Buildings and parks in Daytona Beach are named after some of the city’s most influential residents.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
As the country reflects this month on African-Americans who have made great contributions to nationally, it’s important to remember the area residents who made their marks.
Some have parks and buildings named in their honor such as Joe Harris, James Huger, Daisy Stocking and Dr. Samuel Butts. Buildings around Daytona Beach are named after other prominent historical Black figures like John Dickerson and Jackie Robinson.
Robinson, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and Howard Thurman are honored for the history they made on an international scale.
Tour the sites
In recognition of these leaders, the City of Daytona Beach created an official Black Heritage Trail with 18 historical sites and a booklet, which is accessible on its website – www.codb.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/9824.
“I think that the trail is important. A lot of people in town don’t know or recognize the contributions that African-Americans made to the development of Daytona. Black people were involved in incorporation and charter as well,” Dr. Leonard Lempel told the Daytona Times.
Lempel is a retired history professor and member of the committee that created the trail. He also edited the booklet and did a lot of research.
People are free to tour the sites at their own convenience.
“I think visitors and citizens in town would love to tour the sites. It gives most of the city’s history and it shows that it was just more to the city’s history than just racing,’’ he noted.
Here’s a look at some of the local landmarks named after some of Daytona Beach’s most influential African-American citizens.
James Huger Park
John Huger Jr. remembers going to the park that bears the name of his grandfather.
James Huger Sr. was the first Black to serve on both the Daytona Beach City Commission and Volusia County Council. He died in October 2016 at 101 years old.
“I drive by the park every day on my way to school. I often stop there and relax. I often reminisce.
Papa took me there almost daily as a kid,” said the Huger grandson, who is a freshman at Bethune-Cookman University majoring in mass communication.
“It means a lot that there is a place like a park that honors my grandfather’s legacy. He loved things like this a place where kids can play and a place where people can get together,” the student said.
James Huger was a Montford Point Marine, a group of Black men who integrated the United States Marine Corps. He attended Bethune-Cookman College. Later, he dropped out to work at a local hotel but Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune encouraged him to return.
In addition to being a longtime educator, activist, elected official, administrator and humanitarian, he was a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. It was Huger who signed Martin Luther King Jr.’s certificate when he became an official member.
“I’m proud of all my grandpa’s accomplishments. It’s great that he made his mark on the world and left behind a legacy to inspire others,” John Huger Jr. added.
Dr. Samuel Butts Youth Archeological Park
Dr. Samuel Butts started out as an amateur archeologist who collected artifacts of prehistoric humans and bones of prehistoric animals for 20 years at the site at 750 Bellevue Ave., Daytona Beach.
He found spear points, bone tools and pottery fragments left behind by the Timucuan Native Americans.
Butts also found skeletal material from prehistoric animals, including a mastodon, smilodon and others that roamed Florida during the Ice Age.
“He is a man that just keeps at it. He never gives up. He never gave up at that site and his persistence paid off,” said Lovely Butts, his wife.
Dr. Butts wasn’t available for comment, but his wife recalls his tenacity.
In 1994, Butts registered the site with the Florida Division of Historic Resources.
“He often took his family out there with him. We would go out there and dig and find things with him,” she noted.
The park was named after him in 2004 by the City of Daytona Beach.
“He kept going back. He fought for that land to be preserved and protect that land. He discovered a city where the Indians live, what they ate and the fresh water that they had,” Mrs. Butts said.
The park is also located in the Waycross community which was the southernmost of Daytona’s three historically Black neighborhoods.
Dr. Butts wanted the park to motivate youth to study the environment and the area’s prehistory, natural history and cultural history.
The park also has a lake and is home to waterfowl and several species of birds, including ducks.
Butts also worked as a mason, painter and carpenter. Beyond work, he was a mathematician that often went to schools and colleges to help solve problems.
“He is a man who is about getting things done and making a positive change in the community. His family and community are proud of all his accomplishments,” said Mrs. Butts.
In addition, Dr. Butts is a jazz musician who played the bass guitar. He even even played with Greg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.
Joe Harris Park
The park has a history of street basketball, cookouts, music and fun, especially during special events like Black Bike Week and Biketoberfest.
Originally, it was the site of dirt roads and homes. The homes were destroyed during urban renewal in the 1970s.
The park was built and named after Joseph Harris, a prominent Black civil rights leader, politician, activist and entrepreneur.
Harris and his wife Dufferin were one of the most well-known power couples of their time. Dufferin was the first Black journalist at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Harris and his wife also were noted for allowing Jackie Robinson to stay with them when he integrated minor league baseball in Daytona in 1946.
Harris also was once beaten badly by the Ku Klux Klan for his efforts to get Black people out to vote.
Daisy T. Stocking Park
Daisy Stocking was born Daisy Hardy in Florence, South Carolina in 1888.
She was a nurse and humanitarian who moved to Daytona in 1916 with the influence of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, with whom she attended the Scotia Seminary.
Hardy became the supervisor of the McLeod Hospital on the campus of the Daytona Educational and Industrial Institute (now Bethune-Cookman University) from 1916 to 1918.
In 1918, she married a local doctor named John T. Stocking; she then assisted him with his practice.
Daisy Stocking organized the Volusia County Tuberculosis Association, served as a volunteer nurse for the Girl Scout camp for four years and led the Girl Scout program for more than 5 years.
For 22 years, she chaired the Board of Directors of the Sara Hunt Orphanage, which flourished from 1924 to 1970.
During World War II, Daisy Stocking chaired the Negro Division War Bond Drive and served as nurse in charge of the first aid station.
She also served on the Board of Directors of the Community Chest Fund and United Fund.
In 1964, she was inducted into the Methodist Hall of Fame in philanthropy, and the National Council of Negro Women named her Woman of the Year.
And in 1967, she was named the local Civitan Senior Citizen of the Year.
In 1971, three years after her death, the Daytona Beach City Commission created the Daisy T. Stocking Park. The park is located at 550 Third St.
John H. Dickerson Community Center
John H. Dickerson Sr. was a principal at Campbell Senior High School, which was housed at the 308 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. site from 1948 until 1962.
Campbell High moved to Keech Street and Campbell Elementary moved in until the building was vacated in 1969 following integration.
The building remained vacant and in disrepair until Dickerson led a group of citizens that convinced the city commission to buy the property and renovate it into a community center in 1975.
After he was forced out of Campbell, Dickerson served as assistant principal at Holly Hill Elementary until retirement in 1979. He worked 42 years as a school administrator.
Before Campbell, Dickerson was assistant principal of Highlands Elementary and principal of both Campbell Street High School and Campbell Street Adult School.
The Dickerson Center still contains some administrative offices for the city as well as recreational facilities.
It also had housed the Dickerson Library, which moved to Keech Street in August 2001.
Dickerson also served on several board and councils. He was co-chairman of the Daytona Beach Development Project, president of the Halifax Area Council on Human Relations, and chairman of the Campbell Street Community Improvement Association.
He died in 1980.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark
The site opened as City Island Ballpark in 1914.
Historically, the park has housed Major League Baseball teams during spring training. It’s located at 103 Orange Ave.
Robinson first integrated the minor leagues at this site when he played for the Montreal Royals, the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers in a spring training game at the park on March 17, 1946.
Robinson broke the color barrier when he became the first Black athlete to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
The park was named after Robinson in 1990. That same year, a Montreal sculptor Julles LaSalle dedicated a bronze statue at the park to honor Robinson. The Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League were the stewards of the park at the time.
Today the park is home to the Daytona Tortugas, a Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds in the Florida State League, and the Bethune-Cookman University baseball team.
High school baseball games and even youth football games have been played there in the past.
In 1998, the park was added to the National Register of Historic places.
Historically, Blacks sat on the first base side of the stadium.
Dr. Howard Thurman Home
Dr. Howard Thurman was an educator, theologian, preacher and author. Thurman was born in the house on 614 Whitehall St., on Nov. 18, 1899.
He wrote more than 20 books and provided spiritual guidance for the civil rights movement. He also mentored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vernon Jordan.
Thurman moved to Jacksonville to attend the Florida Academy Baptist High School, which was the closest colored school to Daytona Beach in the early 1900s.
“Thurman was the premier theologian of the country during his time who happened to grow up here in town,” added Dr. Lempel, the historian.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1923. In 1925, he graduated from Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary and was ordained a Baptist minister.
In 1928, Thurman became the director of religious life and professor of theology at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
In 1932, he was named Dean of Rankin Chapel and professor of systematic theology at Howard University.
Thurman also traveled to Burma, Ceylon and India where he became friends with Mahatma Gandhi.
In addition, he was named a 20th-century “Saint’’ by Ebony magazine and was selected as one of America’s 12 outstanding preachers in a nationwide Life magazine poll.
Thurman was appointed dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University in 1953. He retired in 1965 and returned to the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, which was America’s first interracial church which he founded in 1944.
He returned to Daytona Beach in 1963 and gave the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman College.
Daytona Beach officials organized a parade in Thurman’s honor and presented him with a key to the city.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Home and Gravesite
The Bethune home was built in 1915 and is located on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University.
The home contains fascinating memorabilia and artifacts from Bethune’s illustrious career.
Bethune was an internationally known educator. Most people know the story of how Bethune built the school, but she did so much more.
“Dr. Bethune was a giant; she accomplished so much. You can’t mention the history of Daytona without mentioning her and the school that she founded. However, when she came here there were already prominent Black people in town. The town was mostly Black at the beginning of the century,” said Lempel.
In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women and was awarded the national NAACP Spingarn Medal for distinguished merit and achievement.
And in 1936, Bethune became the highest ranking African-American administrator in the federal government when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her director of the National Youth Administration’s Office of Minority Affairs.
She was a close friend to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who often stayed in Bethune’s home in Daytona Beach.
In 1945, Bethune was chosen to serve as a consultant at the San Francisco conference for the drawing up and signing of the United Nations Charter by the U.S. State Department.
Bethune lived in the home until her death on May 18, 1955. The home was declared a national historic landmark by the National Park Service in 1975.
Next week: From Henry Butts Drive to George Engram Boulevard, there are a number of roadways named after prominent Blacks in the area.