revenues from it were combined with donations from the community to purchase equipment for the park and recreation center, including chairs, a piano and dishware.

In 1961 the Birmingham City Commission closed all city parks in order to avoid court-ordered integration. Most of the equipment from Memorial Park and the recreation center disappeared soon later. The newly-installed Birmingham City Council reopened the parks in 1964.

In December 1979 the recreation center closed for renovations. It reopened on June 23, 1982.

New fencing with brick and cast stone piers, and large, curving monument signs on the southeast and southwest corners of the park were added in 2010. UAB and Blank Space Bham collaborated with neighborhood youth on the design and execution of a painted mural on the back of the recreation center in 2021.